Regions Bank, a major sponsor of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, has announced that it will no longer be affiliated with the show as a sponsor.
The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration is a high-profile exhibition event that takes place each August in Shelbyville, Tennessee. The breed's World Grand Champion and other champions are crowned during the annual event.
The sponsorship withdrawal is the second since 2012, when PepsiCo Inc., makers of Pepsi Cola, Mountain Dew, and other beverages as well as food products including Quaker Oats, Doritos, and Lays Potato Chips, withdrew its sponsorship of the Celebration following an ABC News report on horse soring.
Soring is the deliberate injury to a horse's feet or legs to achieve an exaggerated, high-stepping gait. The Horse Protection Act (HPA) of 1970 forbids the practice.
The event was most recently spotlighted with the introduction of HR 1518/S 1406, the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act (PAST). If passed, the PAST Act would expand the HPA to, among other things, ban the use of action devices, including metal chains and so-called “stacks” and pads also known as performance packages. A twin bill, S 1406 was introduced in the U.S. Senate. HR 1518 remains pending in the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation passed S 1406. As a result, S 1406/HR 1518 moves on to the full U.S. Senate for a vote.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn introduced HR 4098, also known as the Horse Protection Amendments Act of 2014. Sen. Lamar Alexander later introduced a Senate bill that would modify HR 4098. Neither bill bans the use of performance packages or chains. Both bills maintain that PAST Act passage will have economic implications for the Tennessee Walking Horse industry in general and for the city of Shelbyville in particular.
HR 4098 remains pending in the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Alexander's bill remains pending in the Senate.
On June 26 Jeremy D. King, vice president of corporate communications for Regions Financial Corp., said that as a result of a corporate business decision, the Regions Bank has withdrawn its sponsorship of the Celebration.
"Regions is not a sponsor of the 2014 Walking Horse National Celebration,” King's written statement said. “This is a business decision based on how we allocate our resources."
Michael Inman, chief executive officer of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, said Regions' decision is understandable and that it opened the door to other sponsorships for the Celebration.
“Being a national firm (Regions) have made a business decision to concentrate sponsorship and advertising dollars that reach the largest market possible, and we respect that,” Inman said. “This decision opens the opportunity for another financial institution to step in, and we expect that will happen.”
Meanwhile, Teresa Bippen, president of Friends of Sound Horses (FOSH), commended the Regions decision.
About the Author
Pat Raia is a professional journalist who has covered horse industry and equestrian topics for a number of publications. Her background includes riding, showing, and training Saddlebred horses.