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Posted - 06/01/2018 :  05:37:58  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Soring Protest returns to Columbia


By MIKE CHRISTEN mchristen@c-dh.net
Posted May 31, 2018 at 1:28 PM
Updated May 31, 2018 at 6:52 PM

As the Spring Jubilee, an annual Tennessee Walking Horse event, prepares for a weekend of shows at the Maury County Park, a group of animal welfare activists with concerns of the use of illegal training practices visited the Maury County Chamber and Economic Alliance asking the organization to support their cause.

Clant Seay, of Oxford, Mississippi, a former showman of Tennessee Walking Horses, again traveled to Columbia to lead the boycott of the event. Inside a conference room at the county chamber, Seay was joined by local advocates Kristi Emerson, Dorothy Swann and Sherria Ritchie, who presented the organization with 13,000 signatures in opposition to the event on Thursday.

The illegal practice of soring uses chemicals, pressure or devices to cause pain to the front feet and legs of horses. When the horses’ legs touch the ground, they pull them back sharply.

Soring creates the high step — or the so-called “Big Lick’ — that impresses judges, critics say.

The petition calls upon officials not to participate in the annual event.

The advocates said the signatures were collected online through the popular advocacy website, Change.org.

“Columbia is the largest city still hosting this,” said Seay, who highlighted that other cities in Tennessee and Florida have ceased to hold similar events for the sake of progress.

“I know everything they do is animal cruelty,” Seay said.

In the past, similar petitions have been sent to Columbia’s officials, but Seay says he did not see a response from those offices.


After spending 45 minutes in the the chamber’s conference room, Seay dropped the thick book of signatures at the front desk.

Seay has previously called Columbia “ground zero of the nationwide protest against soring.”

In Columbia, Seay’s group has been demonstrating against alleged soring at Tennessee Walking Horse shows since at least 2013. Clashes have previously occurred between the boycotters, the event participants and the authorities.

In 2015, one trainer threatened to run over protesters with his truck. Seay, the publisher of a Tennessee Walking Horse news web site, also went to federal court with Maury County Sheriff Bucky Rowland stemming from a 2016 incident.

Seay claimed Rowland violated his First Amendment rights by asking him to turn off his camera at the park.

Rowland was ordered by a U.S. magistrate to honor the protesters’ rights. Rowland stipulated to the order, according to court documents.

“We are not going to tolerate that,” Seay said, referring to the Spring Jubilee in Columbia. “If we don’t see a change we are going to ramp things up.”

In 2017, the event and its boycott were carried out without much incident, excluding a few harsh words at the entrance to the Maury County Park.

Seay said his previous efforts to boycott the event have all been in an effort to educate the public on the matter.

The self proclaimed “recovering lawyer” said he can use the power of social media to bring the attention of millions to Columbia.

“This is morally reprehensible,” Seay said. “These are churchgoing people and what we have here is a situation where they don’t see anything wrong.”

Emerson said there are people in Columbia who feel that the practice is morally wrong, but they are afraid to stand up against it.

“That is just heartbreaking to me because if you saw child abuse happening — obviously you are going to step in and going to stop it. It is your duty to step in and to stop it,” Emerson said.

— THE SHOW —

The Spring Jubilee is a stepping stone for the annual Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration, the largest of all shows, held at the end of August in Shelbyville.

The show, sponsored by the Maury County Horseman’s Association, features 53 classes from performance, pleasure, weanlings, yearlings and lead-line ponies, all performing the breed’s unique and eye catching four-beat running-walk in which the horses make high and wide strides.

Last year, with more than 400 entries, the show was a nonstop exhibition of a tradition that has ties to the 18th century and first came into its current form with the founding of the first Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ Association in 1935 and the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration held in nearby Shelbyville since 1939.

The three-night show draws exhibitors and horses from all over Tennessee as well as from more than a dozen other states.

As in the past, proceeds from the event are used to fund scholarships to local FFA students, local FFA chapters and to the Maury County Boys and Girls Clubs.

In 2017, the Center of Hope also benefited from the event, as funds assisted families in need.

— LOCAL OFFICIALS PARTICIPATE —

With a 67-year history, the event has long standing ties with the community.

Show Chairman David Sisk is a longtime resident of Maury County, and Maury County General Sessions Judge Bobby Sands has served as the event’s announcer since his senior year of college in 1974.

“I enjoy the people, I have been watching these people show horses for 40 years,” said Sands during the 2017 gathering. He travels throughout the state to announce at other horse shows.

“The first Saturday night in June is always Columbia for the Spring Jubilee. In July, you go to Woodbury, Cornersville then Wartrace and Pulaski,” Sands said. “They are just on your calendar and in your mind. Walking horses have been a part of our culture here in Middle Tennessee. It has been a part and it will be. It’s not as pervasive as it was but so is everything. This show has been going on 67 years, that is remarkable.”

Although the event has been tinged with controversy, Sands stands by the integrity of the sport.

“Every horse in this ring is USDA inspected, they have been checked, they have been approved. How much more can you do?” Sands said.

— STEPS FORWARD —

The Horse Protection Act of 1970 prohibited the practice of soring, an abusive practice used to enhance the Big Lick movement prized in the show ring first introduced in the 1950s and becoming widespread in the 1960s, prompting the act.

Despite the legislation, the practice is still suspected of being continued by horse trainers today.

The continued controversy has led to a split within the horse community, criminal charges against a number of individuals and the creation of several separate breed organizations.

The USDA announced changes to the Horse Protection Act that many considered to be a step toward ending the abusive practice.

The new rule will ban much of the gear used, including chains placed around horses’ ankles during training and stacks — the tall weights attached to the front hooves.

Despite continued controversy, the event benefits local charities. A donation also will be made to the Maury County Chapter of Future Farmers of America, funding college scholarships for students in the program.

Tommy Williams

4 Posts

Posted - 06/01/2018 :  08:40:57  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
The guy is a crook and worse. But you have to always call his bluff. To date we were the only ones to successfully beat him in court. In time he will run into someone who really fails to follow the law and as we have seen it in the news and stories many times, some people just vanish.

Its obvious, as we read the news regularly....along his travels he will cross someone who cares nothing about his rights.

Tommy Williams
WalkingHorseChat.com
tommywhc@aol.com
334.406.4964
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