Monday, May 28, 2012

ABC's Nightline Takes on Tennesse Walking Horse Abuse

Have you seen this story?   I caught the tail end of it the night it first ran.   I was sitting at my computer when I heard the words, "horse trainer" and flew to the television to see what kind of story was running about horse trainers.  I only caught the last portion of the story but it was enough to turn my stomach.

While I had heard about soring, I had no real understanding of what or how it was done. I am glad to see the practice is out in the open. Maybe that will open the door to exposing other kinds of abuse. As much as I hate to see the animal rights people get more fuel to feed their belief that horses are better off in the wild, I can only hope that exposing the issues will force trainers to clean up their acts. God knows the horses need that.

None of my friends had seen the story so I thought it was possible many of my readers had not seen it either. I have posted the link above. I would appreciate all input about your thoughts about this story and anything it triggers in your mind. Hopefully the more we talk about it, the more likely the horses will get some relief.

Tennesse Walking horses may be the focus of this story but I'm pretty sure that each breed has its own dirty little secrets. Even grade horses are subjected to painful practices in the name of training.  It's about time these behaviors come out of the shadows. What do you think?

36 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing this video. It's really hard to watch but also important that people see it.
    Have you seen the NY Times articles about race horses that have been written in the last couple of months? They talk about how allowing Casinos to own race tracks has lead to bigger purses and more races which leads to horses being drugged so they can race when they are injured
    There have been world class jumpers punished for putting capsacium on their horse's legs.
    Unfortunately the more money there is available the more people will do to make a buck, including torturing poor animals.
    Connie

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    1. No, Connie, I have not seen the articles but I can imagine. Seems like any time money gets into the mix, the horses suffer.

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  2. OMG. I had no idea! Thanks for sharing this. Everyone should see this video, as sick as it is!

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    1. It was mentioned by Pat Parelli at the clinic. I seemed to be one of very few in the audience who had seen it so I figured I probably needed to share it here.

      I had heard about the practice but to actually see what was done to those poor horses was even more disturbing. Not that what I had heard wasn't bad enough but the practices in the video were beyond imaginable.

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  3. I wrote a short post on this story as well. I have known about soring for quite some time and I can't remember how I learned about it. It's sickening, along with down right grotesque looking in the ring. I don't get why they would torture a horse for THAT. Sadly, whenever money is involved, no one seems to care what it takes to get there. You are well aware of what goes on in the arab world, I hate most of the modern dressage world, and on and on and on. But yes, people should still be aware of it. What I hate is the judges that reward it in every discipline. Doesn't make sense, they could fix it pretty darn easy and fast if they stopped rewarding it.

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    1. I actually think I heard about it on a blog back when I first began blogging. I heard about the use of chemicals and saw pictures of those shoes. I'm with you I cannot imagine why anyone even thinks that kind of movement is pretty. Grotesque is the word that works for me as well.

      I have posted about a particular training practice used for halter horses and I know details of surgeries to alter them but I am sure there are lots of things I've heard nothing about.

      What I thought was interesting about the video was the man who said he didn't think it was done anymore. Then to have a random test turn out like that. Hard to imagine that person could really be in the dark.

      Judges are beginning to come around in the Arab world. I have heard and actually witnessed disqualifications because of obvious abuses and there seem to be more stories of such occurrences pretty regularly. I've heard of three already this year. When it first began to change, if I heard about it once that was saying something. Not quickly enough but at least moving in the right direction.

      There was a top level dressage horse at the Parelli clinic. It was quite an impressive display and an obviously very happy horse. I plan to post about it because it was so impressive. The difference between that ride and winning rides I've seen on youtube was so obvious. Even a neophyte would be able to see the difference in the horse's attitude. Hopefully the day will come there will be enough horses trained properly it will force the others to change. I can only hope....

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    2. Can you post the links to the posts you wrote on the halter training? I am wondering if that is what an Arab breeder told me about.

      Yes, classically trained dressage horse is beautiful to watch. Since I am working with a very traditional trainer, my girl is a new horse. A non horse friend on Fb posted a video she had seen of a WEG. performance and she said the horse looked very uncomfortable and unnatural. I told her she had a great eye!

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    3. Sorry it took me a day to get to this. I have to actually work at the computer to reply to comments or find stuff on my blog while I can moderate them from my phone. I'm going through a rough spot right now so not doing much again but this kept brewing in my mind.

