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Horse groups close ranks

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Tennessee Walking Horse industry will meet Wednesday to appoint a committee to look at "the welfare and future" of animals in the show ring.

A recently passed appropriations bill includes a large increase in federal funding for enforcement of the Horse Protection Act, used to combat the practice of soring.

The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association (TWHBEA) stated in a press release that the meeting is in response to recent presentations made to members of the equine industry by Dr. Chester Gipson, Deputy Administrator for Animal Care at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Gipson made the presentations a week ago at industry meetings held by the Walking Horse Owners' Association (WHOA) and Walking Horse Trainers' Association (WHTA), the Celebration and TWHBEA.

Rumors rampant

As a result of the presentations, the boards of directors from the WHTA, WHOA, Celebration and the executive committee of TWHBEA will meet at the WHTA headquarters in Shelbyville to appoint a committee "to study the issues surrounding, and make recommendations concerning, the welfare and future of the Tennessee Walking Horse in the show ring," the TWHBEA press release said.

While the USDA is to assist the committee making the recommendations, "this will be a Tennessee Walking Horse industry endeavor," the statement said.

According to the Walking Horse Report, the recent meetings with Gipson were closed door gatherings and full reports of what took place "are not available."

An earlier Report story on the USDA's visits stated that "rumors are rampant as to the contents of those meetings. Topics such as mandatory penalties, decertification and the future of the pad and action device have all been rumored to have been discussed."

"Although The Celebration didn't call the meeting and we're not fully aware of the agenda, I feel having all the groups that are prominent in the walking horse industry, as well as the stakeholders, attend this meeting is a good opportunity to look forward as we move into 2012," said Celebration CEO Doyle Meadows when contacted Monday by the Times-Gazette.

"Anything (The Celebration) can do as we move forward, with the cooperation of other groups, will be beneficial for the walking horse industry, as well as Shelbyville and Bedford County."

More funding

On Nov. 18, President Obama signed H.R. 2112, which contained $696,000 in appropriations to be used by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service "for activities under the authority of the Horse Protection Act of 1970."

That act outlawed soring -- the practice of creating conditions that cause pain to a horse so that its walk is exaggerated, which is much sought after during gaited horse competitions.

According to an article by the Humane Society Legislative Fund, the funding to enforce the Horse Protection Act has been increased by nearly 40 percent. Since 1976, the formal annual amount set to enforce the HPA had been $500,000.

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