From My Point of View:
2009 2nd annual Sound Horse Conference in
It was the mid-late part of March and any excuse to escape
I began writing my book, “The Horse That Wouldn’t Trot,” to entertain with horse stories—my very favorite kind of reading. But I couldn’t write it without exposing the truths I had seen with this cruel practice. I had rescued one of Praise Hallelujah’s young mares who was in a very abusive Ohio training barn, and as I competed again sored pleasure Walkers, I got a first hand view of horses passing inspection and entering the show-ring when they had no business to be there.
So, I wondered, what was new? How were things going to be better for the horses left behind when organizations such as NWHA and FOSH were begun so we could enjoy showing our sound pleasure animals? What was “The Government” going to do?
For me, the most exciting new thing was the increased use of improved thermography for inspection. As explained and shown by slides, thermography picks up heat emitted in the form of infrared radiation. The skin is almost perfect for emitting heat patterns which show increased blood flow and inflammation. Sore tendons, hot spots in the foot, and around the ankles showing red and dark areas where a masking or numbing agent had been applied were readily seen. Horses tested by thermography and found to be suspicious are allowed to return to the barn or continue through palpation inspections. Finding sore feet and legs via thermography isn’t enough for a ticket, but at the very least, it will keep the horses out of the show-ring. If a trainer decides to proceed through inspection, the inspector will know what to look for.
I was talking to a sound horse friend about the thermography and he said it scared him, even with a sound horse, saying even brood mares could show hot spots. I guess this is always possible, but back in the 90s when I was showing Praise Hallelujah, I was inspected via the old thermography at the International.
Being a total innocent, I wasn’t worried, and nothing was
found on my horse even though I showed him in the
After the conference I was told that the Trainer’s big show was cancelled or postponed along with other smaller shows, because the trainers are frightened of the thermography. I guess this was the high point of the whole conference for me—the increased use of thermography and all it can show and apparently the worry it is causing those who should be worried.
Pressure shoeing was addressed. Bottoms of hooves were pictured showing red spots where uneven pressure caused inflammation. In the 90s my farrier had told me shoes were available that were higher on one side than the other to cause this kind of soring. He was rightly incensed. Or trimming one side higher than the other will do the same thing.
It was pointed out that pressure shod horses suffer more pain than the foundered (on purpose) horses, as their feet mainly hurt like crazy when it hits the ground. Pressure shoeing hurts all the time.
Soring has become more “scientific”, it is done on a schedule to prepare the horses for the weekend shows. When I began showing in 1979 and saw my first padded horse standing with his “feet in a bucket”, I didn’t know what to make of it. This is not seen much if at all now, as it is a dead give away of a suffering horse. Foundering is popular.
Dr. Rachael Cezar stated the rules would be enforced; chains would be weighed on “those carts” in the warm up areas to be sure they all were all in compliance, and the scar rule would be strictly enforced. Saddles would not be allowed on horses being inspected because bit burrs had been found under the girth area, and DQPs will be expected to perform up to par. Thermography would be used and feet would be inspected for evidence of illegal shoeing.
I was next to Dr. Cezar in the lunch line (which was absolutely marvelous each day!). I told her she had a big job. She smiled and said she knew it. She said she had been advised to keep a low profile, but said with a shake of her head, that was not the way she is. She will do her best.
I mentioned I heard in the earlier years the USDA inspectors were threatened. She said they still were and when she went anywhere (to shows, I’d guess) she was accompanied by protection. What a sad commentary on our industry that is!
James Michal Tuck, Senior Management Analyst for the USDA, told us for 39 years, since the Horse Protection Act was passed in 1970, soring has continued. He stated hog cholera was eradicated in 5 years; hoof and mouth disease was eradicated in 5 years. What was the difference? Because they wanted to was the answer.
USDA still only has limited funds to police shows, but they will go to special shows. Keith Dane of the HSUS encouraged everyone to write congressmen for more money for the USDA to do their job, saying, “You don’t have to own a Tennessee Walking Horse to care.”
John Burke, who my friend Ann and I had the pleasure of sharing a ride from the airport to the Conference Center, is with a private company who manufactures and sells “PainTrace” a patented non-invasive device that measures the skin’s response to pain. Mr. Burke shared with us on that ride, he had been to a show and tested any horse that the owner wanted tested—just to check it out. He said one horse showed a great deal of pain, and he told the owner he didn’t know where it was coming from, but the horse was in pain. He said the person took the horse away and didn’t show it. The devise has many uses including monitoring foaling, and checking the results of any treatments.
Two well loved and known horsemen, Dr. Robert M. Miller and Pat Parelli with his wife, Linda, were in attendance. Dr. Miller and Pat have known each other for many, many years and their love and appreciation of each other was palpable. They were the keynote speakers. On a personal note, Dr. Miller had earlier written an endorsement for my book, and I was able to meet him personally and get his autograph. And I had the wonderful opportunity to quickly share my horse story and goal of putting a personal spin on the soring issue with Linda Parelli!
Part of Dr. Miller’s presentation was playing part of a DVD titled “Cowboy Dressage, Dances with Cows” by horse trainer and lover, Eitan with his beautiful horses. (www.cowboydressage.com) Dr. Miller told me that he got the idea to use the video after reading my manuscript and reading about my training Praise Hallelujah with dressage. His point was that soring isn’t needed to make a beautiful presentation of horse and rider.
April Zendarski represented the Senior Girl Scout Troup 44 in Franklinville, TN, who along with Ashley Schichtel and Holly Zendarski produced an 8 minute educational FOSH sponsored DVD, “See it Through My Eyes,” about the soring of gaited horses and what people can do to stop this abuse. This effort earned them the coveted Gold Award from the Girl Scouts of America.
Juana Grover, NWHA immediate past president presented NWHA
recognition to the project, by giving the 3 girls an annual membership to NWHA
with all perks, and Tammy Steinbrecher of STARS presented them with a
scholarship to the NWHA Youth Leadership Conference to be held at the
The showstopper of the whole conference was without a doubt, two ladies who shared personal stories that brought tears to my eyes and many others. Carol Camp and Dr. Pam Reband both told how they started out showing sored padded Tennessee Walking Horses as children and young adults, and how as their lives went on, they realized it was not something “God would approve.”
You could have heard a pin drop during their presentations as all eyes and ears were focused in rapt concentration to their narratives. It was extremely moving as both ladies choked back tears telling their story. One could feel their pain in being a part of causing their horses the pain of soring. At the conclusion they received a well deserved standing ovation.
Carol is now a noted sound pleasure Tennessee Walking Horse trainer and judge. Dr. Reband was awarded the NWHA 2007 Phoenix award for “exceptional dedication to the welfare of the Tennessee Walking Horse,” and is presently serving her 6th year on the NWHA board as well as enjoying riding and showing her Walking Horses.
Our thanks to these ladies for graciously and honestly sharing their touching stories.
Also in attendance were TWHBEA President, David Pruett, Voice correspondent, Sarah Gee, and Executive Director Stan Butt, who was quoted by Pat Raia, (The Horse) as saying, “I can’t tell anyone what discipline to show their horses in, but I can tell them to show sound horses.”