“Such is the human race. Often it does seem such a pity that Noah and his party did not miss the boat. “
Mark Twain in Christian Science, 1907
Barney went to jail. Not the big purple Barney that you associate with wholesome children’s fun, but the good looking, clean cut Barney , whose last name is Davis, that served time for his activities in the high –performance- through- pain end of the show world. The big lick people tried to make the public believe that Barney was strictly a trainer of Spotted Saddle Horses but there’s video showing him aboard a big lick horse coming into the Celebration oval. As a trainer, Barney was on both sides of the aisle, which made him everybody’s friend, except the horses.
Barney has reason to be angry at the horse business. He was tripped up by inspectors and associates who knew what he was involved in for years but let him get through the process until, according to one rendition , a horse deal went south and then, so did he.
Time in the clink is intended not only to punish but to rehabilitate-- to focus the mind of offenders on the misdeeds that brought them to a point where their liberty was removed at the convenience of the court. When he made his court ordered video about soring, answering questions from Keith Dane of the HSUS ( a segment of that video is on this site under resources), he had the firm jawline of a melodrama star and exhibited a stiff upper lip . He sat like a bale of hay in a barn and talked, without emotion, about how everyone involved in producing a big lick was also involved in some way either in soring or in letting sore horses get a pass.
That calm demeanor , which people at the time took for remorse, was more likely related to the activity that goes on under the crust of a volcano. What chapped and, is now known from his internet presence, to still chap Barney raw, is that he was the guy that took the fall. He was the guy that was labeled a bad apple. He was the guy that went to jail. He was the guy banned from The Celebration grounds. And he was a guy, just doing what all the other guys who were taking care of business were doing , except he was the guy that was left to twist in the wind while the rest of his buddies went on to yet another horse show season.
There were people who believed that Barney must have learned a lesson from his sentencing and jail time and felt, when they saw his video, that he was going to be a factor in helping to clean up the sty. They believed that he knew he had done wrong, that the world was changing when it came to tolerating what it took to make a big lick, and that by telling his story he was doing a good thing. For them it was a shock to see him communicating, just the other day, on social media and letting it all hang out in the opposite direction.
Not only is there no sign of remorse, there is defiance in his April 2015 posts as he spat out his views about the HPA, the federal government, and what he feels was a general conspiracy set against him which sent him to jail. He reminded his audience, a group of aghast sound horse women , that although the government had kicked his legs out from under him, he was making three times more than he did before his conviction and, without the help or need for an education, he was back in the saddle, more prosperous than before.
Now, for a slight diversion. In 1916 a newspaperman, Don Marquis, introduced a cockroach named Archy to the reading public. A free verse philosopher, Archy communicated by jumping on the keyboard of a typewriter, hammering out in lower case, without punctuation, messages to the author. Not to call Barney a cockroach, but his posts certainly follow the Archy and Mehitabel formula as you will shortly see.
The best way to get a feel for Davis in 2015 is to discover from his own words what he says about his conviction, his opinion of the federal government, and how he feels about training practices that the civilized world calls abusive. Thanks to the technology that brought the computer literate the screen shot, it’s possible to do that and to get it exactly right. Barney posts in lower case, with no punctuation, plenty of original spelling, and, lots of spleen. The results are here just as he typed them. As you will discover, Barney, too, is a free verse philosopher of sorts, but he’s a long way from loveable Archy, except in the mechanics.
Without further ado, Barney in his own words. ( It may improve the experience if you read the comments aloud. This helps with deciphering the flow. It doesn’t help with the message.)
“Your rite I think it’s stupid to be a law no one goes to jail or has to be questioned by the Feds when I work and get callouses on my hands from trying to support my family and there only animals even thought I treat mine like family sometimes the only reason it’s a law is because the gov can’t find away to tax it and make money from it bottom line.”
“I don’t know how much you know about soring but in my case I didn’t keep horses sore everyday of there life and most of the time there bucking and jumping in the stalls although there are those who take it overboard sometimes but no I do not think soring should be against the law maybe stiffen the punishment a little for those who keep getting tickets but never any kind of jail time ridiculous to me.”
“ Yes, I had to admit to a lot of stuff I didn’t do just to satisfy the U.S. Government when you are being tried by the Feds there’s a lot of things that don’t come out just so that they can keep there ninety eight percent conviction rate and when you take a plea there’s certain steps that have to be takin and admitting that your guilty is one of those steps even though your not now that having been said yes I used bolts just as everybody else does or some type of pressure shoeing or soring if the horse is using himself he’s sore bottom line I never denied soring horses to anyone and if you knew me you know I do not lie … PS and by the time I got to court the whole thing wasn’t even about a horse it was about a snitch that I was trying to protect that was more and still is guiltier than I was at the time the government doesn’t care about the one that’s guilty they care about the first one that cooperates ”
“I don't know the case with McConnell I didn't know him never been in his barn before never watched him train a horse before the only thing I didn't like about his training methods was the hitting the horses not sure why he did that but he had some of the best horses in the business so I guess I'm not gonna question his training abilities looks like he was good at it “
If Barney feels shame for his actions, it isn’t apparent. If Barney experienced rehabilitation during his time in the lock- up, it doesn’t show in his expressed attitudes about respect for the law, about soring horses, or about personal honesty, except to note that he doesn’t lie. (A racial slur,used in describing how hard he works, though purposely not reprinted here, was the cherry on top of the toxic stew. )
Lastly, Barney’s case of hero worship for Jackie McConnell demonstrates how this illegal activity continues to be passed from generation to generation. It wasn’t all that long ago that The Celebration had a booth where “industry greats”, all of them the greatest for the number of HPA violations they had accrued, were on hand signing autographs for an admiring public. People were urged to bring their children to come out and shake the hands of these “great horsemen”. The horse show endorsed them as role models; they set them before the spectators and advertised them as people to be admired rather than shunned.
No questions asked, if horses made by men like McConnell and other name trainers who live on the HPA violation list, are identified by wealthy owners, politicians, and the locals who run a community, as the “best in the business” , people like Barney, star struck by the money they’ve made and the attention they command in this insular piece of the world, will try to emulate his heroes. He’ll break the law to do it because everyone he admires treats the law with a wink and a nod and no one is ever brought to task… except of course, him. The hero system didn’t exactly work for him. The abuse cycle remains unbroken because criminals are held up, to each following generation in the industry’s own newspapers, as superstars.
Barney, far from being a loveable friend that needs a hug, has, through his candor, done the movement to pass the PAST Act, when it is reintroduced to Congress, a favor. If Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, along with Marsha Blackburn, Diane Black, and Scott Desjarlais, joined by Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul decide they need to hear what an authentic example of an average guy from the high performance community really thinks about hurting horses for performance and the senselessness of obeying an unnecessary law, they should arrange to spend a day with Barney and his Tennessee “traditional” attitude; then, they should go home, examine their consciences, and take long, hot showers to wash away the muck.