Glad Tidings at the End of the Year

Please note a correction to the Senate subcommittee previously referred to in this blog in error.

For a bit,  as we faced December,  it appeared that the show horse faction known as the performance horse business was having its own way. The USDA had approved the new Celebration backed HIO called the Walking Horse Equestrian Federation, same old stuff, different name, while  Middle Tennessee Representative in the House, Scott Desjarlais, once identified by a public service group as one of the more corrupt members of Congress, introduced on November 24th  his turkey of Anti-PAST Act legislation, a rehash of Marsha Blackburn’s( R-TN) earlier version that gained the same limited group of supporters in the House from nearby Tennessee states.


The Desjarlais bill inspired hapless Celebration CEO Mike Inman, a personal HPA violator, to write proudly in the December 10th issue of the  Shelbyville Times-Gazette that he would like “ to applaud Desjarlais for legislation that “goes to the heart of the problem in the regulation of Tennessee Walking Horses, an inspection system wrought with inconsistencies and fraud.  His bill also addresses the continued government overreach that is harming industry and small business all across America. “  


While accusing favored punching bags, Keith Dane and the HSUS,  of using misleading tactics and statistics to gain support for the PAST Act and using false statements to harm the industry, specifically  The Celebration and Shelbyville,  Mr. Inman went on to make a false statement of his own:   that the HSUS would like to completely eliminate the Tennessee Walking Horse from showing in any arena

Even Mr. Inman, as blind as he appears to be about what is the “real heart of the problems in the regulation of Tennessee Walking Horses”,  has to know that ‘s a lie. 


The HSUS is only one organization that,   in combination with the American Horse Council, the AVMA, the AAEP, most breed organizations and people like Willy Nelson, Monty Roberts, equine professionals including American Olympians, a former Head Rider of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, and scores of other equestrians from all disciplines, are  joined in the attempt  to eliminate the sore horse not horses in show rings.   This includes ending  shoeing practices that contribute to the sore lick, practices that are in direct contradiction to a balanced and natural way of going and where shoeing can also hide abuse to the foot. 


 Mr. Inman clearly refuses to hear that message and continues to tell the big lie about the people who oppose what he calls a Tennessee tradition and   the rest of the world calls institutionalized horse abuse ,  that is to say,  abuse intentionally practiced for  the sake of obtaining an exaggerated gait that has no purpose or  function outside of a specific   horse show oval.


Mr. Inman , however, saved his most outrageous comment for the final paragraph of his letter. He asked the reading audience, saying that the debate was clear ( but only if you were looking through his set of dark glasses), “ do you promote agriculture or do you promote the elimination of agriculture?”  


It’s true the show walking horse eats hay and grain and occupies space in a barn……but the big lick horse as a symbol of agriculture, only in a galaxy, far , far away, could that industry over-reach be remotely believable.


Still, it looked as if the year would end with the forces of what’s right for the horse stalemated before the forces of the status quo in Shelbyville.  Then, some good news finally came out of the Congress just before the legislators headed home for the holidays.


The funding omnibus bill passed by the House, approved by the Senate,  and signed into law by President Obama,  left intact the $697,000 in funding needed for the USDA to continue to attempt to enforce the existing Horse Protection Act.  There were no poison pill provisions included that would interfere with that enforcement. 


In the House, co-sponsorship of the PAST Act continued to climb steadily, even though events around the world having rightly taken over the headlines in the past months.


The American Horse Council continued to strongly support the passage of the PAST Act and reached out to all of its members with its endorsement of the anti-soring legislation introduced in both the Senate and the House.


But the best gift of all was  the news that Senator Jerry Moran, a Republican from the great agriculture state of Kansas and a senator who knows something about the importance of real agricultural programs,  has become the 50th co-sponsor of PAST in the Senate.  All senatorial support is welcome but Moran is also the chair of an important Senate subcommittee that oversees agriculture and other rural issues and alsoserves on the Commerce Committee.  This is a big deal because Senator Moran is definitely uninterested in, as Mr. Inman says, “promoting the elimination of agriculture”.


Meanwhile,  back in Shelbyville the locals put on a horse show, Walking for the Angels, intended to provide gifts for the needy children of Bedford County. On the face of it this is a worthy project. 




There has to be, however,  another way for needy children to receive toys than for horses  to be put in pain, as USDA inspection results show,  as part of the gift-wrapping. 


What continues to drive support for PAST is the realization across the country that pain- based, completely artificial gaits are nothing to celebrate and certainly nothing that society as a whole can support.   This    growing body of awareness gives those advocates working to end soring a  reason to be joyful as 2015 closes and we move forward with renewed energy into 2016.