      An Arabian Mare's Tragic Death Due to the Halter Divisions' Dirty Little Secret If you have information different from this, would you share that information. I think the more we know the better. It's secrets in the dark that keep this stuff thriving.

      This was an awesome mare and my friend still reels from her loss. I suspect the mare's owner at time of injury never did put together the pieces of what caused her demise but she did everything in her power to try to save her once she knew she was in jeopardy.

      I also did a post about Legs' experience as a yearling in halter. If you haven't seen, I can find you that link too. It wasn't pretty either and I am grateful my horse recovered from the traumatic experience I allowed to happen to him.

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    4. This was the method I had heard about. from what I've been told, there is a trainer in a neighboring state that does this. Hard to believe more horses don't destroy themselves with this method.

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    5. I would hate to know numbers of injuries on this method. I have heard it's can cause nerve injuries in the face like the mare I wrote about and also broken legs. I have also heard names of a couple of different trainers that have used this method in the past besides the one that harmed this mare.

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  4. Andrea has been posting about it for a long time on her blog and contributing to- For the TWH.

    The TWH group, is pushing hard for this to stop! Long overdue in my mind. Should already be a sad thing of the past.

    Big Lick folks turn a blind eye and keep trying to find new ways under the radar.

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    1. Thanks for this link. I will check it out. I don't know if Andrea is how I first heard about this or not but I know she has been an advocate for the breed.

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  5. MiKael, one of the things I heard making it's way into the Arab halter horse hush hush practices was electrical shock. Hooking aligator clips to the horses muzzle whiskers and then shocking them using a car battery. It wouldn't suprise me in the least, but I have a few holes to poke in it with nothing but common sense.

    Most show horses are clipped. Including but espeically their muzzles, often shaved with a razor- what is there to clip to???

    What good does it do to shock the horse in the barn? Wouldn't it essentiall 'wear off' long before they got into the ring? As soon as everything is unhooked?

    The horse is getting zapped. You think they are going to let you touch them after that? If they did, you wonder why they are so jumpy and skittish?

    After it happens once or twice, is the horse really going to stand around waiting to be hooked up again and cooperate for it? I doubt it. Horses are smart that way- Arabs top that list.

    I can only hope it is/was a rumor, but knowing of some of the BNT practices, it likely happens more than we know or want to.

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    1. I had heard about electric prods being used but no details on how. I can't imagine attaching them to muzzle hairs but I can imagine "how" they might be used. I've never seen anything inappropriate at halter clinics but seeing safe and probably appropriate measures used to create expression lead me to suspect that's what they're looking for. How freaking, scare, out of their minds can be viewed as useful, don't ask me. Unscrupulous people seem to come up with all sorts of things most of us would never be able to fathom.

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  6. I did watch this on Nightline. I find it absolutely disgusting and it breaks my heart. I have heard about soring for years too. I know they test for soring now, but obviously it's not enough because trainers are still doing it and getting away with it. More definitely needs to be done to stop the abuse.
    I haven't heard yet if that TWH trainer was convicted, Nightline said his trial was the week after they aired the program. I hope he rots in hell.
    I know there is abuse in every breed and it saddens me. This just should not be the case. There are so many humane ways to train horses!! Unfortunately big money talks a lot. There needs to be more people out there that don't turn their nose at this kind of abuse (or any abuse for that matter)!

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    1. I only saw part of it that first night and I was disgusted too. I just don't want to believe people are capable of such abhorrent behavior let alone against innocent animals but at the same time, I know it's out there.

      You're so right about the money. It seems to be the motivation for these kinds of behavior. Some trainers and some owners will do anything to win.

      Then it is so frustrating that people who know about such practices will keep what they know secret. That veil of silence enables the perpetrators to continue on. The thing that struck me most was the one man claiming this kind of stuff doesn't happen anymore then to have all randomly selected horses test positive. That guy is either a very good liar or very very naive. Those kinds of statistics are overwhelming. That's not a barn here or there, it's more like common practice by nearly every barn. Pretty scary stuff.

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  7. That absolutely broke my heart to watch. How do people become such monsters??? Their need for fame...money?? It makes me wonder what else people do and scares me to ever send my horses anywhere.

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    1. I have not seen through a trainer's mask worn to fool me and other clients into thinking he's one of the good guys more than once over my twenty plus years in the horse industry. That's why I train my own horses. I do not trust anyone with my horses anymore. If I allow someone else to ride one of them it is right in front of me. I am done with leaving a horse somewhere. My trust is fried.

