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Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Shame of the TWH

I wish to briefly speak about a subject near and dear to me. The plight of the TWH. Of all the horse industries, this one seems to contain the most barbaric practices. From bits that look like medieval torture devices, to ankle chains, tail sets, pressure shoeing and soring, this industry supports more cruelty than most other breeds.


Some of the common bits used on TWHs, most are used on horses of all ages, including 2 year olds! Gosh, let's not start them in a SNAFFLE or anything! Several of these are marketed as TRAINING bits.

Many walking horse trainers and owners will argue that these practices are not cruel and that the horses do not suffer for it. Do the horses in these next photos look like they are not suffering, do they look happy?
Check out those shanks and his poor mouth. Look at his eyes. Does this image convey a proud, energetic, powerful horse? Or does it show a horse in pain?
Another "proud" Walker. Look at the hyperflexion of the front leg. Look at his eyes. What do you see there?
Hmm, I guess I would look like I was in pain too if this was what my shoes looked like. Barbaric.
Gosh, doesn't this fellow look comfortable? This horse is in PAIN people, those wraps are covering a caustic substance applied to make action chains "work better". I guess if my skin were burned and raw, I would try to fling off a heavy chain too.
I think people who practice this barbaric tradition should be forced to spend their lives in shoes like the ones pictured above. They should be a couple of sized too small, their ankles should be rubbed raw, and they should have to carry a 50 pound backpack around too.
To me, this is the tackiest practice of all. The infliction of pain and discomfort to achieve the desired gait/look/headset, whatever.

34 comments:

  1. I fully agree that many of the practices are barbaric my TWH gelding is barefoot and naturally carries his head in the "correct" headset but his ears are always forward and alert with no pinning. He has never been shown and has only been ridden in a snaffle and then a low port curb bit with short shanks. He has a wonderful gait and you do not have to crank on him. If I were to show him it would be in trail.

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  2. Anybody who puts anything like that on one of my girls had better be bulletproof.

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  3. UGH. The X Ray is very telling.

    And the "stealth" photo of the poor horse with all legs underneath him!!

    : (

    Just goes to show how many people can make themselves believe utter crap.

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  4. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuqN9n4RF4Y

    Everytime I look at this video, I cry. These are 2 year olds.

    Big Lick will eventually go the way of the dinosaur.....but it's not doing it fast enough. A lot of horses will die that didn't have to.

    What part of this is *pleasureable*???

    My Lucy was flatshod when I bought her. The first thing I did was rip her shoes off and have my farrier give her *normal* toes (over a period of time). My creaky old hips and knees adore her.

    Lucy was sold because she didn't have enough *action* for flatshod classes....well, she has even less now......but as long as she gives me that glide ride, I don't care.

    Big Lick is a shame....a damn shame.

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  5. I've got no smart ass comment for this. This is so sad. I had a saddlebred that had the broken tail and had been over bitted. I would wager he had been shod in this manner too - i bought him when he was 17 years old - his feet and legs were ermarkably normal by then. He was despite all the abuse very sweet natured and gentle. The best manners of any horse I have owned. I rode him in an eggbutt snaffle and almost no contact. He was happy to fall in behind the other horses on the trail but I could not ride him in the arena as he was quite ring sour by that point. He spent his twilight years as a companion horse to an aged TB gelding and some warmblood geldings. I feel awful for these horses. And angry with the gaited horse community.

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  6. I know, our TWHs are all barefoot or keg shod if we are going to ride on rocky ground. I think my little red filly would just lay down and refuse to move if we tried something like that.

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  7. Good post. I absolutely agree with you. I really think that these people are lacking in intelligence. It isn't just a lack of empathy but this poor sport has consistantly been surrounded and perpetuated by halfwits.

    It always comes back to Saddleseat. Saddleseat is all about action and flair. I think it would be so cool if they had to do this barefoot or with standard shoes...aka no weights, no chains and that they would give the gate to anyone that rode in a shank longer than 5 inches.

    Drop your bit please, and give the gate to anyone in a wire/bike chain/etc.

