By U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon 
Posted March 1, 2002
I have worked closely over the years with owners, trainers, and participants, as well as officials in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to help find a balanced approach at sustaining a vibrant Tennessee walking horse industry.  

In fact I recently met with newly appointed Agriculture Undersecretary William Hawks to discuss regulatory issues concerning the walking horse industry. We made substantial progress on many fronts during the meeting. 

Also present at the meeting were Craig Evans of the National Horse Show Commission; Bill Young of the Walking Horse Trainers Association; Ron Thomas of the Tennessee Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association; Bobby Acord, associate administrator of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; and Ron DeHaven, assistant deputy administrator of the Inspection Service’s Animal Care division. 

Last year, working closely with these people and others, a three-year regulatory agreement was finally reached. This operating plan represents years of hard work involving officials from all aspects of the industry, including horse owners, trainers and show participants. Its completion gives me great confidence in the future viability of the walking horse industry. 

Some issues of contention still remain. During the meeting with the newly appointed undersecretary, regulatory issues concerning the equitable testing of horses, the implementation of appropriate training and qualification standards for all inspectors, and the fair administration of rules and violations were addressed. I have confidence in Mr. Hawks’ willingness to work with the industry and his desire to see these issues resolved. 

But to ensure the equitable resolution of these matters and the success of the new operating plan, the application of regulations must be fair. There must be a mutual trust between industry and USDA inspectors. Undersecretary Hawks shares my desire to see all department inspectors held to the highest standards of conduct. I look forward to working with Mr. Hawks on finding mutually acceptable regulatory solutions and ensuring that individual inspectors do not jeopardize the quality of our walking horse shows. 

Some of my fondest childhood memories, after all, are from the walking horse shows I attended in Middle Tennessee. These shows, while important to family and community, also provide an important outlet for charities and civic organizations. I will continue to work toward a consensus on the remaining unresolved regulatory issues and other matters so the walking horse industry will continue to thrive.