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  8. I saw this video a couple weeks ago. It's the one I was referring to in our FB conversation. The man in the video beating the horses was in court last week. He was not even convicted of animal cruelty. Rather, he got a slap on the wrist and 6 months community service. Nothing bars him from showing. Nothing bars him from training and owning horses. Federal indictment my rear! That's what the Feds sentenced him to! This particular case was out of Chattanooga, which had many people in my area paying close attention.

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    1. I knew from the story I saw it had been run before but did not know when. With all the coverage I would hope the public outcry will cause changes.

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  9. Jamie left this comment which I felt was valid to the discussion so I'm posting its content here.
    "Horses need constant care and protection from animal abuse whether they are in captivity or in the wild."

    I did not post the actual comment because it contained a link not associated to the topic that was a solicitation. I don't ever expose my readers to solicitous comments nor do I leave them on the blogs of others. She did post with a user name and I would have linked to that but it doesn't lead to anything but her profile which has no blogs she writes or anywhere useful if someone wanted to reach her.

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  10. The owners, the trainers, the spectators...it all has the aura of dog fighting or cock fighting. That's all I can think of.

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    1. I think the year I first began blogging I found information of actual stallion fighting for entertainment. That was somewhere in China if I recall. I know some would like to believe that we are more sophisticated than that but this story does make one wonder, doesn't it.

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  11. I hope that it may help the discussion if the process surrounding the issue is clarified a bit. I apologize for the length of this post, but it is unavoidable given the intricacies of the legal system.

    First off, McConnell is prohibited from training and caring for customers' horses as a condition of his bond. He is not prohibited from owning them, but all sources say his business was boarding and training, and it seems to have come to a screeching halt. Until the legal proceedings have concluded, the bond conditions remain active.

    While it seems like he has gotten off easy, be assured that his punishment is still undecided. McConnell has entered a plea. The next step is for the judge to accept or reject the plea. Sentencing doesn't take place until the plea has been addressed. The news articles are telling us that, if his plea is accepted and he is sentenced according to the prosecutor's recommendations, he may get probation. However, the judge could reject the plea and/or sentence McConnell with a more severe penalty than the prosecutor recommends. If so, he can withdraw his plea and request a trial. At this point in time, he hasn't received a slap on the wrist, or anything else. Sentencing is set for September 10, so there will be no definite word on his punishment until then.

    Also, he was not convicted of animal cruelty because he was not charged with it. "Animal Cruelty" does not exist as such in the HPA or in the federal system in general. That is because the indictment is federal, and the feds do not have jurisdiction over certain matters. A charge of animal cruelty would have to come from a state jurisdiction.

    Even though we still have to wait for things to pass through the courts, he is receiving punishment from other sources. His training license has been suspended indefinitely and the TWH Celebration has banned him from all events on their grounds as well as removing him from their hall of fame. This is nothing compared to what he put those horses through, but on the other hand, it is a serious matter when the TWH authorities ban someone who has been a respected participant for three decades.

    Also worth mentioning is his plea agreement. In that document, McConnell has agreed to cooperate with federal authorities on future soring cases, to testify before grand juries, and to allow himself to be interviewed by law enforcement. He has also agreed not to protect anyone who committed a crime. McConnell was a respected trainer, and he knows a lot of valuable information about the industry. If he is sincere, his cooperation could be invaluable to future investigations. He could serve as a witness against other abusive trainers. Sure, McConnell may get off with probation, but his plea agreement could ultimately end up tipping the balance in favor of justice.

    Soring has been going on for a long time, and it will take time to end that horrific practice. This case may not end it all, but it's a step in the right direction. At least the issue is getting some attention. I wouldn't give up on this case until it's all said and done.

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    1. Thanks for the information on this. I recognize from my experience from my lawsuit the process here. It makes sense that part of a deal would be testimony against others. Hopefully this one case will cause the dominoes to fall. Sounds like they are working to put the pieces in position to do just that.

      Do you know hearing dates for sentencing?

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    2. The sentencing was set for September 10, but like many legal things, it might change.

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  12. We are having a real problem with horse slaughter here in Florida, the abuse is sickening with the slaughter. People are stealing horses from pastures and taking them to these illegal slaughternplaces.

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    1. I hate to say this but I am not surprised by this. Some people will do anything for money. Unfortunately just because it is illegal does not guarantee it won't happen.

