Lewisburg TN - The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association Executive Committee held its most recent meeting May 2, 2011 at association headquarters in Lewisburg, Tennessee. In his remarks, President Marty Irby announced that, due to improving financial conditions at the association, the staff had received back half of the 10% pay cut they had taken last fall. He also discussed TWHBEA’s success at Equine Affaire Ohio and the possibility of working once again with Sue DeLaurentis and Allen Pogue of Imagine A Horse. Senior Vice President Margo Urad commended the staff and urged everyone to work on growing the association’s membership.


Speaking next, Executive Director Ron Thomas covered a number of topics. He reported that he was still looking for ways to improve the Voice magazine. He and the Voice staff will be meeting with corporate advertising sales specialist Jim Sullivan in the upcoming weeks in hopes of retaining his services for the magazine. Sullivan’s experience includes high level positions with the Arabian and Paint Horse breed journals as well as with Hoofbeats, the official magazine of the U.S. Trotting Association. Turning to a potential breed museum at association headquarters, Thomas reported that he and Past President David Pruett had met with 12/20 Exhibits to discuss possible exhibit spaces. Next, he related that TWHBEA would be hosting the National Pedigreed Livestock Council (NPLC) annual meeting and that Bill Harlin would be presented with the NPLC Distinguished Service Award. Looking to the future, Thomas remarked that he was very optimistic about several revenue generating ideas including web site banner ads, corporate ads for the Voice, name reservations and a possible memorial park for our breed’s greatest sires and dams. He also talked about improving customer service in the registry and the need to make registry forms more customer friendly.

Under Old Business Administrative/Fiscal/Audit Vice President Rob Cornelius added Mick Salm to his committee, Breeders Vice President Kathy Zeis added Larkin Brod to her committee and Equine Welfare Vice President Dr. LInda Montgomery added Frank Healey and Beverly Kirk to her committee. All of these additions were presented and passed as motions. Additionally, Member At Large Lisa Bowman Anderson moved to form her committee consisting of Caroline Siegel Hoffman, Margo Urad, Leslie Topham, Sherry White, Terry Mosley, Dee Dee Sale, Linda Starnes, Kathy Zeis, Jerry Harris, Joyce Moyer and Larkin Brod. Her motion passed as well.

Under New Business discussion centered on the resignations of Joyce Moyer and Stephen Brown from the mentoring program of the Unified Horse Show Development Program. Member At Large By Laws Buster Black stated that it was his opinion that having the resignation letters, particularly Moyer’s, published in industry newspapers had the potential to create even more divisiveness in the industry. Moyer replied that it was not her intent to create divisiveness but to explain her position.

In the first standing committee report of the day, Performance Horse Vice President Tom Kakassy presented a response to the Petition for Rulemaking made to the United States Department of Agriculture by Senator Joesph Tydings, the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and other animal welfare organizations regarding enforcement of the Horse Protection Act. After much discussion a consensus was reached that TWHBEA needed to take the lead in advocating for fair and honest enforcement of the Horse Protection Act. Senior Vice President Urad then made a motion to accept the response and release it immediately. The motion passed .  (See below for the complete response.)

 Administrative/Fiscal/Audit Vice President Rob Cornelius began his report by thanking everyone for their concern after the tornadoes that hit Alabama on April 27. He then announced that he would be holding a committee meeting prior to the semi-annual meetings at the end of May.

 Reporting for the Breeders Committee, Kathy Zeis presented a compilation of data gathered from at least ten other breed registries. The data included other registries’ fee structures and was intended to be used in comparison with TWHBEA’s fees. Upon initial comparison, Zeis related, TWHBEA’s fees in several areas are significantly less than those of other groups. She then turned to the ongoing parentage verification contract negotiations with the University of Kentucky. She stated that, in her opinion, the University of Kentucky was the best option for TWHBEA and that she felt that they would be willing to negotiate a favorable contract.

Enforcement Vice President Mike Hicks reported on an issue that has been raised regarding membership access to registry data. Equine Welfare Vice President Dr. Linda Montgomery related that there are no issues before her committee at this time but that she expects some to crop up soon due to the recent storms in the southeast.

