Posted February 8, 2002

© 2002 Walking Horse Report

Editors Note: The following statement was released from the Celebration this morning.

The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration is very disappointed with the recent newspaper quote whereby an industry official has indicated that "people are more likely to sore horses when the stakes are higher" and "people feel the greatest pressure to cheat when the return is higher". "The clear implication is that at major shows the horses presented at inspection do not tend to be in compliance with the Horse Protection Act. Documented statistics disagree with this," according to Virgil Johnson, Chairman of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.

97.3% of the horses presented at the inspection area in the past ten World Grand Championship Shows have been allowed to compete. This does not mean that 2.7% of the horses have been abused, it merely means they weren't in compliance. There are many regulations that would prohibit a horse from showing that have absolutely nothing to do with abuse to animals. If 97.3% compliance is not extremely close to an acceptable figure, then we seriously need to reevaluate our program. We are very proud of the results of the horses that are presented at the inspection area at horse shows throughout America.

At the largest show, namely the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, Tennessee, the very best Veterinary Medical Officers are sent to insure that horses are in compliance with the Horse Protection Act of 1970. Therefore, it could be concluded that since the very best Veterinarian Medical Officers are in attendance that the horses should receive the most competent, qualified inspection possible. Additionally, the National Horse Show Commission assigns its most respected Designated Qualified Persons (DQP's) to handle the inspection process in conjunction with the USDA personnel. To conclude further that 97.3% of the horses have passed inspection in the past ten years with this kind of scrutiny would imply that the trainers are doing and extremely good job of presenting clean, sound horses for competition.

There is no question that some people in any industry are going to try to take advantage of the system and try to gain an edge for competitive purposes. There has never been a law passed by Congress that eliminates a problem. The law merely controls the problem. There is no difference with regard to the Horse Protection Act. When Congress had the wisdom to pass this Act in 1970 they did not think that, effective immediately, there would never be any other abuse to show horses in any breed. They understood that the law would give inspectors the power to protect horses and to prosecute those who attempt to abuse horses. Despite our best efforts throughout America crime still continues. There are laws against every type of major crime but unfortunately those things are taking place at this very moment. The laws against crime merely control them; the laws do not eliminate them.

The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration has experienced a wonderful relationship with the Untied States Department of Agriculture and the National Horse Show Commission as we work together to protect our show animals. We have vigorously supported every endeavor to promote clean, sound horses at all shows.

According to Johnson, "anyone in a leadership role in our industry should not rest comfortably until we are satisfied that there is a 100% compliance rate at our shows. We should also, however, realize that obtaining perfection is not possible. We must continue to raise the bar on our expectations and work diligently to protect our most valuable resource, the show horse."