SHELBYVILLE, TN – The one thing you can depend on with the Big Lick sore horse crowd, is them making mistakes … and when they make one, it’s usually major. They have continued that tradition. Faux pas does not come close to describing their latest blunder.
In a cheesy attempt to discredit Donna Benefield who is the gold standard where enforcement of the Horse Protection Act is concerned, Big Lick spokesperson, Jerry Harris who is a first cousin of Baghdad Bob,
posted a youtube on Herr Howard’s Der Spiegel, The Walking Horse Report.
Here is the youtube video in which Donna Benefield appears in a November 2010 interview with the Big Lick dynamic duo, Jerry Harris and Jim Fuller (remindful of Jethro and Homer)
For over 30 years Donna Benefield has led the effort and try to reform what she kindly calls the “industry”. During that time she has been threatened, her property damaged, her livestock killed, then later respected, feared, and alternately like and disliked by the Lickers and their interests. Through it all, she has persevered, earning a respect from those who have opposed her efforts to bring humane treatment to horses.
Benefield is no stranger to the inside of a show ring. She first arrived on the Tennessee Walking Horse scene in 1982 when she trailered 2,500 miles from Los Angeles to Shelbyville. Benefield won the World Grand Championship Plantation Pleasure Amateur Owned and trained on her mare “Tender Love”. S. W. Beech, the legendary horseman from Belfast, Tennessee upon first viewing Benefield’s mastery of horsemanship, was enthralled and became her stout supporter.
And when S. W. Beech liked you, it just made things so much easier.
Benefield had an epiphany in the mid 1980s and gave up showing horses, and became active in standing up for the Sound Horse and urging humane treatment to end soring. For a while, Donna Benefield was the lone voice against the Big Lick interests at the meetings with the USDA in Washington, DC. She lived on the West Coast and travelled often to Washington to face numerous persons on the other side of the table at the USDA -it was her and the horse vs them representing the sore Big Lick – and she passionately spoke for the Sound Horse.
In 1988, she was the Plaintiff in an action that resulted in the “lights being turned off” at the Trainer’s Show in Decatur, Alabama. The action was filed by a young lawyer named Russell Gaspar who is now a partner at Cohen & Mohr in Washington, DC.
In the 1988 suit, Federal Judge Oliver Gasch’s historic ruling was later reversed on appeal, but the Walking Horse soring racket had to give up the 8 oz and 10 oz chains they were showing in at that time. In a scrambling effort to save the Big Lick, the Lickers came up with a non-peer reviewed Auburn study which claimed that the chains by themselves do not cause harm. J.T. Vaughan, Dean of the Auburn Vet College, has since distanced himself from the study and now advocates that the Tennessee Walking Horse return to its plantation roots. This past May the TWHBEA Performance Committee attempted to have the Auburn vet associated with the study to appear before a group session in Lewisburg, TN. Auburn study father, Dr. Ram Purohit said thanks, but no thanks, and did not come after being advertised as doing so.
Russ Gaspar is Donna Benefield’s attorney in 2013, 25 years after the 1988 Trainer’s Show shutdown. Gaspar filed the pivotal “Friend of the Court” brief in the Celebration’s SHOW HIO suit vs the USDA in Texas that resulted in a “slam dunk” of the Big Lick interests by U. S. District Judge Terry Means showing them the door in a Summary Judgement. Gaspar represented American Horse Protection Association, Friends of Sound Horses, International Walking Horse Association and National Walking Horse Association in burying the “Big Lick” theory about ‘constitutional right to sore” among other novel theories.
Donnna Benefield has been in on all the Plans over the years. She was in the loop on the Sanctioning Plan, the White Paper and every other Plan under the sun. After retiring and making her residence in Tennessee, she became active in TWHBEA.
In 2010, Donna Benefield was hired by the Celebration’s Show, Inc., to work as a liaison expert between Show, Inc., and U.S.D.A. regarding the horse inspections conducted by U.S.D.A VMOs and Show, Inc. DQPs for the entire duration of the 2010 National Walking Horse Celebration, August 25 ““ September 4, 2010. The Celebration has lost approximately $931,000.00 over the last five years, and 2010 was the year it lost the least amount of money.
Following her work with the 2010 Celebration she attended the Delta Classic horse show in Tunica, Mississippi. These are her words:
“In 2010 there were high hopes that this new HIO, S.H.O.W., would enforce the law. They started off doing all the right things, but it didn’t take long for them to revert to the N.H.S.C. old ways.
After I worked the 2010 Celebration, I attended the Tunica, Mississippi show a couple of months later. It was at that point that I recognized that S.H.O.W. had made a disappointing turnaround and was becoming no different than the previous HIO they took over, the old NHSC.
When asked if I would come on board with S.H.O.W. after this Tunica show, I told them no. They needed to clean house, and I was not going to be the lipstick on their pig. Needless to say, they did not clean house and come into compliance. I was disappointed, but not surprised.
Now, so there is no confusion about my support of HR1518. It is quite simple. I’ve tried repeatedly to work with them. After 43 years of non compliance, and with numerous attempts to create reform, they have refused at every turn. It is now time to take away the pads and chains that have facilitated this abuse. They had their chance to clean up the industry. They were warned by the USDA. Either clean it up, or it will be cleaned up for you, and you are not going to like what you are left with.
It has become abundantly clear, they have no intention of changing. Their time is up.”
Here is an excerpt from the April 1979 Federal Register:
has told the “Big Lick” – “Their Time Is Up”.