Reporting next, Marketing Vice President Joyce Moyer began by discussing Equine Affaire Ohio. She talked about the quality of TWHBEA’s booth and the enthusiasm surrounding the breed demonstrations. She then complimented the Voice and discussed having Sue DeLaurentis return to writing articles for the magazine. She also touched on the upcoming Genius Day breed promotion at her farm and some ideas for a TWHBEA Pink Program to support breast cancer treatment and research. She ended her report by asking everyone to think about ways to better market the book Tennessee Walking Horse: An American Tradition. 

As Owners/Exhibitors/International Vice President Stephen Brown was in transit and unable to attend the meeting, President Irby presented his report. The report contained information on Brown’s efforts to ascertain how best to promote the Tennessee Walking Horse in other countries, his successful efforts gaining new members at horse shows and the ongoing preparations for the German and European Championships.

Pleasure Horse Vice President Rick Wies began his report by announcing that TWHBEA would be donating, upon request, prizes in the form of license plates or license plate frames to regional versatility shows. He then suggested that, in the interest of making it more accessible, the name of the Versatility Program be changed to the Versatility/Pleasure Program. He said that he had requested that Versatility Program information be included in all future GO! Gelding mailings. Moving on to upcoming events, he noted that the World Versatility Show was in need of sponsors and that an Extreme Cowboy Race, to be judged by Diane McMurtrey, was scheduled for June 25 at Circle E near Winchester, Tennessee. Wies then announced that the Pleasure Horse Committee had approved a rule change that would eliminate the rule that states that if a horse and rider team shows in both two and three gait classes at a single show they can only count points for one division. He moved that the Executive Committee approve this change. The motion was approved. He next brought up the much discussed potential association name change to Tennessee Walking Horse Association. He related that the Montana Walking Horse Association had voted in favor of the change and moved that the Executive Committee present the name change to the Board of Directors at the May meeting. The motion failed for lack of a second. Urad then moved that the Executive Committee review and research the effects and costs of the change with a report to be presented at the next Executive Committee meeting. This motion passed. In closing, Wies asked for advice regarding the Versatility Program requirement that in order for points to count they must be earned under a licensed judge. He noted that some associations within the industry are now issuing judges licenses without any training or testing.

Member At Large By Laws Buster Black reported that he was in contact with his committee and was actively seeking comments regarding potential future by laws issues.

In the final report of the day, Training Vice President Wayne Dean related that there are now 119 TWHBEA Certified Riding Instructors. Turning to the Academy Program, he provided the following information: Three shows have been held with 81 entries, 82 entries and 16 entries respectively, additional Academy classes have been held at shows in Florida and North Carolina and a fourth Academy show is scheduled for May 21 at Main Gait Farms in Shelbyville, Tennessee. Main Gait Farms is generously donating the use of their facility for that show.


Response of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association To Petition for Rulemaking


The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association (hereinafter TWHBEA) is uniquely positioned as amicus in matters related to the exhibition and regulation of the performance Walking Horse. It derives no revenues from the promotion of any issue related to the Petition, except inasmuch as legislation and practice which enhances the value and well-being of the animal enhances the objectives of the Association as well. It has no stake in the success of any HIO at the expense of any other. TWHBEA derives  no income from the training of horses, much less from one particular training technique as opposed to another. Finally, it is a 501 (c) (5) organization dedicated to all of the many disciplines and uses of the Walking Horse, and conversely dedicated to the defense of any discipline under unfair attack. This Response points out areas of agreement with the position of the Petitioner, areas of disagreement, and areas in which basic facts and premises vital to Petitioner’s argument are without any logical or factual basis. It does so with an ultimate goal identical to that of the Horse Protection Act: the prohibition of soring in public venues. 

Interest of the Respondent

The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association (TWHBEA), headquartered in Lewisburg, Tennessee, is the oldest and most prestigious organization devoted to the promotion of the breed. Founded in 1935, the breed registry was established to record the pedigrees of the Tennessee Walking Horse. Its goal is to maintain the purity of the breed, to promote greater awareness of the Tennessee Walking Horse and its qualities, to encourage expansion of the breed, and to help assure its general welfare.

There are more than 500,000 registered Tennessee Walking Horses throughout the world. TWHBEA protects the investment of Tennessee Walking Horse owners by establishing policies and requirements, and maintaining the breed registry. A 14-person Executive Board, selected from the International Board of Directors representing members in all 50 states and several foreign countries, plays the key role is establishing these policies. The success and popularity of the Tennessee Walking Horse is the result of thoughtful organization and strong leadership by the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association, and it is the essential organization for the continued success of the breed. The Association, and this Brief, promote the interests of approximately 10,000 individuals.

