Friday, May 18, 2012

A subject near and dear to my heart...

Reposted from SnarkyRider and Fugly Horse of the Day

SweetPea in: I hate animal abuse. I especially hate horse abuse. And the abuse that the Tennessee Walking Horses endure in the name of winning disgusts me to no end. Please read the article posted below and share with everyone. The more people who know and cry out against this crap the better!!

Photo courtesy of the HSUS
Yesterday morning I was fortunate enough to attend, via conference call, HSUS’s press conference regarding Jackie McConnell and their undercover investigation into his use of soring to win in the TWH shows.  I know how informed all the readers here are so I won’t bore you by rehashing the circumstances and certainly won’t go into what soring is – there are a variety of resources on the internet for those who remain blissfully unaware. The press conference was not the harbinger of epiphanies nor a great and much-needed overhaul of the industry.  What it did tell us, though, was that McConnell has a history of horse abuse, dating back to 1979.
I’m sorry, what now?
Yup, that’s right.
Here are few other interesting tidbits I gleaned from the conference call:
  • The TWH industry claims a high compliance rate with regards to the Horse Protection Act (HPA)
  • This is only the second case in 40 years of enforcement of HPA
  • At the 2011 Celebration (I believe that was the show, if not, it was another large national show – my apologies, my notes were a bit rushed) 100% of horses tested, tested positive for foreign substances on their pasterns
  • The HPA does NOT cover anything that happens at the stables – it only covers transportation and the show ring.