    The action and flair would come from how the horse was bred, the kudos would go to the breeder and trainer...oh wait, they already do that and pretend it's natural.

    It's not the actual idea of the sport, it's what the organizations and judges allow the trainers and riders to do, to accomplish the goal. It's what they award for it.

    I could go on and on and on....good post.

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  8. Those pictures make me cringe. The horses look strained, miserable, and incredibly uncomfortable. I can't get over the hindquarters, especially. There's nothing humane or natural about this disgusting practice. Just the idea of putting chains around a horses ankles and nailing pads to their feet should be enough to turn anyone away. Not to mention soring and those scary-looking wire bits.

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  9. Soring.

    In one word you sum up everything the majority of horse people try NOT to do their horses- even by accident.

    Yet in some circles it is intentional and purposely done. No major WTF?'s surrounding it either. *shakes head*

    The second horse under saddle pic- Is that horse wearing a crupper in addition to the breastplate. Does it get any more obvious that the saddle doesn't fit?

    I bet if he could, that horse would launch the SOB riding him/her.

    And why the trend of hanging on by the reins? We can all see you can't ride well enough to save your life.

    True testament to the temperment of the breed as a whole. They sure seem to put up with more than their share of shit.


    I rode my friends walker gelding a few times and other than the fact nobody could keep him in gait so he lacked the proper muscling- he did just fine with normal feet and regular shoes. He gaited away and was smooth as you could ask for. I showed him at the local arena's open schooling show, my second ride on him and took 2nd in a class of 9. He was wearing a hackamore, which one of the self appointed 'Walker Officianados' said would not produce a gait. Mr. WO didn't place at all. My friend was impressed, but not by him!

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  10. Cut-N-Jump said:
    "And why the trend of hanging on by the reins?"

    I have also seen this a lot and I have a couple of theories.

    One is that the trainer/instructor doesn't recognize when someone is posting out of the saddle using their reins.

    The other is that they DO recognize it, but allow it for small people because this helps the less-strong jack the head up and back.

    When you see little kids in a double bridle, it isn't uncommon to see them posting out of the saddle with the snaffle and "steering" with the curb (if you call it steering). That keeps constant "stop" on the horse which makes them appear as though they are actually controlling the horses.

    If anyone thinks this doesn't work, just go hop on the average gamer, or other horse that has a big motor, and ride with a tight rein. You will be able to jog and lope and appear in control. Loosen the rein and you will run.

    Contrary to popular unknowing opinion, this is not correct riding.

    Jeez, can anyone tell this is my pet peeve?

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  11. the hindquarters themselves tell me this is not a 'natural' movement from these horses - they are uncomfortable and compensating by throwing their hips out. i'd love to hear what an equine chiropractor thinks of working on big lick twh's. i want to put those bits on the rider's forearms - and that video! what's with such huge riders on babies? and hanging on their mouths? torture. abuse. that's all it is.

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  12. Good Driver-

    I can see where your theory would hold up in the trotting S/S breeds, but the gaited breeds where trot is not asked for, it kinda tosses it out the window, kicks it a few times and stomps it with a weighted shoe. LOL!

    Although in reading back over my own post, I recall my friend who owned the gelding telling me that she had been told once, by "Walker People" that "A 'GOOD' Walker can and will pull you up out of the saddle by the reins."

    Sounds like they adhere to the same thought processes as seen in the Icelandics... Why on earth would you want a horse that headstrong? I am a small person (just over 5') and back then I was in the 100lbs soaking wet category, but even 100lbs is a lot of weight to be dragging around by the bridle, even if some of that is distributed by sitting on the horses back and using my legs and seat.

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  13. And the poor horse with all four precariously placed underneath him/her...

    I am suprised the vets aren't seeing plenty of cases of compensatory laminitis in the rear hooves of these horses.

    But then, if all four feet hurt, what are you left to stand on?

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  14. It is amazing to me that the Big Lick continues on. One has to think that the people who torture horses in this manner actually enjoy inflicting pain on horses. Makes them feel good and important.
    We need much more public pressure to get this gone.

