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USDA attends Trainers meeting




FRANKLIN, Tenn. – The Walking Horse Trainers’ Association (WHTA) held their general membership meeting at the Cool Springs Marriott on December 14th. Representatives from the United States Department of Agriculture were in attendance and after introductions, President Bill Cantrell turned the floor over to APHIS Deputy Administrator Bernadette Juarez.

Juarez started her presentation reiterating her focus that HIOs perform consistently when the USDA is present and when they are not present. Juarez focused on the inspections on performance horses and said industry wide, HIOs found 3% of horses inspected noncompliant when the USDA isn’t present and 6.6% when they were present. Juarez pointed to this discrepancy to highlight the need for more thorough and consistent inspections when the USDA is not present at the show.

One factor in the discrepancy that Juarez pointed out to the trainers was the change in inspection this year.  In 2018, if the USDA found a horse noncompliant they would refer that horse back to the HIO and if the HIO wrote a ticket the USDA did not take information on the horse. This drove the number of tickets written by HIOs higher and those with information taken by the USDA lower. Juarez also pointed out that the USDA focused their efforts in 2018 outside of Tennessee and spent time with HIOs other than SHOW HIO, which again drove the industry noncompliance figures higher. Juarez was very complimentary of the job the SHOW HIO and their DQPs were doing.

“A couple of your HIOs are not performing well and we are seriously looking at if they can continue moving forward,” said Juarez. In fiscal year 2017 industry HIOs wrote 337 violations while that figure increased to 649 violations in fiscal year 2018. This increase was in part due to the USDA focusing on HIOs that in fiscal year 2017 didn’t write violations at the same rate they wrote them in fiscal year 2018 with the USDA present at a larger percentage of their shows. Juarez pointed to factors such as HIOs taking the lead in inspection and USDA referrals back to the HIOs as other reasons for the increase, yet she still warned the trainers that there is work to do to bring these numbers down.

Juarez pointed to an increase in bilateral sore horses and noncompliance with the scar rule as concerns.  In 2017 there were 37 scar rules written by the HIOs and in 2018 that number increased to 121.  Juarez assured the trainers that the focus had not changed on the scar rule but rather that DQPs were misinterpreting the anterior and posterior guidelines for compliance with the scar rule. She mentioned the lateral and medial portions of the pastern are considered the anterior and have to meet those requirements.  

Juarez also spent a considerable amount of time discussing what the VMOs are finding post show. She mentioned increased rates of noncompliance and specifically mentioned inflammation and open lesions that were being found post show. “I believe we are seeing rougher pasterns post show because you are pushing the line more pre-show,” stated Juarez.

As part of the presentation the USDA also spent time talking about foreign substances. In 2017, 46 swabs tested by the USDA were positive for benzocaine. In 2018, 55 swabs tested positive for benzocaine and two for lidocaine. The USDA didn’t give the total number of swabs taken but did point to the focus outside of Tennessee as a potential reason for the increase. Juarez also warned the trainers of shoeing concerns they have been told about as well as tightening of bands and how it can affect compliance.

Juarez also said the USDA was mindful that there were issues not just in the padded horse but also in flat shod divisions. Juarez ended her presentation by informing the trainers of adjustments that will be made in 2018 in inspection. Currently when a VMO finds a violation, they will ask the custodian in they want a second opinion from the second VMO or just to be referred back to the DQP.  In 2018, when two VMOs are present if the first VMO finds a violation the second VMO will be required to inspect the horse.

In addition, a major change in 2018 will be for all horses to come back to inspection post show instead of just the first place and random other selections. Knowing the burden this would put on trainers, custodians and horse show management, Juarez assured the trainers that it would be a quick review, the rider could still be on the horse, they would not have to remove any tack or equipment and only if the VMO saw something of concern would the horse be required to go through a complete post show inspection.

During his budget report, Wayne Dean informed the membership that the WHTA currently has $166,566 in the bank. The trainers have four accounts, the Blue Ribbon Sale account, Horse Show account, operating account and Riders’ Cup account.

Bill Young gave a report on the Trainers’ Penalty program. Only two HIOs participated in the trainers program, SHOW and American Horse Services. Four barns served a two-week suspension under the program and one barn served a 30-day suspension.

Jeffrey Howard gave a legislative report. Jeff Speaks was in Louisville and unable to attend. Howard pointed out that the Farm Bill had passed without the PAST Act being attached but warned all of the trainers of the unbelievable effort being made by HSUS and others to bring the PAST Act to the House floor in the new Congress.

Howard reminded the trainers of the switch to Democratic control of the House and that currently 290 co-sponsors have signed on in support of the PAST Act. The democrats are hoping to push through a rule in the new Congress that any bill with this number of co-sponsors would be required to go to the floor for debate and a vote. The PAST Act would have to be reintroduced in the new Congress and have 290 sponsors sign on again but the efforts will be relentless by the animal rights movement to achieve this number again.

The millions of dollars being spent to destroy the industry dwarf the amount the industry is spending to save the sport. The only source of funds for industry lobbying efforts are the $15 collected per inspection by the SHOW HIO and private donations. Speaks continues to urge the industry to find alternative sources of funds or for all HIOs to collect the fee. Speaks expects the efforts of those attempting to pass the PAST Act to be at the highest level he has seen in his eight years working with the industry.

The general membership meeting always culminates with the election of officers. The officers for 2019 will be:
Bill Cantrell – President
Mickey McCormick – 1st Vice President
Ross Campbell – 2nd Vice President.

Four new board members were also elected.  They were Rodney Dick, Scott Beaty, Herbert Derickson and Wayne Dean.

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