Monday, April 28, 2008

OK, let's talk about the TWH show industry...

Disclaimer for those of you who are easily confused and angered...I personally do not have any experience with Tennessee Walking Horses. Never been on one, not once. Have been to a TWH show but have never worked at a TWH barn. So this is a guest blog from someone who has done those things.

Here's what I do know. The TWH shows are notorious for abuse. Always have been. Has it changed? I don't know. You tell me, if you are involved.

I also know that this is another breed where riding yearlings and young 2's is rampant and there is a lot of money in winning the 2 year old stuff. You all know my opinion on that.

Oh, and now we're on to my personal opinion...I just plain think they look fucking ridiculous. Sorry. It's a nice breed of horse. I'm not bashing the breed, not a bit. The ones that are flat shod look like they'd be lovely pleasure horses.

How to sore a TWH - read the comments, they're REALLY educational.
Interesting reading for the legal types - the appellate court smacks down an exhibitor who got the boot for soring.

Kudos to Friends of Sound Horses - a group that is trying to end soring and encourage the natural exhibition of the Tennessee Walking Horse. They are outing abusers by publishing the suspension lists on their web site and you guys KNOW how much I LOVE people with the guts to do that! Bet they get a lot of lawsuit threats, too!

From a reader:

My first horse was a TWH but not the quality that would do well in the ring. So after being around the shows for a couple of years I decided that I would buy a baby and bring her up starting with halter. I sided up to a friend who has been training for many years and she agreed to help me with B____. I also had another horse, a 4 yr old that I had been trail riding for a year that was a very Pacey horse. Most of the horses that are pacey can be worked with to make a good gate. So we started B____ learning halter, and R____ learning how to walk like a walker.

What I didn't know was what she was doing to her horses in addition to what we were doing when I was there. So here is the bloody truth of the walking horse industry.

To get the horses that are "straight going" = tends to trot to swing = lateral movement. They will put chains on the back legs to change their balance and make them reach up under themselves. This is not a terrible thing. It does tend to make the pastern area tender from the movement of the chain.

To get a horse that are pacey or have to much "Swing" they will put heavy shoes on the front and use rollers or chains to "Square" the horse up.

Now these are flat shod horses. The ones who are swinging to just right in the square department. They use chains and rollers to enhance their movement.

I admit I did all of these things because there is no permanent damage, and it doesn't make them sore, however there are the "other things" I mentioned.

I didn't realize what the leg wraps were for and it wasn't until almost the end of the first show season that I finally discovered what it was all about.

Kerosene, Diesel, Mustard Oil, koppertox, and other harsh chemicals are placed in the pocket of the front feet just above the cornet band and in the small crack going down to the frog. Then they wrap the leg in plastic wrap, with a quilt and leg wrap over that. The horse will stand with this on their legs for 23 of 24 hours. They take them off to work the horse the next day and often put them back on. They will do this the week or so before the show. Horses that are shown every weekend are subject to this every they get over being sore and the effect on their gait wears off.

Most of the horses skin peels, cracks, and bleeds. After the horse has been "sored" they often won't stand at all in their stalls, because their feet hurt so bad. When they come out of their stalls they can barely walk and the trainers will whip their legs to make them move on. The can't stand still in the cross ties because their feet hurt so they shift back and forth. Now while the horses are sore they apply the rollers and chains to make the horse show more action in the front and "teach" them how to "go".

The horses that you see the most are the padded horses, they are the ones that have the huge front leg lift. They do the same things to these horses to a greater degree. They also do other cruel things, like pressure shoes, and bands.

Pressure shoes have bebe's welded to the underside (next to the hoof) at the white line area. So that when the shoe is applied it puts pressure on the white line and makes the horse "hot footed" so they will spend a short time with that foot on the ground when gaiting. They will often do it in addition to light chemical use because it doesn't show up as easily. They can put pressure on the foot without causing bleeding or scars.

The Bands are placed across the top of the hoof to help hold the shoes on because the shoes are very very heavy. Some flat shod horses have bands because they are considered lite shod but the shoes are still very heavy.

The Bands can and do often put pressure on the hoof wall and can make the hoof break off. Especially when the toe is grown out to 6 or 8 inches. This is often the practice because it again changes the break over of the foot and makes the horse have to pick up the foot higher in order to clear the ground. It also speeds up the front feet in order to get them out of the way for the back foot to come down under it.

There are of course other things that I don't know, but what I have witnessed make me pull my B____ out of the big shows when she was two because it was clear that in order to win I would have to participate in these practices. Now keep in mind I wouldn't subject any horse to this kind of treatment but B____ is my baby. I purchased her when she was 4 weeks old. I went to the farm at least once a week to play with her or just be close to her until she was old enough to be weaned. When she was four months old I brought her home and she has been with me since. I did take her to a trainer when she was two because I didn't think I could "finish" her, but she stayed there for two weeks and the trainer told me that I could leave her but it would be a waste. He wished that all the two year olds knew as much as she did when he got them.

During the two years before I got B____ and the time after I poured myself into every book, or, article I could find to learn health care, training, and just anything I could so that my horses wouldn't end up like the ones that we see on the rescue site.

There is more to tell but it I can't remember it all I am sure as I think about it I will remember.

Oh, speaking of.... Blinders... half and full. They use them to keep the horse from seeing the ground so they will pick up their feet. The goal is to get the horse to break level or above with their knees I have witnessed a horse in full blinders because he would tuck his nose to far toward his chest so he could see over the blinders.

There are over checks to keep them from getting their heads down to far

Long shank bits to make them hold their nose in and break at the pole. Twisted curb chains to keep them from breaking gait.

And it goes on and on.