Jerrold Pedigo’s late September excitement over his horse group’s announcement of a new Tennessee walking horse championship has turned to letdown.
Almost a month after the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association voted to sponsor a new show to crown a 68th world champion walking horse, the same group voted to cancel the show, citing lack of industry support.
Mr. Pedigo, president of the Breeders’ group, said other horse groups fought the effort.
"To have some make such ... an effort to keep the show from taking place and being a success — it is very discouraging," he said.
Organizers had said the show was planned to help the industry fill the championship void created when the longstanding 68th Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration show ended in August without a champion. At the Celebration, federal inspectors disqualified six of the nine contending horses, citing evidence of soring, a banned training practice using chemical burns, cuts or pressure shoeing to exaggerate the breed’s natural high-stepping gait.
The Celebration ended early after officials first said they thought the trainers of the three remaining qualified horses were pulling out. When the three later said they had never intended to pull out and accused Chattanoogan Mike Walden of offering them $10,000 each to withdraw, Celebration officials stopped the championship show.
Mr. Walden, who owned and rode the disqualified favored champion, Private Charter, issued a written apology published the next day in an online edition of The Walking Horse Report. Mr. Walden stated his offer was misunderstood. He said he thought the trainers wanted to pull out and he offered the money as a show of solidarity. Celebration officials banned him from association functions and corporate sponsorships for two years.
Within a week of the new show’s announcement, two of the three judges hired for it withdrew, and the two other large Walking Horse industry groups — the trainers and owners associations — announced they would support only the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration’s show winner as world champion. Many trainers and owners said privately they would boycott the new show. In a statement on the Breeder’s Web site, Mr. Pedigo said the walking horse industry is "at a crossroads."
"We believe it is critical that we unite to address the issues," he stated. "We challenge all industry leaders to work together to ensure a healthy future for this industry."
Neither Celebration chairman John T. Bobo nor Celebration Vice Chairman David L. Howard could be reached for comment Wednesday. Mr. Howard, in late September, used his trade newspaper to blast the Breeders show and its organizers.
"The purpose of their new show is not to help the industry, it is to further divide and weaken it in a blatant attempt at control," stated Mr. Howard in a bylined article headlined "Disgrace!!" Charles Terry, adviser for theWalking Horse Trainers Association, said he knew the trainers were not encouraging their members to participate in the show.
"There was a consensus of opinion among the trainers that it was not in their best interest to support the (Breeders’) show in November," Mr. Terry said.
Walking Horse Owners Association President David Pruett and Executive Director Tommy Hall could not be reached for comment.
E-mail Pam Sohn at email@example.com
Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...