The TWHBEA International Board of Directors is dedicated to the sound horse. As declared in its mission statement, bylaws, position statement and web site, it does not support practices in violation of the Horse Protection Act in the development and training of the horse. The TWHBEA International Board of Directors supports the sound and compliant horse in every one of the breed’s numerous disciplines.

Statistical and Scientific Basis for Petitioner’s Claims

While the Petition for Rulemaking indiscriminately lumps together what it calls “HPA violations” in its arguments, citations are issued, as the Department knows, for many technical violations unrelated to bilateral sensitivity.[1] Petitioner’s arguments do not appear to in any way be addressed to instances of foreign substance, illegal chains, equipment violation, bad image horse, not reporting to DQP, suspension violation, or “NHSC point exam”, which comprise 7.3 % of all violations[2]. Added to unilateral sensitivity violations, this excluded percentage rises to 36.4%.To date, and to the best information available to TWHBEA, statistics show as follows:

Inspected horses found bilaterally sore to date:    1396[3]


All inspections conducted by any HIO or authorized entity in 2007: 109,008

All sustained violations for bilateral sensitivity in 2007:     27

Percentage of inspected horses found bilaterally sore in 2007:   .00025%


All inspections conducted by any HIO or authorized entity in 2008: 111,932

All sustained violations for bilateral sensitivity in 2008:     43

Percentage of inspected horses found bilaterally sore in 2008:  .00038%


All inspections conducted by any HIO or authorized entity in 2009: 70,122

All sustained violations for bilateral sensitivity in 2009:     70

Percentage of inspected horses found bilaterally sore in 2009:  .00099%


All inspections conducted by any HIO or authorized entity in 2010: 72,114

All sustained violations for bilateral sensitivity in 2010:     92

Percentage of inspected horses found bilaterally sore in 2010:  .0012757%


All inspections conducted by any HIO or authorized entity in 2011 to date: 5374

All sustained violations for bilateral sensitivity in 2011:  9

Percentage of inspected horses found bilaterally sore in 2011:  .0017%


Total inspections conducted by any HIO or authorized entity for reported years: 368,550

Total—bilateral sensitivity: 241

Percentage of all inspected horses found bilaterally sore—reported years: .0006%

Respondent takes issue with the factual bases for the following premises and statements found in the Petition:

References to “soring scars”[4] without further definition of this new term or distinction from “bilateral areas of uniformly thickened epithelial tissue if such areas are free of proliferating granuloma tissue, irritation, moisture, edema, or other evidence of inflammation”[5], allowed under HPA;

References to “widely practiced” “insidious practices” without further reference;[6]

Incorporation of deceptive quotations;[7]

The statement that “Scarring of the pasterns is considered irrefutable evidence of soring”. [8]

References to CFR provisions which do not contain the cited material; [9]

Web sites created by individuals used as citations to support factual assertions made;[10]

Petitioner’s use of its own employees’ “declarations” as evidence; [11]

Entire pages of factual assertions without any factual reference or footnote whatsoever, and statements which are simply untrue. ;[12]

The statement that “The fact that scarred horses are repeatedly shown and dismissed from shows irrefutably demonstrates that illegal soring continues in the Walking Horse Industry”, with no reference to any causal link or other information;[13]

Adulteration of quotations. [14]




Petitioner’s request for “permanent disqualification of scarred horses” ignores the science and the plain language and history of the Act, and is in fact an apparent attempt to stop the showing of padded performance horses.

Having drawn a link which has no basis in science between the buildup of callus tissue and what it calls “soring scars”, and having exaggerated the incidences of cheating behavior in the industry, Petitioner then suggests that one turndown on the basis of the so-called “scar rule” should disqualify any show horse for all time. As SHOW’s response notes,[15] this approach was considered and rejected, in no small part because callus tissue can be reduced “with proper care, rest and time”, in the same manner that proper care of a callus on the human foot can do so. Indeed, the Act allows for an amount of “uniformly thickened epithelial tissue” in recognition of the fact that friction in the pastern area, in this show horse as well as in many or all other extended-gait  performance breeds, will produce this natural reaction and protection. SHOW also notes the wide range of variation in interpretations of the scar rule, not so much as between USDA and DQPs as between USDA inspectors themselves. [16] Ending the career (and perhaps the life) of a valuable show animal on the basis of such subjectivity thwarts not only due process, but the very purpose of the Act. Moreover, as SHOW points out, requiring the participation of HIOs in this endeavor may well make them “state actors”, implicating USDA in the consequent deprivation of property rights of horse owners. [17]  This respondent cannot accept petitioner’s suggestion as being put forth in good faith, as it appears directed toward the abolition of the discipline, as opposed to suggested effective regulation of bad practices. 

