The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration (TWHNC) and its exhibitors were harshly criticized in a press release from the Friends of Sound Horses (FOSH) on July 22. 

In accordance with federal regulations, The Celebration affiliates its horse show with a United States Department of Agriculture certified Horse Industry Organization (HIO) to provide the inspection of every horse, every time it enters the show ring.   Exhibitors currently under suspension from any HIO or the USDA are not allowed to participate at the Celebration.

The Tennessee Walking Horse is the most highly-regulated and scrutinized equine breed in the country and The Celebration is likewise the most highly-regulated and scrutinized horse show in America.  Every Tennessee Walking Horse is put through a rigorous inspection process each time it goes into, and many times coming out of the Celebration ring.  All winners are inspected both prior to and after their class. Even under such intense scrutiny, industry professionals are presenting horses that are compliant over 99% of the time.  No other breed in the United States is subjected to that scrutiny.

Unfortunately under the USDA Operating Plan, the inspection process is an imperfect and subjective one.  The USDA works with all HIOs to provide joint training of inspectors in an effort to make inspections more fair and consistent.  Penalties for violations range from not being able to show in that class to suspensions of two weeks to several months, depending on the violation.  The USDA plan and HIO’s allows exhibitors that have properly served their suspensions to continue participating at events.

Statistics from the USDA are evidence of improved compliance with the Horse Protection Act (HPA). According to the USDA's 2007 Annual Show Report, there were a total of 506 sanctioned Walking Horse shows across the United States. In those shows, 109,008 inspections were made with 629 total violations found (including technical violations) for a 99.4% compliance rate.  The Celebration and the industry is constantly striving for 100% compliance, and recognizes even one violation is unacceptable.

Also, The Celebration honors the suspension lists provided it by the USDA and NHSC, along with all other HIO suspension lists.  Under the USDA Operating Plan, all HIOs are required to honor the suspension lists of each other.  Unfortunately in 2007, the USDA inadvertently left a name off their suspension list and that individual showed at the 2007 Celebration.

Throughout its history the Celebration has worked with the USDA to go above and beyond HPA requirements.  The Celebration was highly praised for its SHOW initiative which provided for Sound Horses, Honest Judging, Objective Inspections, and Winning Fairly.

Working with the USDA and humane groups, the Celebration successfully implemented stringent new requirements in 2007 designed to ensure the health and safety of the animals competing there.  Some of those additional measures included instituting a drug program, using hoof testers, pulling shoes on flat shod horses, providing inspectors in the stable area and enforcing Tennessee’s Anti-Soring Ordinance.  The Celebration will continue to work with the USDA and other responsible organizations to go above and beyond the regulations to ensure that only healthy and sound horses compete at its event.

The bottom line is that the Celebration is working hand-in-hand with the USDA and all industry organizations to continue its progress of putting sound, healthy horses in the show ring and on the trail. 

Dr. Doyle G. Meadows, CEO
David L. Howard, Chairman

Below is a copy of the FOSH Press Release:
July 22, 2008
Contact Person:  Teresa Bippen
FOSH, Friends of Sound Horses, one of the leading humane groups in the fight to end the illegal and cruel practice of soring, announced an analysis of recent show ring winners that provides new data to answer the question of whether soring is required to win in the Walking Horse industry show ring.
The 1st place winners for the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration Show were reviewed and analyzed.  In 2007, 73% of these individuals winning had a history of Horse Protection Act (HPA) violations, averaging 5.1 violations each.  In 2006, 85% of these winners had violations, averaging again 5.2 violations each.
Not only does soring appear to be commonly accepted, it could even be considered a “badge of honor” in this industry.  Why else would the Walking Horse industry invite individuals with HPA violations to serve as judges for the 2008 Celebration, the industry's most prestigious show?  An analysis of the violation records of this year’s judges reveals that of the five individuals selected to judge the  2008 Celebration, there are 14 HPA violations shared among them.
Individuals that amass numerous HPA violations within a certain timeframe are subject to lengthy suspensions; however, that did not deter one exhibitor at the 2007 Celebration from showing.  While on a five year HPA suspension, he showed and placed well enough to be awarded a ribbon.
FOSH is a national leader in the promotion of natural, sound gaited horses and in the fight against abuse and soring of Tennessee Walking Horses.  For more information about FOSH, or to become a member, please visit or call 800-651-7993.