    The wonderful temperament of the TWH is both a blessing and a curse. That temperament allows people to do this to them.

    sagebeasties.blogspot.com
    oldmorgans.blogspot.com

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  15. Part 1:

    I figure I'd better step in here before my breed gets completely misunderstood.

    Hi all! I'm Andrea, and I've been involved with TWHs for the past 12 years. I have run the gauntlet of training and riding these horses. The first types of training I was taught was the "kick and pull" method, which is what you're seeing in those photos. More on that in a minute. I was taught that ALL TWHs must be ridden in a curbed, shanked bit. I was also taught that a horse that moves this way much have this type of shoe, a horse that moves that way must have that type of shoe. It went on and on. I witnessed soring a few times, and honestly, I never knew what it was until I learned about it a few years later. Now I wish I had known and had reported those I witnessed doing it.

    Now, I work with people and help them get the natural gait out of their gaited horse by just using a snaffle bit. I teach balance and how to get the horse to carry himself. I also teach the rider how to ride better with softer hands and use their butt and legs to communicate to the horse. I use the Dressage training scale and I get far better results and better horse/human relationships from it. My next step is to try the Nurtural Bridle, which is a bitless bridle.

    So, let me answer some of your questions on here. :)

    CNJ said:
    "The second horse under saddle pic- Is that horse wearing a crupper in addition to the breastplate. Does it get any more obvious that the saddle doesn't fit?"

    That's not a crupper--it's a tailset, or tail brace. The horses wear their tailsets in the classes. Also, a saddleseat saddle is just a flat saddle with hardly anything to it--it hardly has a tree. It's kinda like taking two strips of wood and nailing leather onto it--it just sits on the horse's back. One cheap saddleseat saddle will fit just about any saddleseat horse. They use a breastcollar so the horse will lean into it and push on it, which will cause him to drive harder. I don't use a breastcollar on my saddleseat saddle because my horses know how to carry themselves right. And actually, when you have trained your horse right, you MUST have good balance on a flat saddleseat saddle, and it's a bit of an art form to ride it. I have a flat saddleseat saddle, and riding on it is quite the experience!

    Good Driver said:
    "Cut-N-Jump said:
    "And why the trend of hanging on by the reins?"
    I have also seen this a lot and I have a couple of theories.
    One is that the trainer/instructor doesn't recognize when someone is posting out of the saddle using their reins.
    The other is that they DO recognize it, but allow it for small people because this helps the less-strong jack the head up and back."

    There is no posting with TWHs because it is a four-beat gait and there is no suspension between footfalls. Therefore, it creates a smooth ride for the rider. These are not your typical saddleseat horses--they are just shown in saddleseat tack and attire.

    What these riders are doing is the "kick and pull" method. You kick the horse with spurs for speed and forward movement, and you pull on their mouths to "set their head." The horse's head will nod up and down from the withers in timing with his footfalls, so you have to create a "wall" and brace his body so he will slam into that bit and then bounce back off of it to keep his rhythm. The men riders hunch over like cockroaches to shove their butt in the saddle and get their hind end to drive. Women do it by arching their backs and pushing their crotches into the seat.

    I do agree with what you said about watching the kids fly up and down in their post and "steer" with their hands, though. :)

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  16. Part 2:

    Concerning the x-ray, that is an example of how people cheat the system to get away with more weight than is legal in the show ring. We can assume that those are probably 16 penny nails, and that many of them is going to put on at least three extra pounds per hoof. This causes the horse to step higher for more reach and snap (the hyperflexion part of the front hoof). Note that the nails are normal where the hoof is. That x-ray was taken at the 2008 Celebration.

    The Big Lick continues because of the money behind it. In TN, the big show for the TWH is the Celebration, a gigantic 10-day show with vendors and activities, culminating in the crowning of the World Grand Champion (the best of the best) horse of the year. The revenue that show generates is 3x that of ANY ONE NASCAR race. The attendance is beyond belief. The town of Shelbyville makes enough money off of the 10-day Celebration to sustain them for the rest of the year.

