Mike Walden and his Tennessee walking horse, Private Charter, have won an appeal with the National Horse Show Commission, according to Mr. Walden.
"I am pleased that my trainer and my horse and I have been cleared," Mr. Walden said. "In the firestorm (after the Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration) it sounded like everybody was guilty. Now it’s proven that I wasn’t."
In September, lay inspectors with the National Horse Show Commission, with oversight from federal inspectors with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, disqualified Private Charter and four other horses from the grand championship competition in the Walking Horse Celebration.
The inspectors said they found signs of soring, a method of training that uses chemicals or inhumane devices to exaggerate the breed’s "big lick" gait.
In January, Mr. Walden said, a civilian panel had heard testimony in the appeal and voted 5-0 in his favor.
Now Mr. Walden said he does not expect any further actions against him from the United States Department of Agriculture, and he plans to appeal his two-year suspension from Celebration shows.
USDA spokesman Darby Holladay said the appeal decision will "have no impact on any further USDA enforcement action."
Celebration spokesman Chip Walters said the Celebration’s decision did not involve the condition of Mr. Walden’s horse, but his actions following his disqualification. Reconsideration would require board action, he said.
After Private Charter, a championship favorite, was disqualified, Mr. Walden was accused of trying to pay the trainers of the remaining qualifying horses not to show.
Show announcers told the audience the trainers had decided not to go into the ring, and the show was canceled.
No champion was named for the first time in the Celebration’s nearly 70-year history.
The following day, Mr. Walden stated in an Internet apology that his offer was misunderstood. It was an offer of solidarity, not bribery, he said.
"I was hurt that night. I made some mistakes, and I said things I shouldn’t have said," Mr. Walden said Thursday. "I was seeing my life’s dream pulled out from under me."
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, ...