New Security Rules Initiated at Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration

There should be no doubt about the soundness of horses competing at this year's Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, Tenn., event directors said, thanks to new security measures aimed at preventing everything from doping to soring and inappropriate shoeing.

The new rules represent part of an effort to restore the Celebration's image after show officials shut down the high stakes event last year after allegedly finding competitor noncompliance with Horse Protection Act regulations and Tennessee anti-soring laws. As a result, several top competitors declined to participate, the show was canceled, and no World Champion was crowned. There were three horses that qualified under  inspection for the championship class and were prepared to compete, according to Dr. Bob McCloy, whose wife owned one of the passed horses (Strong Dollar). McCloy said show officials cancelled the stake class with no warning or explanation by closing the door between the warm-up area where horses were being prepared and the competition arena just prior to the class. (For more information see

"Even so, this is still the flagship event for the breed," said Chip Walters, Celebration director of public and media relations. "The people who are involved understand we want to put all that behind us and move on."

The new measures call for random barn inspections and drug screenings, limit syringe use to licensed veterinarians, and restrict inspection areas to eligible horses and credentialed owners, grooms, and other handlers. Hoof testers will be used to examine horses in flat-shod classes and inspectors can randomly remove and weigh shoes from horses entered in flat-shod championship classes. Inspectors will also strictly enforce Tennessee's anti-soring ordinance.

The rules also prohibit third party opinions of inspectors' findings, and only judges with records free of Horse Protection Act violations have been chosen to take part in the event. After the show has closed, Designated Qualified Persons (DQPs), judges, and event managers are required submit to polygraph testing.

"There are certain things in the rule book that judges and others have to follow," Walters said. "The tests are going to deal with rulebook compliance and separate personal opinion."

Event pre-entries are down 8%, to 4,197 (compared to 4,500 in 2006), Walters said.

The 2007 Celebration will be held Aug. 22 through Sept. 1.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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