Shelbyville, TN – (Editorial) The 2016 Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration opening night was met with high hopes by some and low expectations by others. Owners, trainers and riders were each vying for the win, while grooms scurried to make sure the horses looked just perfect. Security was tight at the celebration, numerous marked and unmarked law enforcement vehicles were parked around the celebration grounds and dozens of uniformed sheriff and security officers were seen. Dozens of horse trailers pulled past the protesters, through the security checkpoint and into the paddock area, where the horses were unloaded into waiting stalls.
Near the paddocks, horses stepped from their respective trailers, most wearing obscenely high shoes. The horses in the stacked shoes typically stumbled when they first stepped out of the trailer, trying to find their balance. Many grooms were observed yanking on the horse’s leads and stud chains, attempting to keep the horses in control.
As opening time in the grandstands drew closer, the grooms and stable hands headed to the inspection area with carts loaded down with tack and equipment. Most of the carts had dozens of leg chains hanging from specially made racks, waiting to be hung around around horses front legs to cause the flinch known as “Big Lick.” The inspection area itself was closed to media.
“The USDA proposed rules will severely negatively impact every aspect of the horse community,” a worker at the Bedford Tack booth told News of the Horse. When asked if padded shoes and chains are necessary for the Walking Horse show, he replied “No comment.” Celebration Show Staff refused to comment on the proposed USDA rules, other than to say they had never heard of them.
A Celebration worker, who wished to remain anonymous, estimated that 3,000 spectators would come to the event over the weekend. A professional tabulator hired by Billy Go Boy estimated that 2,000 spectators attended on Friday and 3,000 attended on Saturday. In years prior, spectators would pack the stands with upwards of 20,000 plus people in attendance.
Row after row of empty, dilapidated stalls told hollow tales of once booming times at the Celebration. With the constant pressure from the USDA and animal welfare groups due to the rampant soring still allegedly being committed by industry insiders, to an apparent lack of participation from the younger generation, the 2016 Celebration may be one of the last.
Author: Dale Williams <-- Become my friend on Facebook! - Phone: 724-964-6773
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