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VAC Confirms USDA Results



The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) utilizes certain technologies in addition to the subjective inspection process contained within the Horse Protection Act (HPA).  One of those technologies is digital x-ray or digital imaging.  The technology would reveal if any “pressure shoeing” or improper shoeing was used to harm the horse or animate the gait.

At this year’s 76th Celebration, the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration contracted with an independent Veterinarian Advisory Committee (VAC) to employ objective, science-based testing in addition to the inspection conducted by the SHOW HIO and USDA.  As part of the VAC recommended protocols at the horse show, digital x-rays were taken during five days of the show.  All three championship nights of the horse show had each first and second place finisher return to the VAC station and digital x-rays were performed.

Although the USDA and SHOW HIO disagreed approximately 50% of the time on application of the subjective scar rule portion of the inspection, the USDA and VAC came to the same conclusion through the use of the digital imaging technology.  That conclusion was that no pressure-shoeing, foreign objects or improper shoeing techniques were used during the 76th Celebration.

As part of the digital imaging conducted by the VAC, the horses were required to have the bands removed prior to the digital x-ray.  This requirement was recognized as the proper way to view the digital image.

The Celebration is a proponent of legislation introduced by Congressman Marsha Blackburn and Senator Lamar Alexander that would amend the HPA to include science-based, objective testing of horses to ensure the welfare of those horses and compliance with the HPA.  To be fair, the current inspection process was part of the HPA originating in the 1970s before many of today’s technologies were readily available.

Not all parties that claim to have the welfare of the Tennessee Walking Horse at the forefront of their goals agree with the objective inspection protocols.  Legislation that was introduced by Congressman Ed Whitfield and supported by his wife and her employer the Humane Society of the United States would keep the antiquated, subjective inspection protocols currently in the HPA.  Congressman Whitfield does agree that the current HPA has been ineffective in the elimination of soring in the last 40+ years.
 

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