    There are also people in very high places, such as Senators and House Reps, who own TWHs. Their horses are sored beyond believe and make them big bucks. Lobbyists are paid under the table to help bury the HPA regulations and keep the TWH out of the govt's radar. Ross Perot's family has tons of TWHs, and they're most likely sore. The owner of the Ritz Carlton hotel chain also has TWHs--he owns Waterfall Farms. I have friends who have been there and witnessed the soring going on right before their eyes.

    We also must remember that these are people whose livelihoods depend on this industry. These are unedcuated, backwoods rednecks that know nothing but how to "train" TWHs by soring them. They also truly think there is nothing wrong with what they're doing as they've been raised with it, generation after generation. For example, perhaps you were raised, like I was, that peanut butter and Karo syrup mixed in a bowl makes a tasty lunch. I find it weird when I tell people I used to eat that and they are all grossed out. It was a perfectly delicious lunch when I used to eat it! That's the kind of attitude we're dealing with. With the TWH people, they think that the outside world "just doesn't understand" how it all works, and that it's no big deal.

    I'd like to direct everyone's mouses (mice?) to this link: www.soundhorseconference.com/LightandChanged.html At the bottom of the page, click on the link to listen to Dr. Pam Reband's presentation. She is a close friend of mine and is one who used to sore her horses but decided to change. That presentation will help you truly understand what those of us who are fighting this are up against.

    I ask all of you to please take the time and check out my website to learn more about this. www.silverphoenixranch.com Those of us in the National Walking Horse Association (www.nwha.com) and Friends of Sound Horses (www.fosh.info) are learning the true ways of how these horses can be trained, through classical training methods, proper riding, and teaching the horse balance and cadence. Also check out my blog, forthetnwalkinghorse.blogspot.com to learn more.

    Let me know if you have questions--I'm happy to help explain this madness and help people know where to go to help end it!

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  17. katphoti - thanks a ton for your posting. It was very informative and it sounds as though you doing what needs to be done to A) change things and B) provide an alternative.

    The negative side of me will say that the mountain you have to climb is incredible and that there are enough people that don't want to learn to ride bad enough to learn correctly.

    However I commend you for what you are doing. In fact, I am very interested in your methods. One of the things I'd like to do before I die is train a saddlebred for show, without the use of gadgets, weird motivators such as fire extinguishers and my good old snaffle that works for everything else.

    I know we are talking about two totally different breeds but it seems as though the end goal for both breeds in saddleseat is to get a lot of action.

    Anywho, thanks and I'll be visiting the sites.

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  18. I have been riding for 20 years, but because I have always lived in the Pacific NW, I had never seen the 'big lick' Walkers until less than a year ago.

    My saddleseat experience was just 4H.

    It makes me so sad, because I've known so many TWH and TWHxs here that are happily, and beautifully gaited barefoot or in the same basic keg shoes as my fat QH.

    I also rode a fantastically gaited gelding in CA, who was barefoot and rode in a short shank Myler.

    I hope that with time, the version I know and people like katphoti will take over--because my bones will someday need a smooth gaited horse to carry me into the sunset.

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  19. Katphoti - Thanks for your post, I commend anyone who is working toward correcting this problem

    We are planning to eventually show the Large Black Filly (she is a registered TWH), but I refuse to show her in chains, stacks or a big scary curb bit. I plan to stick to shows that promote soundness and natural gait. I also plan to show her in open shows in jumping, dressage, and other "normal horse" classes. I will never show at a TWHBEA sponsered show until they stop enabling the people who use these barbaric practices.

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  20. This is a wonderful post. The comments are fantastic. I have limited experience (rode one TWH for a year)and zero experience with the sheer torture we see in the photos. Thank you Kaphoti for the honest look into how it is, why, and what others are doing to fight it. I too will be checking out the links provided.

    When I've read about this before, the thought going through my head is always: "Are there really that many corrupt veterinarians practicing out there? Why oh why do they not step in?"
    jane

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  21. Kat- While I am admittedly not as well versed in the ways of the Walker world as you are, I just had a few notes on some of the things you said.

