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Looking In Tennessean's Backyard

Posted Thursday, May 31, 2012, at 3:40 PM

I'll be the first to admit I very little about Tennessee walking horses.

But even I can comprehend there has been and continues to be abuse to the horses by some trainers to win. I'm against any and all forms of animal abuse. It should and must be stopped.

I can't just sit by and read in The Tennessean day after day an obviously orchestated attack on the walking horse industry in general, the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in particular and a few shots at Shelbyville now and then without asking some questions.

Can all such abuse be stopped? Probably not. Many people with good intentions within the industry are working hard to drastically lower the amount of abuse to the horses and figures indicate some major changes are taking place to weed out rogue trainers who will cheat to win.

Yes, Shelbyville is the home of the TWHNC.

And yes, Nashville is the home of the Nashville Steeplechase each May. The highlight of that one-day event is the Iroquois Steeplechase, the final event of the day.

The Tennessean accurately reported earlier this month the winner of the Iroquois died shortly after crossing the finish line...and also accurately reported it was the first death of a horse in the Nashville event in seven or eight years and there had been five deaths in the past 19 years.

Is running a horse to its death a form of abuse? Is an animal that suffers fatal injuries while being forced to leap over barricades of different types a form of abuse?

How many horses...and riders have been injured?

The easy answer is to say a walking horse show and steeplechase event are two different things entirely.

But, is abusing horses still abusing horses regardless of what we choose to call it?

Should the Tennessean take a look in its own backyard when it gets through slamming us?

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

As you noted that the Tennessean accurately reported, it is the consensus of the equine veterinarians the paper contacted - both in and outside of Tennessee (that is, with no connection to the Iroquois) - that the aneurysm which felled Arcadius was...indeed unpredictable and unavoidable. It was not due to any form of animal abuse or inhumane treatment. Pertaining to racing, unless you lock a thoroughbred up permanently, he is going to race, with or without a rider. They race each other in the pasture. They are born to run. Indeed, the injustice would be to stop them from running. Thank you for your concern.

-- Posted by IroquoisSteeplechase on Thu, May 31, 2012, at 4:51 PM

Steve, Check out the Reporter's past reporting.(Not Good)

Any horse (or animal) show, for that matter, has abuse. Riding crops are cruel. Running an animal until he is lathered and running him further trying to get it in better shape to compete is cruel.

-- Posted by Wolf Clan on Thu, May 31, 2012, at 6:31 PM

To IroquoisSteeplechase,

Those are some inane arguments, sport.

I've been around horses all my life, and I've never witnessed anything close to steeplechase style racing among horses without riders. Perhaps you could provide film footage of such. I'm almost certain that if riderless steeplechase racing ever occurs, the participants never go the grueling distances of the manned sport.

I also am motivated to ask: Do unmanned horse races proceed to a predetermined distance, or do the participants stop at their own behest? Oh, and who urges them on with crop, whip or quirt?

My next question concerns your reading comprehension: Where in his article does Mr. Melson suggest horses be forbidden to run?

-- Posted by dmcg on Fri, Jun 1, 2012, at 3:23 AM

I personally, dislike all of the sports that involve animals. Horse racing is horrible especially when the jockeys beat the horses to make them run faster. I think that it's in the same category with dog races, dog fighting, and cock fighting. It is all about abusing animals for human greed.

As for the walking horses, I do not see the beauty that others see in them. I do not see the point in walking horses. And actually had no idea about them until we moved to Shelbyville and found out that the public schools were closed due to the walking horse celebrations.

I think horses are beautiful creatures and love waking up and seeing them every morning on my neighbor's property. They sweet and gentle. I couldn't imagine how someone could actually hit or beat them or torture them to make them walk a certain way.

-- Posted by PrpleHze on Fri, Jun 1, 2012, at 7:52 AM

I will be absolutely honest . . . I don't see what people get out of watching horses race or walk around a track but then I also don't understand why millions of people love Nascar and seeing the same cars go around the same track a million times. To each his own I guess but I do believe riding a horse is a fun experience but I much rather enjoy it on an open trail or in a field. IroquoisSteeplechase must believe everyone is naive to the fact that there are trainers in his/hers sport that do abuse their horses to get them to run faster and have better endurance. Like dmcg stated, those horse will run in a field but they definitely do not run like they do in a race and while being smacked with a whip during the whole time. In every sport there are people who cross the line and allow greed to take over and do things that are unacceptable. The Tennessee walking horse industry is no different but you cannot stereotype a whole group by the despicable actions of a few. Like Bo Melson is pointing out though, it's easier to point out the faults of others and ignore the ones in your own backyard so it's easy for the Tennessean to demonize Shelbyville and the whole horse industry even though they have a sport industry that involves horses that is filled with a few bad apples also.

