Skip to content

Walking Horse Breed Has Funding Restored



Editor's Note:  The following story was made available by the Associated Press.

By Will Graves
AP Sports Writer

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has restored funding for the Tennessee walking horse breed, with a catch.
The commission approved a measure on Tuesday that will allow eligible owners and breeders to receive money from the Kentucky Walking Horse-Breeders Incentive Fund starting in 2010 if the shows their horses participate in pass inspection from one of three agencies: the Natural Walking Horse Association, the Friends of Sound Horses or the Horse Protection Commission.

"We wanted to speak for the horses," said racing commission member Ned Bonnie, who led the panel's investigation into illegal practices within the walking horse industry. "We hope this sends a message."

The commission had suspended funding amid allegations some horses were intentionally harmed to change the way they walk. At issue is the illegal practice of soring, which involves irritating the horse's foreleg and hoof to force the trademark highstepping gait of Tennessee walking horses.
Almost 40 years ago, federal laws were enacted to eliminate soring among walking horses. The pain from chemical irritants causes horses to lift their front feet higher and faster as they compete for blue ribbons, ornate trophies and prize money.

In its report, the racing commission determined that the Kentucky Walking Horse Association has "not been consistent with the best interests of the walking horse industry or the KHRC."

By requiring owners and breeders to use one of the three approved organizations, Bonnie said the racing commission wants to assure better treatment of the horses.

Bonnie said response from the horse walking community has been mixed.

"I think there's some people that want to murder me, but there's others that think I should be an icon," Bonnie said. "It was important for us to make a statement that the welfare of the horse is paramount."

The commission's vote approved the release of the funding immediately, but members of the Kentucky Walking Horse Association asked the incentive fund money for 2009 be placed in escrow and made available in 2010 since the show season is nearly complete.

Donna Benefield, administrative director for the Horse Protection Commission, said the move by the racing commission is designed to reward owners for positive behavior.

"Hopefully this will help improve the image of the walking horse," Benefield.

Also Tuesday Ellis Park owner Ron Geary said he's undecided about whether he will try and reserve racing dates for the 2010 season.
Ellis Park ran a limited schedule this summer due to competition from tracks in Indiana that can provide higher purse money because of funding they receive from expanded gaming.

Geary has until Oct. 1 to ask the commission for dates next summer. He declined to put any odds on whether racing will return to the venerable track in Henderson, Ky.

Numbers from the spring meet were mixed. Attendance was up 23 percent, but total handle was down 40 percent, though much of the loss was attributed to the shorter meet.

"We're exploring all options," Geary said. "We'll take some time to look at it 100 different ways before we make a decision."

More Stories

  • Latest Issue 8 19 19

    Read More
  • Celebration prayer meeting scheduled

    This year marks the third annual Celebration for Christ get together! One week from today starts the first evening performance of “the greatest show on earth”. Come join together on Thursday, Aug. 23 at 6:00 pm at the Champions Arena bleachers... Read More
  • Celebration Reels now available on ReporTV

    Get ready for this year's Celebration by enjoying the final three nights of the 2018 Celebration with Celebration Reels now available on ReporTV! Brought to you by The Walking Horse Report and Dean Johnson Video.  Read More
  • WHTA Board and General Membership Meeting coming up!

    The WHTA Board of Directors will meet Tuesday, August 20, at 4:30 pm. The General Membership meeting will follow at 6:00 pm. Lobbyist, Jeff Speaks, will attend and discuss all legal issues. All interested parties are invited to attend.  Read More
  • HSUS files lawsuit aiming to reinstate rule tabled by Trump

    The Humane Society of the United States filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday, Aug. 14 against the United States Department of Agriculture in what the HSUS called an attempt to reinstate a final rule that was set aside by the Trump administration back in 2017 that would have banned action devices, pads and eliminated the Horse Industry Organization structure.  Read More
  • Equine Obituary – WGC Repeats Color Me In

    Raised by Kasey Kesselring, "Whitey" was a once in a lifetime mare that took many children to the Winners Circle safely, including Kailin Kesselring's first set of roses at the Spotted Championships. From a broodmare, to lesson horse at Montverde Academy in Florida, to a safe show ring mount for any level rider... Read More
  • Walking Horse Report’s daily papers and office hours

    The Celebration is the busiest time of year for Walking Horse Report. We strive to provide the best possible coverage of the industry’s world championship horse show. We will continue to post live results and judges’ cards. Read More
  • Obituary – Carl Johnson

    Mr. Carl M. Johnson, age 89, a resident of Columbia, passed away Saturday, August 10, 2019 at NHC-Maury Regional Transitional Care Center. A funeral service will be held on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 at 11:00 AM at Heritage Funeral Home with Pastor Steve Swango officiating. Read More
  • Neck ribbons to be presented to all winners

    In something new to the Celebration this year, beautiful neck ribbons will be presented to winners of each preliminary in 2019. In addition to these, each winner will also receive a bridle blue ribbon. The 81st annual Celebration kicks off Aug. 21 and goes through the end of the month.   Read More
  • Celebration Live Stream available throughout show

    Do you want to be at the 81st annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration but can’t make it? Have no fear, because live stream internet is available to anyone not wanting to miss any of the action.

    Single night purchases for live stream video fee is $19.99, or a package deal that includes the entire show is available for $89.99. To make your purchase anytime leading up to the show visit the watchtheshowlive.com. 

    Read More