The imposition of required minimum penalties and permanent disqualifications would be counterproductive, counter to the intention of the Act, and an excessive use of authority.

Strangely, Petition argues that USDA’s failure to impose mandatory minimum penalties is “arguably illegal”[18]—and then quotes the HPA provision allowing the Secretary discretion to promulgate such rules “as he deems necessary to carry out the provisions of the Act”. There is no other rationale given for this hyperbolic and illogical suggestion. Petitioner’s suggestion to force mandatory penalties would require the amendment of the Regulations to make this so, as well, as 9 CFR 11.21 plainly allows HIOs to adopt their own penalties. Clearly, the present and permissible remedy for what USDA considers to be an ineffective HIO is decertification. SHOW points up the utter failure to comport with due process, the right to confrontation, and the rights to jury trial which such a short-circuit of normal fact-finding and appeal processes would entail.[19] Finally, and perhaps most devastating, the imposition of practically impossible regulations and career-ending disqualifications will or would lead to the abandonment of the HIO structure by all, the abandonment of qualified inspections, and—again perhaps the goal of Petitioner—the abandonment of a discipline which has been shown, again and again and again, to be humane and productive of a great show animal.

Petitioner’s requests for the incorporation of points of emphasis are in part moot and are in part without justification or scientific basis.

As with many rules which have evolved through the years, HIOs and the industry have adapted and are already employing some of the suggested rules. Horses are not to show back at the same event after disqualification, and there is no evidence that they are. Regulations regarding recordkeeping, and penalties for the failure to do so, are already in place. Horses dismissed from the ring are then inspected. The Act and regulations are already replete with prohibitions against inserted materials designed to cause soring. The prohibitions against participation while suspended are already in the Regulations and penalties for violations are described in the Act itself. Petitioners show a shocking lack of familiarity with that which they attempt, respectively, to duplicate, supersede, and contradict.  

TWHBEA takes no position regarding the correlation between coffin bone rotation and the Act, but defers to SHOW’s discussion of the topic and the science, contained in its brief at pp. 36-37. It does wish to emphasize the near impossibility of conducting this additional test in the field, with such drastic consequences, and while horse shows attempt to proceed. 

Respondents do agree with the principle that each HIO should honor the suspensions levied by the other, and questions whether and to what extent this accepted practice is actually being violated. However, this mutual respect for suspensions should continue to be (and to the knowledge of the respondent is) the product of a voluntary agreement among HIOs dedicated to the abolition of unfair and illegal practices. 

TWHBEA recommends that USDA engage in scientific study and a cooperative effort with the industry in order to gain additional knowledge and to more efficiently enforce the Act, a goal supported by the overwhelming number of horse enthusiasts. 

While TWHBEA applauds the efforts of USDA to work with industry representatives in understanding and modifying training techniques, it also asks that USDA recognize the industry’s greatest asset: the owners, trainers, and breeders dedicated to fair competition between sound horses. TWHBEA stands ready to help coordinate studies intended to effectuate the purpose of the Horse Protection Act. For example, Dr. Ram Purohit, DVM,MS, PhD, [20] author of the “Auburn studies” and relied upon by USDA and the industry in developing humane devices and practices some thirty years ago, remains ready to continue those studies.  An exploration of the relationship between callus tissue in the pastern area, for example, and its causation, would be most useful in the uniform application of inspections and in addressing concepts such as that of the “permanently scarred “ horse, an animal apparently constructed of whole cloth by Petitioners in their application. In developing uniform, fair, and objective standards, TWHBEA’s objectives are exactly the same as those which should be sought by USDA. 


