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Trails End S


ome years ago, I created a 100-mile endurance ride called the Race of Champions. T ere was massive competitive energy surrounding the event, as you can imagine when the best of the best in the na-


tion came together to crown the BEST. I felt a profound responsibility for the safety of the horses, knowing that when you put the goals of the rider above the well being of the horse, bad things can happen. Each year, as 100 horses and riders gathered at the starting line at


the break of dawn, I asked everyone to bow their heads and over the loudspeaker...I would pray. “Please Lord, keep all of these horses and riders and all the people involved with the race today safe. And please, put on the rider’s hearts that there is nothing in prizes or glory at the fi nish line that is worth more than the health and well being of their horses.” Every year, riders (of all faiths) would come to me and say the prayer calmed their spirits and focused their priorities. We have a CANCER in our equine industry that has been allowed to


go on too long, and it is time to eradicate it NOW. Tennessee Walking Horses have a naturally high-stepping gait, but over the years trainers have used special shoes and metal chains to encourage an even higher step. Eventually, some fi gured that the training could go faster if they burned the horses’ ankles, a practice known as soring. Dripping harsh chemicals on the horses’ front ankles forces them, because of the pain, to liſt their legs even higher and shiſt their weight to their back legs, giving them the “big lick” gait for which the judges award ribbons and money. T e Walking Horse industry has pledged for more than three


decades to crack down on soring, but it is public record that the MA- JORITY of those who sit on the governing boards of the breed have at least one Protective Act VIOLATION on their records. T ey pay lip service to “cracking down,” but when you have the leadership as part of the abuse problem, you aren’t going to get any meaningful changes. T e barbaric, inhumane torture of these beautiful, kind horses


could end in a New York minute if the breed associations and horse show management would step up and do the right thing. Instead, the top organizations plead their case to maintain unnatural pads and


Be still and know that I am God. Psalms 46:10


“action devices” based on their need to generate more money and membership at the shows. Quoting from a let er from the top breed association to the USDA: “I plead with the USDA to give serious consideration to economic factors, jobs, horse farmers … and I challenge the USDA to stand up for our industry and not succumb to the pressures of animal rights activists who have no equity or vested interest.” It’s all about money for them, and the horse be damned. A few years back, I rode the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim solo on a


Tennessee Walker gelding (shown in this photo), and he was the most beautiful, smart, kind, lovely horse I ever had the privilege to ride. T ese horses are truly amazing athletes, and why so many inside the industry don’t see the value of promoting the breed in a way that does not in- volve abuse and torture is beyond comprehension. So lit le has changed in the last 30 years that I don’t believe there is going to be an end to this horrifi c practice anytime soon—without massive intervention. I believe the only way this can change is for the entire horse industry


to stand up with one voice and say THIS STOPS NOW. We need to write let ers to government leaders on a national, state and local level. We need to protest and picket horse shows—and their sponsors—to keep the light shining on them without let-up. Let us all give our voices (and prayers) to set these beautiful horses free from their abusive lives. In the months ahead, Trail Blazer Magazine will show you ways in


which you can truly be an advocate for the Tennessee Walking Horse, because what the industry is doing is evil, and there is nothing in prizes or glory that is worth more than the health and well being of the horse.


Susana Gibson | founder and publisher A DV ERT I S ER S ’ D IR E C TO RY


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98 June 2012 • WWW.TRAILBLAZERMAGAZINE.US


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