my letter to the editor

This is a letter I am sending to a few TN newspapers & horse magazines:


Having grown up in Bedford County, riding and showing natural-shod Tennessee Walking Horses, I have been observing the events surrounding this year's highly controversial Tennessee Walking Horse (TWH) National Celebration with interest.
Unlike some other TWH enthusiasts, I am not dismayed by this year's events, but heartened; perhaps federal officials have finally decided to do what they have failed to do for the last five decades.

The abuse that TWH show horses suffer as a routine part of their "jobs" is one of the saddest stories of the equestrian sports world. I am not referring just to the scarring and soring of the legs and feet that rise to the level of disqualification under federal "scar rule" guidelines. I am pointing to the pain and discomfort these animals suffer as a day-to-day part of their lives.

Tennessee Walking Horses who compete in shows like The Celebration in Shelbyville are forced to wear huge, sharply angled, heavy padding and shoes that force their legs and feet into a grotesque exaggeration of their natural gait. They are forced to train for shows by wearing metal chains hooked around their lower legs that bang against their ankle and cannon bones with every step they take. They are made to wear extremely severe bits that force their heads into extreme, showy positions. Their tailbones are often broken for a showier look, and in many cases, expensive Tennessee Walkers are never allowed to graze free in a pasture.

Tennessee Walking Horses who are not forced to wear these torture devices remain a lovely breed with a special and unique gait and disposition. TWH enthusiasts all over the world enjoy these wonderful horses and manage to show them without hurting them or mangling their legs and feet to produce the bizarre spectacle one sees at The Celebration every year.

In other competitive equestrian sports, such as three day eventing, hunter-jumper shows, and western disciplines, the "training methods" employed to get Tennessee Walkers into the showring are considered cruel and obscene. It's about time that Celebration fans, trainers and officials wake up to the fact that this beautiful breed has become little more than an object of pity and scorn throughout the rest of the horse world.

I look forward to the continuing discussion caused by the recent controversy, and as a TWH fan, I hope it means a better future for one of Tennessee's most unique and important assets.

Katie Allison Granju
Knoxville, TN


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but your letter is disqualified because it exceeds 200 words.

dewi said...

Letters to the Editor usually like your response short and pity.

Submit it to the NYT or other newspapers as an opinion piece or commentary. The situation has gained national media coverage, I read about the show cancellation in the NY Times. What a sorrowful situation for these horses. How disgusting that the people interviewed seemed only to care about not having a champion named and getting a ribbon!

Anonymous said...

Again, a gross oversimplification, a simplistic swallowing of the nutjob evaluation of TWH.

This controversy is simply about an abuse of bureaucratic power, nothing more, nothing less.

Anonymous said...

The issue is not that the horses are sored, but an interpretation of a vague government law. The problem is alot deeper that just what is being reported by the media. If other breeds were smart, they would back the TWH in support. It is just a matter of time before the government attacks the like of American Saddlebreds were worse practices are in place. By the way, the tail bone is NOT broken and the "pressure bits" were banned decades ago and the showy head nod is a characteristic of the TWH that is from their breeding. Also, my former reserve world champion was turned to pasture every winter. Because he was the ultimate elite athlete, in March he was ready to go and looked forward to getting ready for showing.

Anonymous said...

"Ultimate elite athlete"?! For bobbing around the ring?! You don't ask much of a horse, do you?