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Original Issue


The ring was elegant at Miami's Charity Horse Show, but behind the scenes the abuse of the Tennessee Walking Horse continued unchecked

Just before the Miami Charity Horse Show got under way this month, the management called the Tennessee Walking Horse exhibitors together for a powwow with Judge J. A. (Toby) Green. "Boys," said Toby, as cold-eyed as any TV sheriff, "don't fool around. I'm not tying [awarding ribbons to] any sore horses."

What Judge Green was referring to, of course, was the well-known practice of deliberately injuring the horse's front feet or legs in order artificially to induce a showier running walk (SI, Jan. 11). His words were praiseworthy, but their effect did not last long. Before the week was out, as these pictures prove, Judge Green did tie at least one sore horse, giving a second-place ribbon to Mrs. Paul Randolph's Miss Sterling.

Miss Sterling's owners were well aware of the sores—"as long as you have boots, you can't cure them, no matter how you try," said Paul Randolph later—but not a single protest was lodged by the American Horse Shows Association's steward, the Miami show officials or the exhibitors themselves. All, from Judge Green to the show's lowest committee member, have an out—they did not look under the boot, which they could have, according to the AHSA rules. They chose, instead, to pursue their habitual policy of "ignorance is bliss."

Thus, in the elegant, flower-bedecked ring of Florida's biggest show, the abuse of the Tennessee Walking Horse continued. The Humane Society of Greater Miami did inspect some boots, but its representatives were the bewildered victims of an equine shell game. The boots the representative was shown were as clean as a newly washed hoof. The SPCA did not, however, inspect the horses, even when, on another occasion, one Walking mare was excused from the ring with blood oozing over the top of her bell boot. The ringmaster, quite correctly, refused to let the mare in question take the gate without the judge's permission. The rider thereupon asked to leave the ring, claiming loss of a shoe. Though a glance revealed that she was wearing all four, the judge quickly gave his consent, and the embarrassingly bloody-footed horse was hastily removed. The officials, throughout, claimed to have seen nothing.

And how does the American Horse Show Association feel about such practices at one of its member shows? Questioned about this after the Miami event, Albert E. Hart Jr., its president, reiterated the association's stand against cruelty. James H. Black-well, the executive secretary, pointed out that the organization is not a police force. It is, however, a court of law, and it seems worth noting that after all these years of known abuse to the Walking Horse, and even after the Miami show, the law court's docket remains tellingly empty.

The association is, however, hopeful that the new Walking Horse rules drafted during the annual meeting in Detroit this January (and also adopted by the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' Association and the American Walking Horse Association) will solve everything. Miami's show was able to take advantage of a technicality—these new rules do not go into effect until the first part of March and until then the old rules (which have been considered good enough for the last four years) are still valid.

Will the new rules really end the cruelty? They will at least clarify the situation by fixing the responsibility on the judge alone. The judge must inspect the boots, not only in championship stake classes but also in classes qualifying for these stakes. He can, if he deems it necessary, inspect the boots in other classes, such as the ladies' events. This is a step forward, since under the old rules inspection of the boots was at the judges' discretion—and with the exception of a few judges, such as John H. Amos, C. C. Turner and H. O. Davis, none of the 100-odd recognized judges chose to exercise the right, including Toby Green in Miami.

The new rules will also change the boot itself. A new type, replacing the all-covering bell boot, will be mandatory. This boot, of a hinged variety, must have an opening of three inches across the front, which would reveal wounds such as the ones pictured here or illegal devices such as chains or wire. But though the specifications for this boot are carefully spelled out as to weight and height, there is no mention of the width of the strap that may be used to close this opening. Undoubtedly, those with something to hide will spot this loophole and find it simple to negate that opening with a two-inch strap.

Thus, although the Detroit rules are a small step forward (the Randolphs, for instance, favor the new boot because it will not constantly irritate old sores), they are far from being a complete cure-all. But even that small step has brought forth protests from many of the Walking Horse trainers and friends who assembled, over 100 strong, in Tennessee last month to make their wishes known. These wishes were simple: they do not want to relinquish the bell boot. Some, of course, objected to the inspection of the boots in the ring, claiming that washing their own dirty laundry before the public might possibly drive away potential Walking Horse buyers. But mainly it was that about-to-disappear bell boot that was bemoaned, and after promises to clean up its interior, most trainers put their signatures to a petition to go to the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' Association asking that the bell boot be retained. These views will be presented on February 20 at an executive committee meeting scheduled by the breeders in Lewisburg, Tenn.


John H. Amos, executive committee chairman of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' Association, was notably lacking in sympathy for the trainers' cause. "They haven't a chance," he said. "This new boot is on trial only—but a trial it will get. If it does not clean up the situation, there won't be any boots at all."

Meanwhile, back at Fort Worth, the TWHBA's president, J. Glenn Turner, who has recently and openly decried the current abuses, brought his Circle T string to the show. Making his position on the matter abundantly clear, he jumped the ruling by showing all his horses with the new boot and even, in the case of Sun's Regal Air, which he himself rode to victory in the amateur stake, with no boots at all.






AFTER THE CLASS Miss Sterling shows scabby sores (circled) which bell boots hid. Such wounds, says horse's owner, are inevitable and will remain as long as the old-style boot is worn.