    For some reason, a few people seem to have the notion lately I have never ridden in a saddleseat saddle. I have, and I actually owned one for some years. The walker gelding I rode and shown, was done so with my SS saddle.

    As noted- they are quite flat, nothing to really 'use' to keep you on the horse. Flat seats, no knee rolls, not much except for balance, talent and skill involved. Lacking those three things, you are left to hang on by the reins and likely to post off of them, while trying to balance by 'standing' in the stirrups. This often results in a host of equitation flaws and mistakes.


    "They use a breastcollar so the horse will lean into it and push on it, which will cause him to drive harder."

    As far as the breastplate goes, I understand you are only stating the reasoning behind their use, as relayed or explained to you. Having spoken to you an a few occasions, I'm sure you see the giant hole in the theory. For everyone else- you could drive a semi through it... Think about it logicly and it becomes glaringly apparent.

    A breastplate/breastcollar (and for some reason I am having difficulty spelling it lately) does not give the horse anything to lean against, push on or drive into. It provides no support as there is no resistance, unless it is fastened to something behind them that bears weight. As pictured, attatched to the saddle- it moves with them. No resistance, nothing to drive or push against.

    Breastcollars/breastplates were originally designed to keep saddles from sliding too far back. Cruppers are designed to keep them from sliding forward. The saddles often slid because they simply didn't fit right. With western saddles, breastcollars were often used to keep the saddle from slipping back when roping calves and steers. Having an uncooperative 500-1000 lbs on the hoof, on the end of your rope is not a good time for saddle slipage. Not that there really is any 'good' time for a saddle to slip, but I'm sure everyone understands.

    Given the ludicrous array of excuses behind so many of the atrocities allowed to continue in the ring under the rules of the TWH folks, the breastplate statement just goes hand in hand with the trainwreck of thoughts they seem to lack the ability to process.

    I applaude you for the work you have done, are doing and the seemingly uphill battle you and others have before you, to rid the TWH 'world' of the injustices the horses endure in their humans quest for a mere ribbon or prize.

    The shoes- I won't even go there. Not enough time in the day or space here, to really get into everything that is sooo incredibly wrong with that.

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  22. Heh.

    My husband has a (rich doctor) relative who used to do Big Expensive TWH shows... now they breed and show Arabs & NSHs.

    I never got the guts to ask them why.

    I've visited their nice little farm, though, and all the horses are top-notch quality, spoiled and happy.

    So who knows....

    ___

    There was a boy in my (hunt seat) lesson this semester who cracked me up. Very nice kid (about 19) and had ridden TWHs all his life, so he had NO idea how to post, and could barely canter.

    I've NEVER seen a chair seat that bad on anyone who wasn't a total beginner! Also did this weird thing where he jammed his feet in the stirrups and tried to brace himself that way. Don't get me started on his hands.

    I don't think he ever showed - I think his family just had horses for trail riding. But MAN!!!

    ___

    Kat, I love your PB/Karo analogy. You're right - it's not just just about showing people "the light" - it's about changing a whole worldview.

    And that's HARD HARD HARD.

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  23. Great! CP is encouraging Kat in the weird foods category and we will soon all be listing the things we loooove that make others shrink back in disgust. LOL!

    French fries and ice cream (even better in a DQ blizzard with chocolate), bologna sandwhiches with Fritos ON the sandwhich and bread dipped in cold gravy. And no I couldn't blame any of those on the pregnancy cravings then or now.

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  24. OOH, I LOVE french fries in a Wendy's frosty! MMMMM. I also like deep fried pickles. And the whole PB and Karo thing, oh yeah, ate it as a kid all the time, loved it!! Ever had chocolate covered potato chips? Candy coated crack I tell you! It's no wonder I turned out to be diabetic when I got older!

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  25. When I was a kid, I used to mix Nestle Quick with Cool Whip to make "chocolate mousse."

