Leon Alligood of the Tennessean has a good story this morning on opening day of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville. Last year’s Celebration was a chaotic event with reams of bad publicity surrounding the longtime problem of”soring”–using painful means to get Walking Horses to perform the “Big Lick” step that so delights audiences.
As seen from the reaction to NFL quarterback Michael Vick and his dog-fighting, people increasingly oppose overt cruelty to animals. The Walking Horse industry, estimated at $267 million annually in the Tennessean article, has tolerated the soring practices over the years, with perennial “reforms” that never seem to stop the problem.
Let’s hope that last year’s Celebration, at which no Grand Champion was selected, will mark the tipping point for Walking Horses. I attended the Celebration years ago, and at its best the event honors beautiful horses and good people. There is no need for soring, and those who persist in doing so should be banned from show rings. Otherwise, they will be the death of this industry and a permanent black mark on a Tennessee tradition.