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Responses From Dr. Todd Behre



Editor's Note: Randy McIntosh forwarded to The Walking Horse Report his email correspondence with Dr. Todd Behre of the USDA regarding the events of this past weekend. Dr. Behre answered Mr. McIntosh's questions in red just below each question. They have been presented here all in black type but Dr. Behre's response immediately follows each question. Christy Parsons

Mr. McIntosh-

Thanks for taking the time to write.

Please find my responses in red below, and call anytime.

Don't you agree that is about time to come to some middle ground on the scar rule?

Please define a middle ground. Are you talking about horses that only show a little bit of evidence of soring on both forelimbs? I have been tasked, by every industry leader I've spoken to, to make the inspection process as uniform, objective, and consistent as possible. How will we do this seeking a yet-to-be-defined "middle ground"?

I am sure you will agree horses are much cleaner this year than ever.

Actually, I have been stunned at the condition of the horses over the past few days that DQPs resolutely did not cite scar rule violations on (became "conflict resolution" cases under the 2004-2006 Operating Plan). USDA deliberately did not attend many shows at all in April-June in an effort to allow the WHTA's plan to clear up the industry (I can furnish you with a transcript if you'd like) to work. During that time, the number of HIO tickets I've received have included more "unacceptable locomotion" and "unacceptable tissue" than in 2004 and 2005, but scar rule violations have not gone up across the board. I really hoped that this fact meant that scar rule violative horses were not coming to shows, but the findings of Fayetteville and Maysville (KY) have dashed my hopes. DQPs that allow horses with scar rule violative tissue to show in the absence of USDA oversight are leading trainers, owners, and exhibitors down a path of assurance that is creating a financial and emotional crisis in this industry that unfortunately, and by reason, is hurting horse show fund raising a lot more than the trainers that haul to the show and then pull out upon USDA's arrival. What do you think show managers would think if I were to tell them that the very trainers who are pulling off the show grounds under the premise that USDA is "inconsistent" (a hard concept considering we have 5 VMOs working the entire country) are the same trainers who refused to have me, or me with some VMOs, come right to their barns and look at their horses to clarify their concerns and reduce their anxiety, where the HPA is not enforceable and USDA has no jurisdiction. Talk about an olive branch of outreach and understanding......yet still, no takers. THOSE SAME TRAINERS, in middle TN or anywhere in KY are the trainers that I have done everything in my power to get together for an entire day or two with ALL (5) USDA VMOs and as many DQPs who value their licenses enough to come and look at 20, 40, 60, 120 horses, one limb at a time, and discuss the tissue on every one with regard to the scar rule. I begged the 30 members of the WHTA who invited me for a meeting last summer in Franklin to take advantage of holding such a clinic, and 16 months (or so) later, the only takers on this offer were trainers in TX and GA. In 2004, we did two scar rule clinics (in NC and White Pine), and I have yet to hear any of the attendees tell me they are confused about the scar rule. I began asking the president of WHOA to hold such a clinic for owners, who are footing the bill for all of this, since last summer, and still, no takers. My hearing trainers say "we don't know what to do about this scar rule" has grown a little old, with the months ticking by without a clinic as if the information isn't that important to anybody until any given Friday or Saturday night when USDA shows up at a show.....all of a sudden....there's urgency for clarification, and everybody who complains, without any training except "I've been around these horses all my life", or statements like that, knows more than a DQP or VMO. I offered one trainer, who got a scar rule ticket Wednesday night, to come to his barn Thursday morning with Dr. Bourgeois and look at his horses one by one and talk about the scar rule....my gosh...what is so hard about taking up USDA on an offer like that? I gave the man my cell number and told him to take the night and think about it and call me in the morning if he decided he wanted to take me up on my offer. You guessed it...no call. I spoke to the president of the WHTA Thursday morning (I wasn't busy looking at horses in this other man's barn, obviously) and told him that Friday morning would be a fine time to look at a bunch of horses with a bunch of trainers in anybody's barn he wished, bringing (all 5) of our VMOs, and still....no takers. These clinics, very unfortunately, are now being held at a horse show near you on several Friday and Saturday nights, with all of the chips in the middle of the table and USDA in our Congressionally declared enforcement duty mode. Ironically, we're talking about the same VMOs the same trainers, and the same horses, but the industry clearly does not seek clarification "that much" and would prefer to leave 80% of the horses tied to the trailer. USDA's offer to hold these outreach clinics are a testimony to the transparency of the program and its desire to enforce through education and communication. These no-cost, no-risk regulator/regulated interactions are surely not offered in the majority of areas in the enforcement of federal law...I am disappointed and surprised that so few parties have an interest in them.

