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2014 TWH Celebration creates paper tiger to guard paper horses

A $10,000 reward is now offered in the hopes of stoping soring
A $10,000 reward is now offered in the hopes of stoping soring

Paper tiger is a literal English translation of the Chinese phrase zhilaohu (紙老虎). The term refers to something that seems threatening but is ineffectual. It could also be a translation of the new rules and regulations that will be in place for this year’s Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration (TWHNC).

According to The Scoop, the Walking Horse Publication, the “major rule enhancements for participants in the world’s foremost Tennessee Walking Horse competition … will be implemented for the TWHNC held August 20 through August 30, 2014 in Shelbyville.” Says Dr. Jerry H. Johnson, chairman of the Veterinary Advisory Committee (VAC) for the TWHNC, “…we are also sending notice to those who mistreat these beautiful animals that they have no place in the horse industry and will be exposed.”

The new rules are:

Horses must be stabled on the grounds of the TWHNC for 48 hours before championships.

This is a norm at the TWHNC. Many of the horses come from all over and must be stabled at the Celebration grounds. A few will be brought in from area stables, but are usually also stabled on the grounds for bathing, grooming, prep, etc. When the horses are stabled, a heavy cloth or curtain is often placed over the stall windows. This can serve several purposes: Keeping the horse cool from the August heat and calm from the noise and crowd, and it keeps the animal safe. (One TWH trainer/ show rider recalls how, some years ago, someone crept into the stall of a promising horse called Centennial Delight and poured acid into the horse’s leg wraps to ruin its show career.) But the curtains also serve another purpose: to hide illegal activity, such as soring, says the former trainer/show rider. “I’ve seen everything, and much of it was illegal,” says the former trainer. “And like any criminal, you are not going to stop them. They’ll find a way (to get around rules).” A lot of money, and people’s livelihoods, are based on what horse wins the blue ribbon.

Registration papers, as well as a current (within 30 days) health certificate and negative Coggins test for each horse to gain admittance into the show grounds.

No horse can be shown at Celebration, or any other professional show, without registration papers. All but one state (North Dakota) has a Health Certificate (CVI) requirement when transporting horses, and all 50 states requires a coggins test within a curtain time frame before the horse is boarded for travel (the time ranges from state to state, but is usually “within 10 months prior” of transport. In Tennessee, it is “within 6 months prior.”) Source

Digital x-rays and blood draws on-site conducted and supervised by VAC appointed licensed equine veterinarian specialists. The horses will report to their inspection station after competition. The results of the blood samples and testing will be reported to the Celebration.

Blood samples will not show any of the agents used for soring or to numb the horse’s mouth, to include kerosene, diesel fuel, Cepacol, acid, Gojo, Nums-it, or kerosene; samples will only show chemicals in the animal’s system. X-rays can show some issues (too many nails in the shoe, for example) but, again, a chemical agent will not necessarily appear.

It appears a paper tiger has been constructed to guard and watch over what is too often considered a paper horse: a breed that is considered by many to be expendable and only worth what it is currently bringing into the bank. True, many trainers, owners, and riders love and care for their show horses. But the changes are not “exceeding inspection standards” as The Scoop claims.

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