Sandra van den Hof

Sandra van den Hof



To all Tennessee Walking Horse lovers in Europe

This morning I read the blog post from Billy Go Boy (click left). I am getting really concerned about the position of German TWHBEA Director Denise Bader in this matter. For years ETWHA, NWH and individuals like Oscar Aerdts and me have been blamed for the ‘split’ in Tennessee Walking Horse Europe. Because of these accusations and without a doubt also thanks to the wealthy environment where money was never an issue, many people took stand and joined ‘The Baders’ in their shows and other events. The European Rulebook was updated and allowed heavy shoeing, something I (and more individuals) am personally totally against. So often we have been told we (as in me/Oscar/ETWHA/NWH) should forget what Russ Keyser did in the USA. He has been on the suspension list for soring even though he already moved to Europe. But no worries, what happened in the USA, will stay in the USA. He was a changed person now. Everybody kept telling me what a nice person he was, just like Denise is. But hey, this is not about people that are nice to talk with. This is about how they treat animals. I am a nice person and do not abuse animals, but that doesn’t mean I have to be nice to people who abuse horses or prevent to end abuse while they have the opportunity to do so. THAT is what this is all about!

Everybody who knows me and my family are fully aware we are pro sound horses and against any kind of abuse. Everybody who has been actively involved in the TWH scene for at least 10 years also knows that my family has dedicated itself to promote the sound TWH and have been working together closely with TWHBEA to set up shows and demonstrations in Europe. After all we were the ones setting up the European Rulebook, I was Director and Oscar has been European TWHBEA show manager for 3 years. It all ended when rules were bend for personal advantage and plantation shoed horses with hoofbands were shown at the Equitana.

We all know Denise and Russ have been showing at the Celebration ever since Russ came to Europe. Russ has been training horses on stacks and we also know Denise has been showing padded horses. Even if we overlook the chemicals and soring, stacks are cruel and manipulating the horse, harming tendons and more. Heck, even riding 2 year olds, no matter how light weight you are, is simply wrong.

But still people stand behind Denise Bader and Russ Keyser. “Ow, we just want to have fun with our horses.” Is one of the comments I get. So I don’t?! “But they don’t manipulate their horses in Germany.” Says who? With almost 20 years of experience within this breed and multiple trips to the US I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. Yes, I also visited Mr. Keyser his barn back then and don’t let me start telling you about that. Point is, I recognize a former padded horse when I see one, as well as I can tell when a horse has been trained with heavy shoes even though he is barefooted now. And even if they don’t manipulate here, is it ok they do it in the US? Give me a break! So please, if you still think Denise Bader and her husband Russ Keyser are ‘the nice people’, think again!

This past Celebration Denise Bader rode a padded horse in the Equitation class. She could easily ride a flat shot horse but no, it was a Big Licker. The excuse of ‘a friend’; “She just wanted to get a blue ribbon and there was no other horse available.” Ok, sure, that makes it acceptable.

I am not saying everybody needs to take exactly the same position as I do. For example; I won’t ride a horse if I know he/she is in pain. So I will never even experience ‘the glide ride’ of a padded horse and I will always inform the owner of a training horse if I feel something is wrong. If I am not allowed to treat the horse, training ends right there. Now this is my position, this is where I stand. And please, stop believing the stupid comments of people saying “There is a group of people who believe shoeing a horse is abuse.” A shoe is meant for hoof protection and even though I don’t shoe my horses, it doesn’t mean I am against a regular shoe as long as it is used for its original purpose. No group or individual within the European TWH scene has ever said anything like that. Point is: do you still choose sides knowing ‘your’ side approves abuse?

Going back to the blogpost of Billy Go Boy.
Denise Bader voted pro the Past Act in May of this year. But today she is against. In normal words this means she is pro pads, stacks and chains on horses. I have emailed Denise about 2 weeks ago and asked her if she could please explain her position and if it is a personal opinion, the opinion as TWHBEA Director for Germany (meaning ‘the voice’ of the German TWHBEA members) or her opinion as Enforcement Vice President of TWHBEA. To this date, I have not received any reply and yes, I did also check my spam…

So to everybody who has been supporting Denise Bader and her husband for the past 8 years: do you still think they are pro sound horses? Stop being an ostrich and look yourself straight in the eyes. Yes, we definitely want to have fun with our horses and yes, we want to do that with a united group of fellow Tennessee Walking Horse lovers in Europe. But NO, not if our horses are harmed in any way and also not if people are clearly not against horse abuse.

For all German TWHBEA members;
You have chosen Denise Bader as your Director for the next 3 years. This is your future. What will you do about it?
For the German non-TWHBEA members;
You can join TWHBEA again and have a voice. Even better; you can run for Director in 5 years from now. Will you act and change this situation?

Anybody who wants to share opinions is free to email me at