After some thirty pages of largely undocumented allegations against SHOW and other HIOs, Petitioners’ brief contains, in a footnote at the bottom of page 26, a reference to SHOW, an entity in existence for less than two years, as having “recently taken initial steps committing to compliance and enhanced enforcement”. This grudging and backhanded recognition of the enormous progress made by the Walking Horse industry is swallowed up in HSUS’ effort to sensationalize the issue in a brief which, as SHOW states, would be sanctionable in a court of law. USDA should base no action on such a shoddy product. Although it runs contrary to HSUS’ financial interests, it would do well to recognize that, in the last five years, less than six horses out of every ten thousand have been found to be “sore”.

None of the stakeholders should be adversaries, as all share the same objectives. [21]USDA could do better to develop uniform  inspection standards, with the assistance of TWHBEA and industry leaders, which are more truly regulatory than punitive, which inspire confidence in and respect for the inspection process, and which allow the performance walking horse and its custodians to thrive in accordance with the intention of the Horse Protection Act.  TWHBEA stands ready to help.






[1] While it is acknowledged that 15 USC 1821 (3)(a) references “any limb” of a horse, it must also be understood  that there is no motivation for any person to intentionally induce unilateral sensitivity preparatory to showing a horse.

[2] From hpadata.us.

[3] The web site maintained by Friends of the Sound Horse, one of the Petitioners, contains this figure and states that bilateral sensitivity comprises 14.8% of all violations found.  The figures following are from USDA reports.

[4] First found at page 3 of the Petition without footnote, and repeated throughout.

[5] 9 CFR 11.3(b)

[6] Petition at p. 3. T the knowledge of the respondent, the reference was to one 2010 incident which was detected by SHOW HIO.  At page 20, petitioner states that “sound horses are often swapped in for sore horses”.

[7] “USDA must ‘stop, once and for all, the inhumane and absolutely unnecessary practice of soring’”. The quotation, reference to which is found only in a footnote in Petitioner’s brief at page 4, is from 1973.

[8] Petitioner’s brief at p. 9. This neither defines “scarring of the pasterns” nor explains who considers “scarring” “irrefutable evidence of soring”, or why.

[9] “The Act anticipates that violators will try to elude detection of soring and scarring by using caustic chemicals to remove scars…, and accordingly prohibits the use of such foreign substances.” Petitioner’s brief at 9. This is not so. The citation given is to 9 CFR 11, which refers  to acceptable lubricants “while the horse is being shown….” There is no prohibition against treatment of callus tissue outside of the show environment.

[10] To support the contention that “pads are used to support soring mechanisms”, Petitioner references a web site which states that one Vickey Hollingsworth is the author. Brief at p. 12, fn 31.   This site also cites “excessive feeding”  and the use of tail sets as abusive practices. Ms. Hollingsworth is apparently the seller of “High Performance Hoof Care”.

[11] Brief at 12, fn 32.

[12] E.g., Brief at pp. 13-14, discussing pressure shoeing and stewarding practices “often” used.  Also, e.g., see: “There is no minimum penalty for instances of pressure shoeing, stewarding practices, or the act of swapping horses or numbers”. Id. at 22. 

[13]Brief at p. 18.  In fact, Petitioner’s brief cites one or more instances wherein a horse was turned down for a “scar rule” violation and showed nights later with no problem. It appears more logical that, as the horse was not turned down for sensitivity, this shows there is no connection between soring and these “scars” and also shows the arbitrary nature of inspections, as they are presently carried out.

[14] . At p. 20, petitioner quotes Congress as saying, [banning ‘scarred  horses’] will make it impossible for persons to show sored horses in nearly all horse shows”. This adulterated quote, the historically correct portion of which was generated before the scar rule ever existed,  actually refers to “The Act” making it impossible…. Quoted in Thornton and Cantrell v. USDA, 715 F. 2d. 1508 (1983).

[15] SHOW response at p. 25.

[16] As this Response is written, two horse shows are underway, those being in Panama City, Florida, and Cookeville, Tennessee; both are subject to USDA inspection; Panama City, under the direction of Dr. Ernest Johnson, is effectively shut down; Cookeville, under the direction of Dr. Hamill, is enjoying a wide patronage and is largely unaffected by USDA’s presence.

[17] SHOW at p. 27.

[18] Brief at p. 22.

[19] SHOW at 31.

[20] Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Auburn University, AL 36849-5522; 334-844-4490; fax 334-844-6715;  home 334 821 1336; email rpurohit1336@charter.net.

[21] “We will litigate, not negotiate”. Dr. Chester Gipson.