DOES THE PUBLIC KNOW?
by Sharon Rondeau
(Dec. 4, 2016) — [Editor’s Note: Some readers will find the material in this article and its hyperlinks disturbing.]
For the last 16 months, a group calling itself “CCABLAC,” which stands for Citizens Campaign Against “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty, has worked to publicize the abuse of some Tennessee Walking Horses and several other breeds by “soring,” which causes the horse significant pain for the purpose of earning recognition and prizes at certain horse shows.
The Tennessee Walking Horse was first bred a century ago in central Tennessee from five breeds brought to the area by settlers from other states and Canada. The Tennessee Walker is known for its gentle and even temperament, surefootedness, and three distinct natural gaits.
The Post & Email first became aware of the issue through a petition on change.org, a link for which appeared unsolicited in our email approximately two months ago. We began researching the issue in earnest last week following the intensive final weeks of the 2016 presidential election.
“Soring” is a “cruel and inhumane” practice outlawed by Congress by means of the Horse Protection Act of 1970 (HPA), but it continues today as a result of the law’s provision that the TWH industry primarily police itself.
Horses which have been sored and mistreated compete in various horse shows, particularly in the South. Whether or not the general public or horse show attendees are aware of the manner by which the contestants’ exaggerated gait is attained is unknown, although CCABLAC is working to expose it.
Soring involves the application of kerosene, mustard oil or another irritant to the horse’s forelegs, or “pasterns,” and the subsequent bandaging of the area overnight so as to “cook in” the chemicals, thereby causing a maximum degree of discomfort. The pain the horse experiences is translated into a false, exaggerated gait wherein it throws its front hooves high and places more weight on its back legs as it trots around the “Big Lick” show ring. The artificial gait is rewarded with recognition and prizes and sometimes translates into millions of dollars involving politicians, according to CCABLAC activist BillyGoBoy.
A trainer who spent a year in prison for a conviction of animal cruelty has said that all horses exhibiting the Big Lick have been sored. To the question of whether or not soring does permanent damage, he responded, “Oh, yes, I’ve seen several horses that’s been lame or even died over it.”
The treatment sometimes includes inserting an object under the hoof for several days which is removed before transporting the horse to a show, which is a violation of the HPA. The placement of chains to the irritated pastern area before competition serves to increase the animal’s discomfort, forcing it to throw its front legs unnaturally higher.
The Humane Society of the United States has published footage of the mistreatment of horses which are sored for the purpose of competition.
In a video posted by BillyGoBoy, he refers to “The Celebration” horse show which takes place in late summer every year in Shelbyville, TN and, according to him, has been poorly attended since the group brought its case to the public over the last year or more. He said that the once-vaunted horse show, launched in 1939, has been hijacked by trainers and owners who torture horses for the sake of producing the “Big Lick.”
On October 12, 2015, BillyGoBoy reported on his blog that “The USDA Vets in their recent inspections at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration confirmed that the Big Lick is unethical treatment of animals by disqualifying 35% of all Big Lick Tennessee Walking Horses for alleged Horse Protection Act violations (Animal Cruelty).”
In a video posted on Friday, “BillyGoBoy” reported that CCABLAC met that day at a Marriott Hotel in Franklin, TN in close proximity to a meeting of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors’ Association (TWHBEA), where former Senate Majority Leader and doctor Bill Frist was in attendance.
Last week, The Post & Email attempted to reach a representative from TWHBEA, but neither an email nor a phone message was returned. Our initial phone call was met by a woman who, when we identified ourselves as “media,” asked sharply, “What do you want?”
An organization called “Yankee Walkers” located in Connecticut claiming to endorse only the “flat-shod” Tennessee Walking Horse, which is allegedly not subjected to stacks, chains or soring, also did not respond to an email request for comment on the procedure.
“Mr. Matt Buchanan,” General Manager of the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center, where a “Big Lick” horse show took place in early October, was a recipient of the Change.org petition letter to “Please Cancel and Boycott “Big Lick” Tennessee Walking Classes – North Carolina Championship Show” from CCABLAC.
