SHOW Responds to Decertification Notice

Sound Horses, Honest Judging, Objective Inspections, Winning Fairly (SHOW), the horse industry organization (HIO) that manages the high-profile National Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration has responded to an official USDA notice of decertification by claiming that SHOW's demise will put horses at greater risk of abuse by trainers who sore the animals to achieve specific performance.

Soring is the deliberate injury to a horse's feet and legs to achieve an exaggerated, high-stepping gait. The USDA Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) enforces the Horse Protection Act (which prohibits soring), certifies HIOs that manage horse shows, and trains Designated Qualified Persons (DQPs). HIOs hire DQPs to carry out HPA compliance inspections on horses presented for exhibition at the horse shows.

In June APHIS announced a final HPA penalty rule, which took effect July 9, requiring all federally certified HIOs to assess penalties that equal or exceed minimum levels for HPA violations. The rule also stiffens penalties for repeat HPA violators. APHIS subsequently notified HIOs that they must adopt minimum penalty protocols and demonstrate their compliance by submitting to the USDA amended rulebooks containing the protocol.

On June 25 SHOW filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the new minimum penalty rule violates the Constitution because it forces private entities to impose penalties on horse show participants for violations of federal law. Later, SHOW, along with Professional Regulation and Inspection for Dedicated Equestrians (PRIDE) and the Heart of America Walking Horse Association, declined to submit amended rulebooks containing the protocols and were deemed noncompliant with the federal HPA enforcement protocols.

APHIS Spokesman David Sacks said that earlier this month, SHOW and the other noncompliant HIOs received official USDA disqualification notifications.

No one from PRIDE or the Heart of America Walking Horse Association was available for comment.

In a written statement, SHOW said that the HIO would not enforce the new HPA enforcement rule because the rule only prevents HPA violators from participating in horse shows and other events affiliated with the HIO that issued the suspension.

"This is the wrong message for the industry but more importantly, the wrong thing for the horse," SHOW's statement said. "(And) once SHOW HIO is gone, unregulated shows will rule the day and soring trainers will be able to stay in business."

Sacks said the HIOs have 30 days to appeal the USDA's decision and have the option of requesting a hearing.

Because the National Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration will take place before the decertification process is concluded, SHOW will carry out inspections at the event, Sacks said.

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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