NASHVILLE, TN – The Tennessean newspaper today reported on the HR 1518  , Prevent All Soring Tactics Act before Congress.  The article by reporter Heidi Hall
attempts to get a handle on what is going on with HR 1518 PAST Act to remove the pads and chains and to stop soring. Hall posts the video from the Energy and Commerce Hearing, sets out the players, Steve Smith and Donna Benefield, details the controversy, and the wailing coming from the Big Lick community of Shelbyville and Beford County, Tennessee – the ground zero of horse soring in the world.

Hall was able to smoke Steve Smith  out enough to get a comment from Smith
on the record. Setting up the Smith comment, Hall wrote: “Critics said her testimony  (Marsha Blackburn)  was purchased with a Celebration fundraiser. They leveled similar accusations at Sen. Lamar Alexander, whose campaign finance chairman, Steve Smith, is running for president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association. They’re circulating a 1987 horse show ticket citing Smith’s horse for a “sensitive left foot.”  Note: The reporter leaves out the fact that Steve Smith, Alexander Campaign Fundraising Chairman,  is raising $3 million for Alexander’s 2014 Re-election campaign.

Smith said he may have gotten that ticket “” it has been 26 years, and he doesn’t remember “” but he was never charged with any Horse Protection Act violations. He dismissed the idea that Alexander is caving to his wishes.”

Smith says – “I don’t know why Lamar doesn’t support it, but if you listen to the hearing that was had on the Whitfield bill, it would wreck the industry  as we have it today,” Smith said. “We’re 98.5 percent in full compliance at our largest show,  where every horse is checked by the federal government, so (lawmakers) probably need to worry about something else more than that.”

Alexander’s spokesman issued a statement Wednesday that sidestepped the issue of Smith and said the senator is reviewing the committee testimony.”

Note:  Reporter Hall does not press Smith on the issue of signing a form on Nov. 4, 2013 to qualify to run for TWHBEA President that said “NO” to the question of having received HPA ticket/violation/citation allegation.

It is interesting to note that now it appears that Steve Smith does “maybe” remember getting an HPA ticket for a sore horse. It is amusing that Steve Smith basically acted like as Campaign Fund Raising Chairman raising $ 3 million for Alexander  that the mere thought of he and U. S. Senator Lamar Alexander ever discussing  HR 1518 has never crossed either of their minds.

Hall’s employer, The Tennessean newspaper,  has called for U. S. Senator Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker to break their silence on the HR 1518, PAST Act because it is embarrassing Tennessee.

Reporter Hall then spoke with former Celebration consultant Donna Benefield



Benefeld leveled charges that the “Big Lick” is corrupt.  Hall reports Benefield said, “”Once I got into the inside and saw how truly corrupt it was, I said, ‘No, I’m not having any part of this,’ “ Benefield said. “The way they manage to keep these percentages looking compliant is because of all the things they do to the horse to pass inspection, which were reflected in my written statement. Now that USDA is swabbing pasterns, they’re injecting legs, like a nerve block. They use hair dyes and sprays, tattoo ink, to put the horse into appearing to be in compliance.”

According to Hall,  “Donna Benefield pointed out that the compliance figure doesn’t include horses that failed chemical swabs to test for foreign chemicals on their pasterns. Of 128 sampled at this year’s Celebration, 86 came back positive, USDA figures show. Some of the chemicals listed are caustic or numbing agents “” likely to keep the horse from flinching during the inspection “” but some are antioxidants or dyes. Even cholesterol makes the list.”

Hall says the main point in the controversy:   “At issue is whether the industry should be given another opportunity to clean itself up, a promise industry leaders make after each new expose on soring. That has gone on for decades, the latest incident being this year’s well-publicized arrest of Maryville trainer Larry Wheelon for soring, although the charges were dismissed because of a mistake prosecutors made at his August preliminary hearing.”

The Tennessean newspaper was reporting on this story in 1969.



Walking Horse Trainer President said in 1969,  “If we don’t clean up the industry … someone else will”.  In her official statement circa November 2013,  44 years removed from 1969, Donna Benefield said “Their time is up”.

She said:   “Myself and many others have tried repeatedly to work with this industry for over 25 years to achieve reform. With 43 years of non compliance, and with numerous failed attempts to achieve reform, they have refused at every turn…They had their chance to clean up the industry. They were warned by the USDA over and over again. Either clean it up, or it will be cleaned up for you, and you are not going to like what you are left with.Now the outside world has received their message, that they have no intention of changing (see attached Riders Cup data, A.V.M.A. article, and USDA Foreign Substance Swabbing results). These statistics and the A.V.M.A. article clearly point out that they have NOT changed. With thousands and thousands of U.S.D.A. statistics, records, lab reports, pictures, videos, federal cases, and H.I.O. tickets, showing repeat violators from the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and thru today, this shows they have not changed and have no intention of reforming”

Then Heidi Hall talked with Big Lick money guy Frank Eichler



Hall writes:   “Corporate attorney Frank Eichler said it would be impossible to sell his 74 horses no matter what because his wife, Debbie, falls in love with them. The argument that people either support Whitfield’s amendment or support soring is inconceivable, he said. What he and others in the industry want, he said, is a chance to use state-of-the-art equipment to find the handful of horse abusers and make sure they’re not allowed to participate.”

Eichler is what is known in the horse business as a “tourist”.  He is another rich guy who wandered in and figured that since he made a pile of money somewhere else, he could show the local yocals how to run things.  The way it usually works is the local yocals separate Mr. Eichler from his money, use him up and cast him aside.  Some of that has occurred with Frank Eichler, but he has a lot of money and his wife is still interested in the hobby so he’s still standing, and they endure his pontificating and theorizing while they go right on soring right under his nose.

Mr Eichler, don’t you think it would be just as easy for your wife to fall in love with one of these Sound no chains no sored beautiful horses and live happily ever after?

Joy Kimbrough | The Daily Times

Joy Kimbrough | The Daily Times

2012 - UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE Homecoming - Kimbrell Hines Up On "A Daring Affair" - Taking The Place Of 'Big Lick' World Grand Champion Walk Time Charlie

2012 – UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE Homecoming – Kimbrell Hines Up On “A Daring Affair” – Taking The Place Of ‘Big Lick’ World Grand Champion Walk Time Charlie