The Nashville Tennessean newspaper has given extensive and mostly negative coverage to our horse in recent weeks due to the Jackie McConnell video.  Publisher and Celebration board member David L. Howard responded with a Letter to the Editor.

The Tennessean published the letter as an editorial with a headline and placed it in the front section of the newspaper. Below we have reprinted Howard’s editorial.

Tennessee Voices

Celebration, SHOW take hard line against soring
By David L. Howard

I support the sentiments in The Tennessean’s May 17 editorial concerning the video of horse abuse. There is outrage from every corner of the Walking Horse industry and severe actions have been and will continue to be taken, against all of the individuals.

But it is unfair to brand an entire industry over the actions of a few. The video speaks for itself, but comments by the Humane Society of the United States at their press conference were untrue and incomplete.

The Barney Davis conviction mentioned in the editorial has no connection to the video and involves a different breed (Spotted Saddle Horses). Davis was found in violation at a show in Manchester, Tenn., in 2010 by the Sound Horses Honest Judging Objective Inspections Winning Fairly (SHOW), an industry inspection program formed three years ago by the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration and funded solely by them.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors were not at this show, and Davis would never have been brought to justice except for SHOW.

SHOW issued a lifetime suspension to Mr. Davis and turned their evidence over to the USDA for prosecution. This is the second occasion where SHOW found a trainer in violation without the government present, issued a lifetime suspension and turned the evidence over to the USDA.

The Celebration and SHOW are committed to finding and eliminating soring, and their record proves it.

The Celebration has supplemented SHOW by almost $500,000 and has the finest inspection system ever devised. In SHOW’s three years, they have inspected more than 80,000 horses at almost 400 shows, far more than the USDA. SHOW spends more on its program than the USDA gets allocated by the government.

SHOW’s jurisdiction is limited to checking horses at shows, and they have no authority, legally or otherwise, to go into stables and check for abuse. The Celebration is, and should be, the most heavily inspected show by the USDA. Working side by side with our SHOW inspectors, the Celebration has a compliance rate of 96 percent. Unfortunately, there are horses showing today that are sore, and if 100 percent compliance is the criteria, the industry will never be rewarded for their efforts.

The New York Times recently reported that 24 horses die each week at racetracks around the country, and 3,600 have died either training or racing in the past three years. Recently, The Tennessean reported the death of a horse at The Iroquois Steeplechase, and there have been many others in the past.

To quote the editorial, “Where is the outrage from people who own these beautiful animals and travel around the country to see them compete?” And I ask, where are the articles and editorials in The Tennessean condemning the sport for not doing enough to prevent the destruction of these beautiful animals?

The Celebration has not been ignoring soring, and is committed in every way to finding and eliminating sore horses, and our record speaks for itself.

David L. Howard is a member of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration Board of Directors.