One last thing that I learned, during the introduction of the press conference, an HSUS representative mentioned that they feel there is a lack of deterrent with regards to soring.
Ya don’t fucking say.
There are a number of contributing factors as to why soring has become so pervasive within the industry – and yes, I am one of those people who don’t believe it’s just a few bad eggs who are torturing horses for a blue ribbon.  I do think a lot of it is because it has been allowed to occur, relatively unchecked and with far too lenient repercussions.  Judges and registries are turning blind eyes.  Speaking of judges, WHY ARE THEY REWARDING THE BIG LICK “GAIT”?!  (Unfortunately I haven’t had enough time to properly research the judging of TWH shows but fear not, a second post is forthcoming!)
For those of you so inclined (read: with an iron stomach) here is the video footage, as released by ABC The Blotter, of HSUS’s undercover investigation into McConnell: clickyclicky
Now, after watching that, please read this.  It’s the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association’s (TWHBEA) response to the video.
-Well, Marty, since adopting your “zero tolerance” policy, how many members have you kicked out? Because, according to HSUS, in 2011 100% of around 50 horses that were tested, tested positive for substances on their pasterns.  So either you’re committed to your “zero tolerance” policy but have secretly adopted a “look waaay the hell the other way” policy too, or you’ve buried yourself and your organization behind so much bureaucracy so as not to be able to put any of your policies in to action.  Honestly, how ineffectual can a governing body be?!  No really, I’m asking you, since you’re apparently the reigning expert on the subject.
-”Tennessee Walking Horses DO NOT have to be sored to walk.”  No shit, Sherlock.  But they DO have to be sored to perform the Big Lick movement which is held in such high estimation at the proverbial Holy Grail of TWH shows.
-According to this report by HSUS on their undercover investigation before a class, McConnell would spray paint a horse’s pasterns to cover scarring so that it would pass inspection.  I’ll have to get me some of that spray paint that masks not only sight, but the sense of touch as well.
-Now this is an interesting read and greatly illuminates the TWHBEA’s typically bureaucratic stance.  There are a lot of points within that document to be discussed, however, I think I’ve made my feelings on this organization clear already.
-Interestingly enough, for a zero tolerance organization, I found NO information regarding soring (how to identify it, why it’s wrong, consequences of soring to horses/to people, etc.) on your website.  You’d think that for an organization so opposed to something as to claim a “zero tolerance” policy, they’d have some information about what they’re protesting on their website.
Why, if you’ve condemned the practice of soring, have you not condemned the big lick movement! It’s not a natural gait!  The running walk of the TWH is meant to be, and naturally is, a ground covering stride – not some gross, epileptic, German Shepard-looking abomination!
Here is a great video from 1999 wherein a TWH without massive hoof pads (the TWH/hoof pad post is also forthcoming!) competes against the Big Lick-eres.  It really highlights the difference between a natural, properly trained, running walk and the hideous deformity of the Big Lick – from the way the horse moves, to the rider’s position and movement in the saddle, to the horse’s expression.  Check it out – it’s worth a few minutes of your time.
If you’re duly horrified by everything you’ve seen here today, please check out For The Tennessee Walking Horse as they’re compiling a list of people who you may share your outrage with.
This was just emailed in:
Here are the important guidelines to follow.
1. Write your own letter. Don’t copy and paste mine below–it’s just an example. Even just a few sentences is enough.
2. Copy and paste the video from this link into each letter. Be kind enough to warn them that it is graphic footage. If you’d rather send the Nightline story since it’s not as graphic (but still hard to watch), choose this link.
3. Name calling, nasty remarks, and angry words (except expressions such as “I could not believe what I saw in this video”) do not help. A person is immediately turned off by being “yelled” at online or in a letter. Use rational words and think through what you’re writing before sending it.
4. If you’re going to write a form letter, be sure to individualize it when you put it in email form by putting such things as Dear Their Name at the beginning, and pointing out you understand their position in the community (such as a Senator or House Rep). Also make sure your subject line is clear as to what you’re contacting them for, such as National Celebration Corporate Sponsorship or Enforcement of the Horse Protection Act.
5. It’s okay to point out that the industry is continuing to support this abuse by posting statistics, such as how many HPA violators hold high positions in clubs and associations and are allowed to show their horses even after multiple violations. But be sure that you back up any of this with facts. Feel free to contact me or ask on our Facebook page if you need help with that. You can just avoid that in general by talking about how you understand how widespread the abuse is you want to see an end.
6. We have also learned from government officials that they don’t like electronic petitions without real handwritten signatures, nor do they want to read the exact same letter from a bunch of people. Each letter needs to be individual.
It’s also important to thank those who have already taken the steps to end soring. I’ve included those folks in the list as well.
Here is my example letter to Ford to ask them to pull their sponsorship. Again, DO NOT copy and paste this letter. Please take the time to write your own.
Now for the list. If you have any suggestions, feel free to contact me or post them on the Facebook page.
USDA Contacts
Current Sponsors of the Celebration
Ford –
Cracker Barrel –
Potential Sponsors of the Celebration
Keystone Light – You will have to enter your birth date for legal purposes.
Send your emails to the all the major board members: president, vice president, committee leaders, etc. Or choose all of the email addresses…the more the merrier!
When writing to the HIOs, request that they ban McConnell the same way they banned Barney Davis. The HIOs immediately banned Barney Davis BEFORE he went to trial, but they have not banned McConnell. It’s clear who’s the money maker of the two for them.
Also, ask them to start putting together stronger penalties. Perhaps a 3 strikes and you’re out policy–three HPA violations (not rulebook violations) and you’re banned for life. Ask them to stop trying to placate the public and pretend these are isolated incidents and actually start working to end soring. We all know soring is the main way of “training” these horses–it’s high time it ended.
PRIDE – You can copy and paste all the email addresses into a single email.
WHOA – Scroll down to see the email addresses.
Ask them to stop supporting the HPA violators and giving them high positions in their association. Ask for changes in the by laws that anyone who has violated the HPA more than twice is not eligible to be on the board or an officer for life. Ask that their Horse Protection Committee, which has HPA violators serving on it, to get active within the breed and actually protect the horse.
Executive Director – Ron Thomas,, 931-359-0580
Executive Assistant – Diane White,, 931-359-0581
President – Marty Irby,, 615-796-5334, 931-233-0112
Senior Vice President – Margo Urad,, 214-763-7379
Trainers Vice President – Wayne Dean,, 931-359-4808, 931-359-7326
Equine Welfare Vice President – Dr. Linda W. Montgomery, 615-210-4038
Find your local board representative on this page:
The Celebration
Ask them to ban McConnell from the show grounds. email:
Your Congressmen
It’s best to write to the Congressmen in your state first. On the Senator and House Reps links listed below, a short and easy search will take you to your Congressmen’s pages, where you can use the contact forms to contact them. On some Congressmen’s pages, they will only allow you to contact them if you live in their zip code. But zip codes can easily be found online at MelissaData for Tennessee and Kentucky.
White House Contact Page
Senators – choose the Find Your Senators option in the top right corner:
House Representatives – choose the Find Your Representatives option in the top right corner:
HSUS’s Page for Congress Contact Information concerning the TWH:
Find Your Federal Legislators:
Thank Yous
ABC Nightline –
Pepsi – For pulling their sponsorship from the Celebration:


  1. Fvck yeah! I knew I loved Pepsi for many reasons! For all the flack HSUS gets, they do lend a voice to this stuff.

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