    When I was in college, I learned to never EVER make a Tequila Sunrise with Tang.

    Sweet + salty = HEAVEN.

    My mom and my rich uncle were raised on a formula made from canned milk, water & Karo. They turned out all smart & stuff thought they grew up dirt poor. My mother canNOT stomach sorghum to this day.

    ___

    ANYway, this whole generational soring thing? It's like any other deep-seated thing - like Jim Crow. THAT took draconian measures from the Fed. Gov't just like it will take to get rid of soring.... and even then you're not gonna get 100% of offenders.

    But if you STOPPED (not just busted) even 50% of offenders, that would be awesome!!

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  26. PS Has the USDA stepped up their efforts recently?

    Also... there's a little girl in 4H who's using her mom's old 4H horse, a 30-something TWH. I was like... "Is that DESIRE!?!?!?! OMG!" She looks great, is sound, and packs that kid around no problem.

    I love to see that. She's the smoooooth-gaiting, sweet-natured kind of TWH I'd love to try out someday!

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  27. Cattypex,

    TWH can live and be sound and ridable for a long time. Our ferrier (SP?) has an old guy that's, at best estimate, about 35-40 and still kicking. He doesn't have a tooth in his head, but is still fat, happy, and being ridden every now and again.

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  28. Oh, BTW, did anyone notice that the guy riding the black horse in the first pic was using the scary bit of the week from this post:

    http://tackytackoftheday.blogspot.com/2009/02/bit-of-hell.html

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  29. Hey everyone. Glad my posts helped get an understanding for what's going on.

    GoodDriver, feel free to email me. My email is on my website. I would LOVE to see an ASB go all natural, no matter what discipline. I'd love to hear your progress, and I'm happy to give pointers where I can.

    scaequestrian, YOU GO GIRL for refusing to show with TWHBEA. I also refuse to show with them or be a member with them. They've had over 30 years to get their act together--I can't continue to support an industry that makes money off of suffering animals. Be sure to check out FOSH and NWHA shows in your area, and let me know if you need helping showing. I can certainly explain over email what it entails!

    theliteracyhorse, you asked "Are there really that many corrupt veterinarians practicing out there? Why oh why do they not step in?" Because many, many times they are paid not to. It's very upsetting to know that so many vets are either paid to turn a blind eye or just believe that there's nothing they can do to stop it. Plus, DQPs who inspect horses at shows are not licensed veterinarians--they are farriers, owners, trainers, and various other types of people whose horses at home are just as sore as the ones at the show, so of course they don't want to find their friends' horses sore. Those friends could be the DQPs at the next show they're showing at! The USDA, however, does have VMOs, which are Veterinary Medical Officers, who are licensed vets that are not involved in the TWH industry that come to shows to inspect horses when the USDA shows up.

    CNJ, I TOTALLY agree with you that a breastcollar should be used to keep the saddle in place. However, it truly is used in that part of the TWH world so the horse will lean into it. The best way I can describe it is it acts like the collar on a driving harness. The horse drives with his shoulders into the breastcollar to push for more speed. I would never use a breastcollar for that purpose--I show without them. And I'm sorry--I didn't realize you've ridden in a saddleseat saddle! You are right--people will hang on with the reins in those saddles because they truly don't know how to ride. Just look at the photos and how the mens' legs are poking way out on the sides. It's so they can balance because they don't know how to ride right.

    Food: Love bread in cold gravy, love french fries in a Wendy's frosty, love fritos on bologna sandwiches (although I don't eat meat anymore). I had a friend who used to eat mashed potatoes and ketchup sandwiches. I do think PB and banana sandwiches are good. I also love orange sherbert or sorbet with hot fudge on top. YUM.

    CP, yes, the USDA has stepped up their efforts. Now we must all present our horses to the DQP station unsaddled because another form of hiding soring was to attach alligator clips or metal bit burrs to the underside of the saddle or girth to cause pain so the horse wouldn't react to the pain of the palpation. They are using thermography at a lot of shows now too, and if someone is found with an abnormality in the scan, then they are given the option if they want to continue through the inspection process or not. On the Sound Horse Conference website www.soundhorseconference.com there is a lot of information about how the USDA is stepping up and putting on the pressure.