-- Posted by jaxspike on Fri, Jun 1, 2012, at 8:35 AM

joshcarney has placed his finger on the REAL issue. What constitutes abuse?

We all use and, (to someone, somewhere) abuse animals. The truth is that all living things survive by eating other living things. Even vegeterians cause the death and displacement of animals in order to grow the fruits and vegetables they consume. Therefore abuse by some definition exists everywhere.

As we can sse by other comments the term "abuse" is relative. I can see how the Tennessean, or anyone, would point the finger at another while ignoring their own "abuses".

Obviously abuse does exist and needs to stop but I think it is a symptom of the human condition which cannot be eliminated by law, Prosecuted? Yes! Eliminated? NO!

-- Posted by Liveforlight on Sat, Jun 2, 2012, at 7:30 AM

Abuse of animals, yes it is man. Men with no feeling about pain. It does not need to be a Tennessee walking horse, or the small puppy. It takes a certain type of human to inflict pain on the weak.

What they should realize, they are only one step from the Jeffery Dahmers of this world.

-- Posted by moonwalker on Sat, Jun 2, 2012, at 8:39 PM

I have to agree that the Tennessean needs to take a look at the abuse of animals in their own area before trying to jump into the middle of the problems down here. I have never watched nor will I ever view any of the animal "races". I do not see the point of whipping a horse to make them run faster or making them run so fast that their hearts give out.

I don't see how sick people get thrills out of harming animals. If the owners want the horses to run faster, then make their greedy bums get out on the track and run for the horses instead.

As for punishment for those who are involved in all of the mistreatment of animals, no matter what the animal may be, should suffer the same condition. Whether if they starved an animal or placed the bit in extremely tight harming the horse.

It's just another psychotic affliction that greedy men have. They do not see animals running around the track or trying to walk unnaturally. They see dollar signs and "fame".

As for the question:

Are bridals abusive for horses too? Saddles?

-- Posted by joshcarney on Fri, Jun 1, 2012, at 6:52 PM

If saddles are left on, without taking them off, are harmful to horses. Bridals, if the horse is not being ridden, then it does not need to be on. It is just as bad as owners who let collars become embedded in their dogs necks. It is all about laziness and carelessness.

-- Posted by -Beth- on Mon, Jun 4, 2012, at 1:23 AM

Are bridals abusive for horses too? Saddles? I do not use a bridal, I use a bosal, took me longer to train my horse but why be cruel when it is not needed, as far as saddles, he let me know when a saddle was not comfortable for him, he would buck and act up if it hurt. I found one he liked and we have had over 2 decades of great trails and rides. Once again, no need to be cruel just for mans pleasure.

-- Posted by Bill H on Mon, Jun 4, 2012, at 12:25 PM

I think it is natural to get a little defensive when outsiders criticize, but in this case comparing the walking horse industry to steeplechase is sort of like Michael Vick defending himself by pointing out that some people whip their dog with a newspaper if it messes in the house.

I am not that impressed with the animal rights groups on the whole. People who talk about "whipping" a horse to make it run faster (in reality no pain is involved, the animal is more spooked because it doesnt know what is hitting it on the flank) or believe that dogsled racing is cruel (when the dogs love of running in the traces is the driving force in their life) try to define animals in human terms.

And I am not an opponent of our horse industry. The farms are beautiful, and the shows are vital to our service organizations financially. But there is a serious problem. I havent seen the tape, but I have seen what goes on first hand, and that is enough. I am not sure that any legal activity compares to the cruelty involved in the walking horse industry, and there seems to be no willingness to face up to it.

Referring to "a few bad apples" when 8 of the last 10 trainers of the year have a history of abuse? I would call that denial. If 80% of your apples are bad, you have a serious problem. Does anyone believe that the man in the tape is in trouble for what he did? Of course not. He is in trouble because he let a tape get out.

Local people can rally behind the walking horse groups all they want, but the trends are against them. The foundation of the industry is rich people looking for a little prestige. If they find themselves becoming pariahs instead, the money that supports the whole house of cards could disappear.

-- Posted by lazarus on Tue, Jun 5, 2012, at 10:36 AM

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Bo Melson is a retired sports and police beat editor of the Times-Gazette.
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