The letter continues:
The “Big Lick” is Animal Cruelty, and has no place in Asheville – Fletcher, North Carolina, or at the state owned Western North Carolina Agricultural Center. If the “Big Lick” Tennessee Walking Horse is not welcome at the NC State Fair in Raleigh, then it should not be allowed at any Agricultural Center owned by the State of North Carolina. For the Asheville – Fletcher, North Carolina to host this “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty causes them to be stained by the stigma of being part of animal abuse.
Last week, The Post & Email sent an email to Buchanan which went unanswered. The email reads:
Hello, I own and operate an online newspaper, The Post & Email (www.thepostemail.com) which reports on corruption in government.
While I normally prioritize issues concerning people, I became aware approximately six ‘weeks ago of a performance style involving Tennessee Walking Horses called the “Big Lick,” which reportedly is achieved by “soring.” The procedure involves rubbing caustic chemicals onto a horse’s forelegs, “cooking it in” by bandaging the area, and attaching heavy, artificial and weighty shoes with nails and straps to the horse’s front hooves.
It is my understanding that some horse trainers and others have been convicted of criminal charges as a result of their “soring” of Tennessee Walking Horses. (See video on “Thorsport Farm” below.)
Thank you very much.
Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email
PO Box 113
Canterbury, CT 06331-0113
ThorSport Farm also did not return a phone message left at the number provided on its website. However, in its “News” section, a reprinted article from the Shelbyville Gazette authored by Duke Thorson refutes the Humane Society’s contention that ThorSport abuses horses. Thorson claims that the video produced by the Humane Society used “spliced in video footage of abuse at someone else’s farm and presented it as though it occurred at ThorSport.”
“We vehemently oppose soring and support protection for Tennessee Walking Horses and ethical owners. To this end, we advocate new legislation to support a scientifically administered inspection, based on available technologies that have the capacity to objectively identify targeted substances and scarring to weed out actual violators,” Thorson wrote.
His piece was also published at The Tennessean. The Post & Email was unable to find any evidence that ThorSport filed suit against the Humane Society for defamation.
The HPA prohibits the transporting to or exhibiting of a “sore” horse at any horse show but allots only $500,000 annually for “qualified” inspectors to appear at shows nationwide to inspect horses registered to compete.
In August 2015, The Tennessean published an article about the reported findings of the Humane Society and ThorSport’s response to it. At the time, The Tennessean said that the Humane Society’s video was provided to the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office, which reportedly launched an investigation.
According to The Tennessean, the Walking Horse Owners Association (WHOA) has reported an increase in attendance at their sponsored horse shows which forbid “action devices.”
In an audio titled “Using Pads and Training Devices,” a man with a clear Southern accent claims that the false hoof and chains, which he likens to a “bracelet,” “accentuate” the Tennessee Walking Horse’s natural gait without mentioning the preliminary use of chemicals which sting the horse’s lower legs.
Various videos differentiate between the natural gaits of the Tennessee Walking Horse and the “Big Lick.”
In 2010, the Obama regime began considering making regulatory changes surrounding the Horse Protection Act to prohibit the use of chains, stacks and any “action devices” on performance horses. This past summer, a series of internet and in-person forums were held and public comment invited through October 26.
On Friday, The Post & Email spoke with veterinarian Kay Carter-Corker, Assistant Deputy Administrator, Animal Care, APHIS, who said that the comments received remain under consideration with no date certain as to when a decision will be made on whether or not to issue a new regulation. She said she was unable to render a personal opinion on the topic of soring but stated that the regulation proposal represented the administration’s position on the matter.
The Post & Email recently requested interviews with the originator of the change.org petition as well as BillyGoBoy but not received a response.
On November 20, the Shelbyville Times-Gazette reported that TWH “industry” observers are “optimistic” that the incoming Trump administration will be “more in tune with our industry’s views” than Obama has been or Hillary Clinton would have been had she won the presidency.