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  13. I just saw on chronicle of the horse FB page that Tennessee just passed a law making horse abuse a feleny instead of the misdemeanor is it today. To late to get McConnell this time, but it will be there for them if there is a next time. others.http://www.chattanoogan.com/2012/5/30/227217/Roy-Exum-Tennessees-New-Horse-Bill.aspx

    Connie

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    1. Here's the active link to the URL listed in this comment. Thank you for adding this information.

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  14. Hi, this is Andrea, who CNJ mentioned before. I just wanted to say thanks for talking about this video.

    Here's a link to the entire video concerning the abuse by the HSUS. Warning--it's quite graphic.

    To give a short background, soring has existed since the 1950s, and the HPA was passed in 1970 to end soring. The problem is that the industry asked the USDA if they could police themselves...and the USDA feel for this. It's now the fox guarding the hen house--most of the inspectors allow sore horses through because they have their own sore horses at home that need to go through at the next show. Judges reward extreme animation over quality of gait, and they also have their own sore horses at home. The industry puts together their own punishments for violations, so anyone who sores horses is usually allowed back in the ring. It's vicious cycle that has lead to a million-dollar industry.

    We've got a ton of information on our blog right now and our Facebook group is also very busy. We'd love for people to join us with ideas and help on how to end this ridiculous practice. We also need people to write letters--our blog has a big list of people to write to to ask for them to stop this.

    Thanks for your concern, everyone. I hope we can end this for good someday.

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    1. I will be glad to see this practice gone too but I hope it is just the beginning of cleaning up unjust treatment of horses in the industry.

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  15. I apologize if I post this twice--I'm not sure if it went through the first time.

    Hi, this is Andrea, who CNJ mentioned above. I wanted to thank you for talking about this.

    Here's the entire video put together by the HSUS documenting the abuse. Warning--it's quite graphic.

    This is not a one-time incident as the industry would have you believe. To give a brief history, soring began in the 1950s. The HPA was passed in 1970 to end it. Problem was, the industry asked the USDA if they could police themselves. The Horse Industry Organization (HIOs)/Designated Qualified Persons (DQPs) program was added to the HPA in 1976. This is the fox guarding the hen house. The DQPs are supposed to inspect each horse before each class they're entered in. They allow sore horses through because they have their own sore horses at home. The judges reward for animation, not quality of gait, and they also have their own sore horses at home as well. If you take a look at the top trainers and judges of the industry, most of them have 10 or more HPA violations. It's a vicious cycle that has led to a multi-million dollar business.

    Our blog is very busy with information about all of this, as is our Facebook group. We hope you'll join us in this fight--feel free to post ideas if you'd like. We also have a long list on the blog of people to write to concerning sponsorships, gov't officials, and others to express your concerns and ask for help.

    Feel free to contact me to ask any questions. Our goal is to see and end to soring, and we're hoping and praying that this might actually be the big break we need to finally free these horses from the abuse.

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    1. I went ahead and posted both of these since there are details here not printed in the first comment. I figure the more details the better.

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  16. I totally agree with you. The poor horses are smothered in chemicals then their cornets and pasters and all above their hooves are cover tightly in plastic wrap and then they literally "cook" their horses legs that way, then a while before the show they take it all off and then put heavy chains a little loose just around their ankles above their hooves and so every time they move their feet the chains rub painfully on their wounds and cuts so that they lift their legs higher. And sometimes they put nails or sharp stuff on the inside of the wedges that go on their hooves so that when they step down it's painful so they quickly jerk their legs up high. It's a very sad and painful abusive thing that I can not believe that people do only for the money and fun of abusing animals! Then when they get to the show they do lots of "cover ups" to make the horse look temporally "normal" when the inspector looks over them but then when they get into the ring, which could be quite a while after, they feel the pain all over again and they pass not as "in pain" but as "showing". It's a sad, sad thing. And I've been doing all I can (for a 14 year old!) to get poeple to know what's going on around them (as for horses, in this situation). I hope I was able to help some understand a little about what is going on with domesticated horses! And remember, everybody, don't be afraid to tell people how you feel about our animals being treated! It's a cruel thing they are doing that needs to be stopped as soon as possible!

    Yee-Haw!
    Taylor Drew
    at Taylor Drew's Journal on HoofBeat Ranch

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  17. I learned to ride on walking horses and saddlebreds. I never saw anyone outright beat a horse like this, but I did see soring, and other cruel things that as a child I didn't know what to do about.I'm really glad that something is actually being done about this.

    I agree that the extreme animal rights activists don't need any more fuel. But you're right, those horses need it. It's just as important that the media know that we do not all treat our animals like this and would never dream of it.

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