What a Difference a Day Makes, 24 Little Hours

It's been a long time since anything has been added to this blog page.  The disappointing failure of the USDA proposed Rule to become part of the amendment of the HPA and the subsequent reorganizing to continue to fight the good fight has kept fingers from the keyboard, but then, out came the newest USDA Suspension List for violations of the HPA. It's time, once again, to make some observations.

Time really is, as philosophers say, of the essence and in three important Horse Protection Act Decisions recently published by the USDA, time was a fickle force.  In the first instance, time was not an owner’s friend; in a second instance, running the clock allowed owners to delay a reckoning; in the third, time, or shall we say the suspension of it, was the gift that allowed a trainer to go all the way through the 2017 Celebration, all part of a Consent Order and Decision that the trainer himself described as a great deal from the government, while at the same time brazenly criticizing the inspection procedure as subjective, seemingly taking no responsibility for having violated a federal law.  


Although the end result in cases involving Charles Gleghorn, a former president of the TWHBEA who currently sits on its board, Robert Keith McSwain and Daniel McSwain, the owners of 2016 WGC Honors, and Bill Callaway, the rider and trainer of 2017 WGC Gen’s Black Maverick, and his brother John Allen Callaway, produced results, the time it took to arrive there reminds us of an observation made by William Gladstone (1809-1898), “ Justice delayed is justice denied.” 

Why? Because each of the parties involved in these cases profited from the length of time and the delays involved in bringing them before the bench on charges of animal abuse, specifically for entering sored horses, as the term is defined by the HPA, in competitions. In two of the cases the time delays   resulted in World Grand Champion titles being awarded to horses with which they were associated, titles that cannot be denied.


The case against Charles Gleghorn was decided on the basis of a Decision and Order by Reason of Default.  The complaint asserted that he, as the owner, had allowed the entry of two horses, The Sportster and Generating the Command,  in a horse show while the horses were alleged to be  sore and in one case also bearing a prohibited substance. The violations took place during the 2016 Celebration when Generating the Command was presented for inspection on August 27th in Class 81, found to be sore and bearing a prohibited substance, and on August 28th, when another Gleghorn entry, The Sportster, was found to be sore in an inspection for Class 85.  This all took place within a 24 hour window with USDA/APHIS VMOs taking information for a possible federal case which was then noticed up with a time period in which Mr. Gleghorn was to respond by filing an answer to the complaint as is required by law.


Interestingly, he failed to do so, although it was clear from postal records that Gleghorn had received the appropriate notifications from the USDA, meaning he was aware of the time frame involved and apparently chose to ignore it.  Thus, the USDA Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued a Decision and Order by Reason of Default to Mr. Gleghorn, placing him on three years of disqualification and requiring him to pay a $6,600 civil penalty for violation of the HPA.   “ The material facts alleged in the complaint are all admitted by the respondent’s failure to file a timely answer, or any answer at all, “ wrote the ALJ in the case. 


The judge also made it clear that this was not Mr. Gleghorn’s first time at the notification rodeo which made it more egregious that he failed to respond to the complaint, considering that he had previously received Official (courtesy) Letters of Warning from the USDA regarding violations of the HPA, on six separate occasions, beginning in 2009 and continuing through 2016.  These were  letters that would have caused a thinking person, one would presume, to take a look at what was going on with his horses and  to  cease and desist in being involved in actions that could at any time have resulted in a formal federal complaint for violation of the HPA.  That didn’t happen.  The Decision listed the Letters of Warning as follows:


TN10097 Loose N Busty   prohibited substances including decamethylcycolopentasiloxane, benzocaine, lidocaine, and sulfur


NC130084 Unforgettable Pusher, found sore by USDA VMOs


TN 130384 Knee Deep in Cash, prohibited substance o-aminoazotoluene


TN 140094 Unforgettable Pusher, found sore by USDA VMOs 


TN 150037 Knee Deep in Cash, found sore by USDA VMOs 


TN 160122 Pusher’s General, found sore by USDA VMOs and prohibited substance


Mr. Gleghorn’s suspension began on March 16, 2017 and continues through March 15, 2020.  Now, lest you be confused by the horse shows all through the summer of 2017  that featured Mr. Gleghorn’s grandchildren riding horses  owned by their grandfather during his suspension period, there was plenty of time to transfer ownership of them to other family members as can be determined through an IPEDs search, so that the horses could continue to be shown.  There’s nothing like a successful family shell game to teach the importance of respect for the law to young people and to the other TWHBEA members that Mr. Gleghorn represents.


