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WHTA Responds To ABC News Story

The Walking Horse Trainers’ Association (WHTA) is shocked and saddened by the undercover video released publicly on ABC News Nightline last night. “We don’t condone this behavior or these actions by Jackie McConnell and are confident that the actions in that video are not indicative of the behavior of our members,” said WHTA President Jamie Hankins.

“The welfare of the Tennessee Walking Horse is at the forefront of our association and our membership. Our members have adopted and abide by a Code of Ethics which requires that we treat all horses ‘humanely, and with dignity and respect’ and use only training methods which are humane and complement the natural abilities of our great breed.”  The WHTA has over 550 members and was formed in 1968. 

The WHTA did not become aware of the existence of the HSUS video of Mr. McConnell until the feature aired last evening and were not contacted for comment prior to the video being made public. However, upon release of the video, the WHTA Board of Directors called a meeting and has voted unanimously to take the necessary steps to suspend Mr. McConnell’s trainers’ license indefinitely pursuant to the by-laws.

“The gait of the Tennessee Walking Horse is a natural one and our horse does not have to be sored to achieve the high-stepping gait we are so well-known for. We vehemently disagree with Keith Dane and the Humane Society of the United States when they claim our horse has to be sored to achieve this gait.  They know this not to be true and to say so on National TV is both false and irresponsible,” said Hankins.

At affiliated events, all Tennessee Walking Horses are inspected prior to showing by Horse Industry Organization (HIO) Designated Qualified Persons (DQP) as well as being subject to post-show and USDA Veterinarian Medical Officers’ (VMO) inspections. The WHTA is very proud of the strides made by its membership over the last several years and points to the over 98% compliance rate at affiliated shows as proof of the importance placed on the welfare of the horse. 

“Our horses undergo a series of pre-show inspections to ensure they are compliant and are monitored continuously in the warm-up area and show ring and are subject to post-show inspections as well,” said Hankins. 

As further proof of the WHTA’s commitment to the welfare of the horse, Hankins stated that “[i]n February of this year, the USDA released data related to foreign substance testing and our organization acted immediately to introduce a new industry swabbing and drug testing initiative which will be implemented within the next month. This initiative goes above and beyond what is required by the Horse Protection Act, however, our board felt strongly that this program was necessary to protect the interests of our horses and our profession in light of the latest information received from the USDA.” 

The WHTA Board of Directors voted unanimously to approve the program to begin swabbing and drug testing to protect the best interest of the horse and assure that only compliant horses are shown at affiliated events.


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