Annual TWH Sale Draws Controversy

An annual Tennessee Walking Horse (TWH) sale slated to take place this month at the Kentucky Horse Park (KHP) in Lexington, Ky., is drawing fire from some equine welfare activists who claim the event could include the sale of horses trained to wear padded shoes intended to produce an exaggerated gait.

Padded shoes are devices composed of stacked, weighted pads attached to a horse's front feet, often used in conjunction with chains around the horse's front fetlocks to achieve an exaggerated gait. The use of pads is not forbidden under the Horse Protection Act (HPA) which forbids soring, the deliberate injury to a horse's feet and legs in order to achieve an exaggerated gait. Some equine welfare advocates believe use of such devices leads to the practice of soring.

The Kentucky After Christmas Sale has been taking place at the Tattersall Sales Company facility at The Red Mile harness racing track in Lexington for more than 20 years, according to Jerrold Pedigo, president of Kentucky After Christmas Sale, Inc. That sale venue was demolished in 2012. The 2013 Kentucky After Christmas Sale is slated to take place Jan. 25-26 at the KHP. Horse Park Executive Director John Nicholson said that the choice of the Horse Park as the sale venue has drawn comments from the Tennessee Walking Horse industry and from equine welfare advocates alike.

"We've been getting all kinds of feedback ranging from those who say there is a 'witch hunt' on this breed to those who say 'padded horses must be sored no matter what the inspectors say' and everything in between," Nicholson said. "What I can say is that this sale is done in strict adherence to the law."

If offered for sale, padded horses would represent the minority of the animals offered during the event, Nicholson said.

"This is not a padded horse sale," Nicholson said. "Only a few padded horses, 10% or 15% or less would be included."

Pedigo said that USDA certified inspectors from the International Walking Horse Association will inspect horses for compliance with federal anti-soring regulations. The HPA requires the inspection for horses offered at sale events. In addition, he said he has personally contacted the USDA inviting their personnel to attend the sale as well. Nicholson said that he also extended a similar invitation to the USDA. Because the agency does not reveal its event visitation schedule it is uncertain whether USDA personnel will attend the event.

In any case, Pedigo said that he intends to present only sound horses during the sale.

"I've been at this 22 years now, and we've never had a sale without a certified (inspector)," Pedigo said. "We want to ensure the public that the horses offered for sale are sound."

Even so, Teresa Bippen, president of Friends of Sound Horses, said the organization opposes the sale of any padded horses at the KHP on grounds that doing so insinuates that the Horse Park approves of chains as horse training devices.

"The chain is a precursor to soring and this abusive training practice has been condemned by every major equine and veterinarian group in the United States," Bippen said. "FOSH does not believe that visitors to the Horse Park should be subject to the sight of a chain-trained horse even if it does pass inspection."

No one from the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association or the horse industry group Sound Horses, Honest Judging, Objective Inspections, Winning Fairly was available for comment.

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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