On Wednesday evening, the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration's industry inspector group came out swinging at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's effort to decertify SHOW - Sound Horses, Honest Judging, Objective Inspections, Winning Fairly.
The group, which says its entire purpose is to protect horses, has balked at rewriting its rule book to incorporate USDA's new stricter and mandatory penalties for soring. Soring is the use of chemicals and/or objects of pain to exaggerate the "big lick" gait of walking horses.
"SHOW will defend its actions to the USDA, according to a statement released just after 6 p.m. by spokeswoman Jane Lynch Crain.
"In the meantime, the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration will be inspected by SHOW inspectors and not be impacted by the USDA's decision to begin this process," according to the statement.
Dr. Stephen Mullins, a veterinarian who heads SHOW, said USDA cannot or will not enforce "wildcat" shows that are not affiliated with industry group inspectors. That fact, Mullins said, creates an unlevel field.
"The rule basically says, if you are soring horses, don't go where there are inspectors, go where there are not. This is unacceptable," Mullins said in the prepared news statement.
"SHOW supports strict penalties and frankly has enforced stricter penalties than even the federal government, but this rule was written in a way that allows soring trainers to continue showing their horses, something to which we are totally opposed," Mullins said.