While it was a failure to meet the deadline that put Mr. Gleghorn in the soup, the USDA’s version of when to start the clock was much kinder to Bill and John Allen Callaway, both of Shelbyville, Tenn.; in fact, had it not been for a surprising  and  much welcomed   article appearing in the Sunday edition of the Shelbyville Times Gazette just after the Celebration, informing the public that, trainer and rider   Bill Callaway was put on federal suspension less than 24 hours after he won the title of 2017 WGC with Gen’s Black Maverick, owned by Keith and Lorraine Rosbury of Bell Buckle, Tenn., ( and that his brother John Allen was put on a similar suspension)   no one in town would have been the wiser. 


Although the controlling document in the Callaway’s Consent Decision and Order was March 29, 2017, for some reason, the 8-month suspensions and $1,100 fines for both men did not go into effect until September 4, 2017.  This means that both Callaways sailed through the Celebration and Bill left with the ultimate title.

What put Bill Callaway in the sights of the USDA was an allegation of violation of the HPA at the 2016 Celebration. It has been reported that the horse involved was Gen’s Black Maverick, the same horse with which he won the Celebration title in 2017.


Showing no remorse, Bill Callaway told the local paper that he didn’t fight the complaint because he couldn’t afford a lawyer, that the inspections were subjective, and that he got a great deal from the government. At least one of those three statements was true.  He didn’t mention the rest of the sweetheart deal that under the term of his consent decree that “ the respondent neither admits nor denies the remaining allegations, waives oral hearings and further procedures, and consents and agrees to the entry of this decision for the purpose of settling all issues between the parties and any alleged violations of the Act up to and including March 15, 2017.  This statement wiped the slate clean for any other violations that the Callaways may have had on tap.


So, both Callaways will settle down for a long winter’s nap and will serve their suspensions in the off -season horse show months. They should be back in the saddle shortly after the Trainer’s Show in March 2018, but if you should drive by the Callaway training facility in Shelbyville, almost any day of the week, you will be able to see big lick horses pounding away, up and down the gravel hard-pack driveway, except when they are standing around having chains exchanged.  Having a little extra time on your hands to train, rather than having to haul to the late season shows, could actually be a benefit on getting a jump start for next year.


Lastly, there was the Consent and Decision Order filed in complaints surrounding Honors, the 2016 World Grand Champion, and his owners Robert Keith McSwain and Daniel McSwain, both of Georgia.  The stallion was trained by the Edwards Brothers, also of Georgia, and had been the subject of much drama regarding the scar rule and soring under the HPA before a court order made it impossible for USDA VMOs to deny the stallion entry to a class, even if he was alleged to be in violation during   pre-show inspections, for six shows culminating in the 2016 Celebration. 


Under Docket Numbers 16-0139, 17-0183 for Robert Keith McSwain and 17-0182 for Daniel McSwain, the purported owner of Honors during the 2016 Celebration, the McSwains agreed to “jointly and severally” a payment of a $19,800 penalty for violations with Honors payable by November 1, 2017, and an 18 month suspension for Robert Keith McSwain and an 8 month suspension for Daniel McSwain.


 It appears that the lengthier suspension was given because Keith McSwain was listed as the owner during the majority of the shows where Honors was alleged to be in violation, while Daniel McSwain was listed as the owner only for two classes during the 2016 Celebration. 