    This will all end at some point. The thing is that we have to keep the pressure on. We can't go lax and think that oh, the USDA is taking care of it, or FOSH is taking care of it. I run my blog and website for the very purpose that I've made these posts: to educate all of you so you guys can spread the word. If we can continue to show TWHBEA, WHTA, WHOA, and all the other sore-horse groups that we will no longer tolerate this, then it will end.

    Thanks to all of you for reading. Feel free to contact me anytime!

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  30. There is no excuse for this abuse. If these horses were being starved someone would be putting a stop to it. Big Lick continues because of the Good Ol Boy southern attitudes. Old school attitude seems to perpetuate the cruelty. God curse the people that do these things to any animal.

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  31. The days of taking a sore horse to the horse show (at least most shows) is over. There are certainly various irritants applied to these horses at one time or another but the truly sore horses are those being treated to remove callouses. The callouses develop in response to chains, much like the callouses on my guitar fingers or my right third "pen" finger. The reason callouses are removed with salicylic acid, is that the USDA veterinarians call them "scars" at the horse shows. The faulty application of the "scar rule" (the scar rule states that a scarred horse is a sore horse) is causing soreness. The USDA certainly have chosen trainers at random for bogus infractions to stop the shows altogether.

    As for the original post and other posts -- no one here understands the "equipment". The witch always looks less sinister in the daylight.

    Last winter, I had a filly that contracted a virus, ran a fever and foundered. The vet prescribed a walking horse type shoe, wedged extra high (more than is allowed in the horse show) to protect the foot and keep the coffin bone from rotating. These shoes are less problematic than the regular high heals that my wife wears (and for the jerks - no she's not a stripper).

    As for the X-ray, only the top row of nails is in the hoof --- like all other horse shoe nails. The rest are holding the plastic pads (pieces) together. The metal band helps to hold the shoe on the feet and helps keep the toe from breaking off. The nails alone weigh maybe 6 ounces.

    I have read 2-3 books about bitting and there is much to know. A short shanked bit bumps the horses mouth more with small hand movements or when the horse nods his head. The riders may ride with a loose rein and unless the horse is grabbing the bit, no more than 3-5 pounds.

    We horse people are in this together. Thank god for the walking horse people. They may keep the activists off the quarter horse and race horse and saddlebred people for a while. The horse should be protected but I contend that owners should also have right to do unnatural things to the horses, like gagging him with something in his mouth; or tying your reining horse's head down -- even though I think it's stupid. You should be able to jump a wall or a water hazard even though I think it is stupid --- and dangerous. I think you should be able to race around barrels, around a track or pull a cart even though these animals break legs and die and get callouses from harnesses. I even think the prince should be able to hit balls or shoot off a horse. What about gelding our friend or keeping him up in a jail cell stall? Those are the most cruel things I can think of except for nature itself. After all, every equine ancestor that ever lived has died of natural causes -- unless some unnatural cave man ate him. None of them died in the saddle with a model mare. They died sometimes of "old age", but more commonly of thirst and hunger, or with a feline hanging from their neck, or being eaten alive form the hindquarters by a pack of canines. They broke their fragile legs on the rocky mountain sides and had their frogs rot in the bogs, tormented by biting flies and a host of parasites. The best our stud could hope for was to simply waste into old age until some younger, stronger stallion chewed off his ears and kicked out his guts.

    The walking horse people are cleaning up their act and the unnatural travel and their high healed shoes are less harmful and less strange than the acts I see on extreme sports or for that matter the routine of a gymnast on the balance beam.

    Voice your opinions, but support the horse and your fellow horseman and start talking about the population explosion. As the human population invades this small blue world, the horse will be lucky to have a field or a barn or a blade of grass and if he can understand, will be happy to dawn a pair of high healed shoes and prance like a fool in font of a cheering crowd. In fact, I've seen it and some of the horses LOVE it.

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