by David L. Howard

The past month has not been the best of times for the Tennessee Walking Horse and the immediate future promises to be every bit as challenging.  Some of the worst negative publicity the breed has ever experienced is leading into the challenges of mandatory penalties, USDA listening sessions, rulemaking and more prosecutions leading to continued negative publicity.

Hopefully the old saying that “triumph is often nearest when defeat seems inescapable” is true and I honestly believe it is.  Quite frankly, I am excited about the future and believe by being proactive, not reactive; we can control the outcome of events.


Because the future starts tomorrow and nothing is as powerful as the facts…and the facts are on our side.  The industry has a compliance record second to none and we need to let the world see the numbers.  Instead of responding to criticism, much of it unjust, it is time to get the word out about the soundness and quality of this wonderful horse.

Our compliance is not perfect and it never will be and if that is the standard we are being judged by, please apply it to every breed, sport, business, the USDA and the Humane Society of the United States and they will be found lacking in some way.

Last year’s Celebration had a compliance rate of 98% with the USDA there every night.  If that is not good enough, show me some entity that is doing better.  Every sport has its problems, just read the paper, and we are no different.  And we are doing something about our problem.

This industry spends more money annually than the USDA in enforcing the Horse Protection Act and thus is able to do a better job. The USDA has limited resources and can’t cover the vast majority of affiliated shows, much less the hundreds of unsanctioned shows.

We inspect more shows and horses by a large measure and penalize the vast majority of offenders more harshly and quickly than the USDA.  The recent Barney Davis conviction was initiated by SHOW catching the violation at a show the USDA did not even attend.  SHOW assessed a lifetime suspension and, in compliance with the law, turned their findings over to the USDA for prosecution. didn’t read that in the papers.

To show how disingenuous HSUS can be, they credit their $10,000 reward as the reason this case was successfully prosecuted.  That is simply not the truth.

Keith Dane should be ashamed of himself for not telling the whole story and falsely taking credit for HSUS.  And for the record, he is a director for TWHBEA and was elected with two write-in votes with no opposition.

The reality is that the hand that rules the flow of information controls public awareness and opinion.  The media is constantly being fed negative information, most of it wrong, but we either don’t respond or do so only on occasion.

Not only must we respond more forcefully to our critics, it is time to get our story out.  The care and quality of our horses; the tremendous amount of money raised for charity; the economic impact and the jobs provided all over the country; the wonderful hobby that brings joy and excitement to so many families and an industry that has cleaned up its act.

As an example, when the Barney Davis story hit the streets, SHOW sent out a news release through the Associated Press that was immediately picked up by television and news media in the southeast.  They also wrote a letter to the Chattanooga paper spelling out the facts and discussed the matter with the author of the critical and inaccurate story.  He promised to talk to others and write a follow-up story.

This industry must have a vision and it’s got to be a vision that we articulate clearly and forcefully.  As a speaker once told me “You can’t blow an uncertain horn”.  There is always hope when people listen to both sides and we need to get the other side out to the media and the public.

It’s time to be proud of the 98% of our horses and the time, money and effort this industry has devoted to a serious problem with great success.