Mississippi Children's Hospital Declines TWH Show Donations

The University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) Batson Children's Hospital has declined to be a beneficiary of a high-profile Tennessee Walking Horse show to remove itself from the ongoing controversy surrounding soring.

In February, some Tennessee Walking Horse advocates backed a petition on Change.org asking the UMMC and the Batson Children's Hospital to dissociate itself from the Mississippi Charity Horse Show, which supports children's charities in that state.

Marc Rolph, UMMC associate director of public affairs, said the children's hospital had been affiliated with the horse show for almost a decade. Robert Taylor, president of the Mississippi Charity Horse Show, said the event has contributed about $250,000 to the children's hospital over the years.

On March 4, the UMMC administration issued a written statement declining further donations drawn from the show's proceeds.

“After careful reflection, the administration of Batson Children's Hospital has asked the organizers of the Mississippi Charity Horse Show to discontinue donating proceeds of the event to the hospital for the benefit of its patients,” the UMMC written statement said. “We are grateful for the generous support of the charity horse show over the last several years. This support has included not only monetary contributions, but also opportunities for patients under our care to be involved.

“Although we are comfortable the Mississippi show complies with all applicable laws for the protection of horses, the national controversy over the way Tennessee Walking Horses are trained and handled—particularly those that perform in the 'Big Lick' style—has brought us to this decision,” the statement continued. “We are not in a position to evaluate the strongly held beliefs and assertions on either side of this issue, so our decision is intended to remove the children's hospital from controversy.”

Taylor said he was disappointed with the hospital's decision, but believes the hospital administration's statement was fair.

Meanwhile, Teresa Bippen, president of Friends of Sound Horses (FOSH), said the decision to decline proceeds from the charity show must have been a difficult one, “however, FOSH feels that university officials realized there was no win for them receiving proceeds from a Big Lick horse show.”

Walter Chism, acting executive director of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association, said, "Many of the children (at the hospital) have never had the opportunity to interact with a horse and may never again have the opportunity. The loss to the kids is not quantifiable on a balance sheet but it is a loss just the same. ... The only losers in this situation are the kids. For that, we are disappointed.

"While the opponents (of padded walking horse shows) have a right to their opinion, they do not have the right to attack kids or distort the truth,” he concluded.

The Mississippi Charity Horse Show is slated to take place March 26-28 in Jackson.

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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