The Chattanooga Times Free Press's Pam Sohn has this heart-rending account of a woman who was forced to put down her Tennessee Walker because of injuries inflicted by a cruel prior owner, coupled with an account of violations by trainers and riders at this year's event:
Charlotte Stolz has spent the week mourning one of her best friends.
Her horse, Soldier, a Tennessee walking horse she tried to rehabilitate from old soring injuries sustained before she bought him, finally succumbed to too many years of abuse. He had to be put down last weekend, she said.
"My heart is broken. I lost a best friend, and I hate that he had to go through that. I want people to know this is wrong," the Hixson resident said.
Soldier's death came just about a week after the 70th Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration ended with more violations of Horse Protection Act this year than last.
Reports posted online by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which enforces the 38-year-old Horse Protection Act, show 187 horses and their trainers were cited with violations related to soring in this year's Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, Tenn. Soring is a banned training practice using pain-causing chemicals, cuts, or foreign objects deliberately lodged in hoof pads and shoes to achieve the "big lick" exaggerated show ring movement of some horses in the multimillion-dollar walking horse industry headquartered in Tennessee.
USDA records show there were 2,744 entries in the most recent 11-day Shelbyville event that ended on Aug. 30. The USDA inspected 693 horses while industry officials certified by USDA inspected the remainder.
Last year, Celebration entrants tallied 104 violations, and in 2006, 10 horses were disqualified in the final championship competition. With only three horses left in the ring, the 68th Celebration ended with no champion crowned."
Is it good news or bad that more violators are being charged? It could just mean more violators are coming into public view. The more publicity the practice of soring receives, the closer we are to wiping it off the face of the Earth. That will be a great day.
By Bonnie Erbe