“THE HORSES NEVER HAD A BETTER FRIEND”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jan. 14, 2019) — A press release dated January 9, 2019 from the group Concerned Citizens Against Big Lick Animal Cruelty (CCABLAC) announced an event to be held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC to honor the late Sen. Joseph D. Tydings of Maryland, a decades-old friend to horse-welfare advocates who passed away in October at the age of 90.
The “symposium” will take place on Tuesday, January 15, 2019 beginning at 1:15 p.m. EST, the press release states. Speakers will include Tydings’s grandson, Benjamin Tydings Smith; Ms. Priscilla Presley; Wayne Pacelle, founder of Animal Wellness Action, Ms. Christina Gray of Franklin, TN and former “Big Lick” horse trainer Mr. Carl Bledsoe.
Of Tydings, CCABLAC founder Clant M. Seay said in the press release and on his Facebook page, “The horses never had a better friend.”
Seay, a semi-retired Mississippi attorney, formed CCABLAC in 2014 to raise awareness of what he says is the “torture” of Tennessee Walking Horses by some trainers to gain a competitive advantage. Seay will be chairing the symposium and presenting several awards, he said.
Tydings served one term in the U.S. Senate from January 3, 1965 to January 3, 1971. According to an article announcing his passing in The Baltimore Sun, Tydings lost re-election in 1970 as a result of “progressive battles” he took on which angered his fellow Democrats and consequently, the voters.
A former state representative and U.S. attorney for Maryland prior to entering Congress, Tydings was said by those who knew him to be “a fair, principled prosecutor and politician whose career was marked by a willingness to take on anyone, regardless of affiliation,” The Sun reported.
Tydings was a World War II veteran and served in what would be one of the last cavalry units of the U.S. military. He obtained his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Maryland, where his funeral was held and which Seay attended.
Co-introduced by Tydings in 1968, the Horse Protection Act of 1970 sought to prevent the “soring” of Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds to produce an accentuated gait in the show ring coveted by many judges. The process employs approximately eight-pound platform shoes and ankle chains, and the use of caustic chemicals such as kerosene and mustard seed oil to sensitize the horse’s front pasterns to produce the high-stepping “Big Lick” show gait.
The platform shoes, known as “stacks,” along with the ankle chains, cause pain to the horse evidenced by abbreviated contact with the ground and higher-than-normal lifting of the front legs. The chains, bouncing against the horse’s lower front pasterns as it moves, are said by horse-welfare advocates to cause intense pain following the chemical treatments.
While current law allows for the use of six-ounce chains, it prohibits the use of chemicals and other treatments to inflict pain on show horses. When not at the horse show, “trainers” use much heavier chains at the training barn to prepare the horses to show, Seay said, adding that the process has been handed down through generations of horse trainers, particularly in the southeastern United States, and continues to this day.
Seay worked with Senator Tydings for the last five years of his life, he told The Post & Email in an interview over the weekend. Seay invited Senator Tydings to appear at “Walk on Washington” in June 2014, when Tennessee Walking Horses were exhibited in front of U.S. Capitol. He also appeared with Senator Tydings at the Editorial Board of The Tennessean in Nashville, TN.
Seay interviewed Senator Tydings regarding the “horse soring” and elimination of the “animal cruelty.” https://www.facebook.com/BillyGoBoy/videos/540764033090961/
Senator Tydings supported and encouraged “WE, The People” – CCABLAC. The group’s advocacy can be viewed here: https://www.facebook.com/BillyGoBoy/videos/2293588067594859/
Seay said he reported on Sen. Tydings’s remarks from the federal courthouse steps in Chattanooga, TN following the sentencing of Jackie McConnell, referring to a Tennessee Walking Horse trainer convicted in 2012 of animal cruelty, fined and banned permanently from the Walking Horse industry under the HPA.
McConnell’s brother Jimmy remains a renowned Tennessee Walking Horse trainer, Seay has documented.
In June 2017, Seay’s organization awarded Tydings a “Lifetime Achievement” award for “all of his lifetime work of accomplishment and achievement on behalf of this breed of horse” and his support of the CCABLAC animal-welfare advocates.
Two years ago, Tydings was recognized by the Humane Society as the 2016 “Humane Horseman of the Year” based on what the organization said was “his dedication to protecting horses from the horrific practice of soring, the intentional infliction of pain to a horse’s limbs to produce an exaggerated, artificial gait known as the ‘big lick.’”
Seay said he spoke with Tydings in late August, at which time Tydings informed him of his rapidly-declining health.
On September 2, 2017, “Gen’s Black Maverick” was declared the World Grand Champion of that year’s “National Celebration,” an annual horse show held in Shelbyville, TN each year at summer’s end. The award was bestowed even though the horse had been found to be “sore” at the same event the previous year.
At midnight that day, the horse’s trainer and owners began serving suspensions and fines for having entered a “sored” horse in the 2016 competition and an earlier one in 2012.
In November 2017, Seay filed a FOIA request with the USDA on records relating to those findings. Stonewalled by the agency, on February 1, 2018, he filed a federal lawsuit for the documents, which he obtained by court order on March 21, 2018. “This is a big deal,” Tydings was quoted by Seay as having said of the development.
Last August, the naming rights of the arena where the National Celebration takes place were sold to Gen’s Black Maverick owners Keith and Lorraine Rosbury, who renamed it “Maverick Arena.”
National Celebration CEO Mike Inman has told The Post & Email that “sore” horses do not compete in the event, as USDA inspectors perform inspections at multiple levels of the competition.
In March 2017, Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) introduced a new version of the 2014 PAST (Prevent All Soring Tactics) Act, HR 1847, which did not receive a full vote in the chamber throughout the 115th Congress. In May of last year, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced a parallel bill, S. 2957, with the same purpose. The Senate measure came one week after a proposed amendment to last year’s Farm Bill targeting soring failed to pass.
Just prior to the change in federal administrations in January 2017, a new rule proposing the cessation of the use of all action devices on a show horse was prepared for publication in the Federal Register but never released for the customary 30-day public comment period. On the day Donald Trump took office, he placed a hold on all pending new federal regulations.
Tydings made a public statement in support of the proposed rule, also providing the history behind the introduction and passage of the 1970 HPA.
New legislation would have to be introduced in the 116th Congress about which Seay said he is feeling optimistic. Seay has claimed that his group’s activism has dramatically reduced attendance at the Celebration and been instrumental in the cancellation of several prominent horse shows where the “Big Lick” was on display.