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.
Keith Dane, director of equine protection for The Humane Society of the United States, said the 55 percent increase this year was a result of increased enforcement attention.
“This was the first time in recent memory that USDA personnel stepped outside the confines of that inspection area to find sore horses at shows, and we hope that this becomes part of the department’s normal protocol whenever its staff inspect Tennessee walking or other gaited horse shows,” Mr. Dane said.
He said the additional surveillance caused some show participants “to be very guarded, and many horses were trailered onto the grounds after the federal veterinarians had ceased their random barn area inspections” and began to focus instead on the regular, mandatory inspections.
Celebration Chief Executive Officer Doyle Meadows said the higher number of violations resulted from tougher regulations and more stringent inspections.
“Are we happy with the number of violations? No, we’re not. We want to be 100 percent compliant,” he said in a prepared statement.
Ms. Stolz said she was glad to hear there has been more enforcement to protect horses, and decided to speak out again about Soldier’s ordeal to raise awareness of the industry’s potential problems.
“I just want people to be educated so they can know what they are looking at when they see these horses move,” she said. “I didn’t know when I bought Soldier.”
Ms. Stolz, 32, said she soon discovered that Soldier, who was sold to her wearing walking horse pads, had been pressure-shod, a type of soring in which a horse’s hooves are trimmed to the quick. The result of the technique, unless the horse goes lame, is the exaggerated “big lick gait.”
Shortly after she bought Soldier, the horse went lame. Ms. Stolz had a farrier remove the weighted, walking horse pads. When a vet X-rayed the horse’s hooves, Ms. Stolz said his foot bone had been stressed so much it had become misaligned.
For the past two years, Ms. Stolz and friends have gone about the slow business of rehabilitating Soldier, but their efforts just bought him a little more time.
“The tendon just finally pulled loose,” Ms. Stolz said, adding that he was in pain and she had to let him go.
She said she bought a young spotted walking horse that has not yet been trained.
“He’ll never wear pads,” she said. “He’ll be flat-shod. When you learn what’s right and wrong, you should make the right choice.”
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, ...