Sure there are a few idiots out there still trying to get by and those should be caught. I sincerely disagree on the scar rule rules. Surely it may or may not be evidence of "Past"" and I stress past soring , but it does not mean it is sore at the present time.

The regulations, having undergone the same rigorous period of public comment and expert input as any federal regulation, clearly state that a scar rule violation constitutes a sore horse. Whether you or I agree with how they read or the effectiveness of their purpose is not a part of DQPs' and VMOs' doing their jobs....we can't just pick and choose which regulations we want to enforce.

I 100% agree horses that are sore should be kept out. However why penalize someone for past behavior if they are trying to correct it.Once received these scars are almost impossible to remove, thus rendering the horse unshowable.

You have hit the nail right on the head with regard to being unshowable-for that matter un-auctionable (probably not a word) as well: Why reward cruel and inhumane practices by not having the $ value of the animal not decline? The clean-legged horse should be worth a lot more than the scarred horse if this regulation is applied consistently, and the un-fixed horse's value will skyrocket because the fixed horse simply won't get in the show ring...it is all up to the DQPs. In the absence of the scar rule, trainers would have a virtual open season on tissue inflammation (easily covered by Benzocaine for palpation purposes for the 110,000 horses that are inspected in the absence of USDA swabbing). Owners need to hold tightly onto their checkbooks as they evaluate that unGodly talented horse, that world beater, if the horse's pasterns are indicative of previous abuse......how in the world can owners keep buying these horses and refuse to come to a clinic or at least email me as you have, with the stakes so high? Whether the horse is $6,500 or $300,000, the buyer of that horse worked hard to get the money to buy it and realize their dream to own a TWH show horse.......do they just buy the horse and "hope for the best" that USDA will not show up on Friday night and count on DQPs' not doing exactly what he/she was trained to do that very spring? Did you know that DQP/VMO training is now designed, approved, and delivered by DQPs, not USDA? The only parts of this training that VMOs teach are the topics that the HIOs ask us to teach...it would suit me just fine, as would it all of our VMOs to simply sit in the classroom and learn from someone else teaching these classes. When I asked the HIOs to come up with their own training syllabus in the spring of 2005 I was very up front about the fact that if they complained about VMOs' performance, I would be reminding them that they trained us.

This is wrong to penalize the animal for human mistakes.

I entered my first horse show in 1973, and won my first checks roping calves in 1975 at the age of 15. My wife continues to show today. I cannot grasp the concept that leaving my horse in the pasture with his head down in the grass, basking in the sunshine, or taking him for a nice trail ride, instead of hauling him to a show, somehow penalizes him.

Why not just send the horse back to the trailer if you think he or she is not compliant on scar rule. To date, after 5 listening sessions held in CA, TX, KY, TN, and MO...meetings designed to get input for the 2007-beyond Operating Plan as well as to get industry suggestions about how we (USDA) can better enforce this law, I am yet to have anyone suggest that scar rule violations result in disqualifications only. If you want your name and this suggestion added to the composite list of OP suggestions USDA has prepared for public release, let me know....if you would rather reword or add detail to your suggestion in any way, just do so and email it to me.

Owners will soon bring trainers in line when they pay for many no shows.

Like you, I believe that economics will decide the fate of this industry, as in every other industry. Money talks. As a veteran equine practitioner and son of a farrier, I have grown to appreciate both the padded and flat shod disciplines in this breed, and am saddened to see entry numbers plummet and owners' dreams dashed while the diesel smoke-stacks pull out of the show grounds. A person does not need to have been around this breed long at all to appreciate the historical significance of just tying in any class at the 100th Anniversary of the Wartrace show.....I am saddened by the number of entries tonight, and the overall hopeless attitude I hear from so many in this industry. If every DQP did his/her job on every single inspection with USDA present or absent, I don't think this crisis of plummeting entry numbers and open mares never would have happened, do you? Why should it matter if USDA is at horse shows or not? Which is more difficult: maintaining consistency amongst 5 VMOs or 110 DQPs nationwide?

Just my thoughts on this rule.

From the length of my response to you, I obviously feel that the time spent to clarify our enforcement approach is worth the effort. Believe it or not, I get very few emails and phone calls from people who actually want to share their thoughts and get some feedback. I appreciate your feedback, and would appreciate more of it.

Randy McIntosh

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