The Consent Decision listed the dates and times that Honors was found to be in violation from 2013 through 2016 as follows:


August 24, 2013, Class 82 B Celebration (owner Keith McSwain)

July 26, 2014, Class 29, Red Carpet Show of the South, Pulaski, TN (Keith McSwain)

August 23, 2014 Class 82A Stallion Qualifier Celebration, (Keith McSwain)

August 29, 2015 Class 83 Celebration (Keith McSwain)

July 1, 2016 Class 40, Shelbyville Horse show (Keith McSwain)

August 27, 2016, Class 84B Celebration, (Daniel  McSwain)

September 3, 2016 Class 190 Celebration ( Daniel McSwain)


Yes, you read that correctly. USDA VMOs were of the opinion,  based on inspections,   that Honors was in violation of the HPA in both the qualifying class and the stake class, which he won, at the 2016 Celebration.   


There was also a sweetheart provision in the McSwain Consent Decision and Order. Although Robert Keith McSwain will be on suspension through April 30, 2019 and Daniel McSwain will be on suspension through June 30, 2018, both men will be protected from any further prosecutions for any and all violations that may have taken place but have not yet been charged through October 18, 2017.  The controlling document in this decision was dated October 20, 2017.


The McSwains ,  through their court strategy, asserting  that the inspection process which kept them from showing their horse after he had been allegedly found in violation of the HPA by USDA VMOs the evening of a horse show  was a violation of their due process rights, and finding a judge in Georgia  to agree with them, were able to turn back the clock and stop time in its tracks.  The judge ruled  that no matter what the USDA VMOs found, unless a hearing could be held contemporaneously  with the inspection,  Honors could not be kept out of the ring for a six-show period; that this ruling was specific to Honors and did not effect any other horse being shown under the HPA.  It was a one horse only, get- out of- jail card, but eventually there was a reckoning, coming a little over  a year after his victory pass under the spotlight, when time finally ran out on the Honors parade.


So, did the law win or did the McSwains? 


The amount of the fine, $19,800,  shows that the USDA was serious about the case, but,  for wealthy owners, it is more  of a nuisance than a punishment,  the suspensions , an irritation  and  nothing that can’t be worked around. 


But the long term  pay-off, that accrues to the McSwains. Their horse has the 2016 title of Celebration World Grand Champion, which they believed had long been denied to them.  The title  will translate into stud fees.  They had the satisfaction  of winning in the courts prior to the 2016 Celebration,   having that victory published and praised in the walking horse community, and thumbing their nose at the USDA/APHIS in the process. 

All of their other potential  HPA transgressions through October 17, 2017 were washed clean through their acceptance of the Consent Order and Decision. They did not have to admit any guilt in the matter of the seven instances where Honors was alleged to have been sore under the definition of the HPA. The  2016 Celebration title goes down in the history books. It cannot be retracted. 


It’s up to you to decide if justice has been done or denied in these three cases.  One thing is apparent: although the general public may never know  the full facts,  both the 2016 and 2017 Celebration World Grand Champion titles have enough questions swirling around them that it will take some time to determine exactly how tainted by controversy the riders, the owners, and the horses will be, and the TWHBEA should be asking some questions about what sort of people they want representing the organization  as board members. 


The bright side of this story is that time is running out for acknowledging that animal abuse is not acceptable as more and more people  discover just what goes into producing that spotlight ride and wearing  those blue ribbons and floral horseshoes.   


As  a postscript, the former president of the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association, Mickey McCormick, Mickey McCormick Stables, and Mane Motion Stables, LLC, also  showed up on the recent USDA suspension listing.  Their Consent Order and Decision resulted in a $2,200 fine, and an 8 month suspension beginning  on September 4, 2017, just after the 2017  Celebration concluded, and will end on May 3rd, 2018, just in time to be hitting those horse shows at peak show season, along  with fellow violators  Bill and John Allen Callaway and Daniel McSwain. 

Keith McSwain and Charles Gleghorn will have to warm the bench a bit longer.  


Tick , tock, tick,  tock.  ( Don't think that people aren't continuing to watch the clock.)