Copyright WHR 2006

By David L. Howard

This has been the most tumultuous and challenging time this industry has ever faced, at least in my lifetime. And we have some people who are willing to step forward and help…if only we will let them know that we need and appreciate their help.

Tennessee Senator Bill Frist, the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, has been joined by Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and long-time supporter Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky in attempting to get the United States Department of Agriculture to come up with a medically correct definition of a sore horse and relieve the wide open interpretation of the scar rule. It is important that exhibitors be judged according to the same standard in every state and at every show and that is not currently the case.

The proposal presented to the USDA has been termed an “industry proposal” by some but it was actually drafted by three of the top equine veterinarians in the country at the request of the National Horse Protection Society. None of these three experts have any connection to the walking horse industry. If the industry is willing to live with their judgment and opinion, so should the USDA.

There is no effort underway to weaken the Horse Protection Act - the industry simply wants a medically correct definition and uniform and correct inspections. Anyone who tells you that the scar rule was interpreted in August the same as in April did not go to the same horse shows I went to.

And importantly, this proposal will eliminate the subjectivity of the scar rule and thereby remove the major source of conflict between the industry and the USDA.

In my opinion, the interpretation of the scar rule this year has been a moving target with horses ticketed under the scar rule one night and approved to show the next. And how can a horse pass inspection prior to a class and be ticketed with a scar rule violation 15 minutes later when he comes out of the class.

I have had many calls asking “What can I do?” Well, you can start by thanking the three Senators named above because they are certainly hearing from the animal rights activists. You and I both appreciate their courage on this controversial issue but they need to hear a simple “Thank You' from all of us.

Also, you can contact your elected representatives in Washington and tell them what is going on. I would urge you to suggest they channel their efforts through the offices of Senator Frist so that every one is on the same page and working together for the betterment of this wonderful horse.

“The blow that doesn't kill me only makes me stronger”.

This industry has suffered a tremendous blow and it is up to each and every one of us to do our part to make sure we emerge even stronger. Please do your part.