SHOW tells public of violations

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration's horse industry organization, SHOW (Sound horses, Honest judging, Objective inspections and Winning fairly) has issued several suspensions lately to owners and trainers as the result of violations at recent shows, said Doyle Meadows, CEO of the Celebration, who said the primary goal was to protect the horses.

Some things have changed, however. In the past, when the tickets were issued, the reasons why were not always easily available to the public. Now, said Meadows, for major violations, details would be published.

"That's been a problem in the past," he said. "When it's just a scar rule or another minor violation, I don't think it's as important. But when it's a big violation ..."

Meadows said being open about who was being ticketed for what could only help the industry.

"It's to have transparency," he said. "We want to keep everyone informed and reduce the amount of rumor and innuendo."

For instance, SHOW issued lifetime suspensions, pending a hearing, for Chris Zahnd, Wayne Dotson and Dallas Proctor for violations at the Woodbury Lions Club Horse Show Saturday. Dotson and Swingin' Gate Stables presented an entry for inspection and Designated Qualified Persons (DQPs) Keith Davis and Tony Edwards found the entry to be in extreme discomfort, stated a press release from SHOW.

"In addition to Edwards and Davis, co-compliance coordinator Dr. Steve Mullins inspected the entry and SHOW issued violations for bad image, not leading, bilateral sensitivity and use of a cruel device to aid in checking. The results of that inspection will be turned over to the USDA, industry HIO's and other appropriate authorities," the release stated.

"We are very concerned and disappointed about the events of last night," said Meadows. "However, this is why we have the inspection process and we are committed to the showing of sound horses. It is important for all of us to remember this is an isolated incident and will be dealt with swiftly and seriously. Overall, I am very proud of the horses being presented this weekend and the industry doesn't need to let isolated events undermine the great strides being made by SHOW and our inspectors."

SHOW also issued violation notices and suspended three individuals for presenting one horse for pre-show inspection and presenting a different horse at post-show inspection after competing in the class. Hal Newman presented the horse for pre-show inspection; Josh Wall presented a different horse for post-show inspection and Frank Alvarez was listed as the trainer of record on the entry form. Each person received a one-year suspension and a $1,000 fine.

Giving the details of these suspensions and violations, said Meadows, keeps rumors under control, even when there aren't notices given. Questions were raised at a show recently at which a trainer had his horses in the stable area of trainer Joe Cotten, who was acting as the judge for the evening because the original judge fell ill. The trainer, Edgar Abernathy, and Cotton both reported the situation to the SHOW officials immediately, informing them that Abernathy's horses had never been under the custody or care of Cotten, which could have violated judging procedures. In that case, Meadows approved Abernathy's request to show, then sent out a press release to let everyone know the details.

The transparency for which Meadows is striving falls in line with another main objective for SHOW.

"I think the owners and trainers -- what we all want -- is honest, fair inspections form week to week. That's the big thing. We're trying to provide uniformity in the inspection process so it will remain consistent at all events, regardless if the USDA is present or not."

He said it has been frustrating for many trainers to have their horses pass inspections by the DQPs, only to be turned away by the USDA inspectors.

"We have no control over the USDA inspectors," he said. "It needs to be fair and impartial for all people. The trainers shouldn't be targeted one way or the other."

SHOW took over the HIO duties -- such as training and qualifying inspectors -- previously held by the National Horse Show Commission April 1, and Meadows and the Celebration board of directors have been building its staff, policies and procedures ever since. The NHSC board of directors had been made up of representatives from the Walking Horse Owners Association and the Walking Horse Trainers Association.