THETA, TN – At the end of the year and the beginning of a new one, it is sometimes beneficial to take stock of circumstances, give thanks for blessings and then turn one’s attention to things of interest.
During 2013, many people have come out of nowhere and risen to the occasion while others have fallen short and some have just plain disappointed. With that in mind, here are the BGB 2013 “Profiles In Courage” Awards:
PROFILES IN COURAGE
Pat Stout – A quiet person with no pretensions, she saw a situation where the members of an 8,000 member organization were being ignored. She did something about it in the right way, with professionalism and integrity for only one purpose – to let the members have a voice. They did and things are never going to be the same.
Marty Irby – A lifelong Licker who came to the realization that, rather than saving the pads and chains for the Big Lick horse, it was about saving the Tennessee Walking Horse breed for the future. Irby took a stand and suffered personal consequences, but will come out ahead in the end. Donna Benefield and Marty Irby’s work on Capitol Hill has made a huge difference and there is more to come. As Congressional Aide to Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY), he will play a major role in what happens in 2014.
Fran Cole – A former California TWHBEA director and retired attorney, she took offense that the number of TWHBEA members in her state had declined due to the stigma of the soring Big Lick so that California now only has one Director. The California TWHBEA members voted 79% “YES” for passage of the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act. The Director representing California is a confirmed dyed in the wool Big Licker who vigorously promotes the sore Big Lick horse. Cole led the California members in organizing a Petition drive to remove Christy Lantis as California TWHBEA director so the Sound California members will have a voice in TWHBEA. That work is ongoing and hangs in the balance at the present time.
Lisa Harris – An unsung hero who diligently volunteers to help abandoned and rescued horses at a local shelter, and then dedicates hours of her time doing anything and everything asked to bring the sore Big Lick to an end. She represents the mass of people who are responsible for doing what has been done for the Sound Horse while others get the limelight and recognition.
Teresa Bippen – An Energizer Bunny who mobilizes and encourages persons she calls “Sound Horse Warriors” to carry forward with the work of seeing that the institutionalized Big LIck soring is ended. She sees a future where a Sound Tennessee Walking Horse breed can reach its true potential.
Tracy Boyd – A lifelong Big Lick guy who rose to the occasion in May 2013, and then publicly took a public stand in Bedford County, Tennessee, regarding the stigma of soring that hangs like a cloud over the Tennessee Walking Horse, and how it is viewed throughout the United States. Boyd’s position was vindicated by the HR 1518 Poll Results in which 63% of the TWHBEA members voted for the PAST Act, and the Map which shows that the Tennessee Walking Horse breed has no growth potential under the institutionalized soring Big Lick culture.
Donna Benefield – No one knows more about soring horses or has done more to try and stop it longer than Donna Benefield has. She has been active for 30 years – litigating – regulating – speaking out – counseling – educating – persuading – lobbying – meeting – confronting and testifying to see that the soring stops and paradigm change occurs.
Nathan Jackson – Remindful of the mystical outlook of James Meredith who integrated the University of Mississippi amidst a riot in 1962, Jackson has his own view of many things which is often not in synch with many others or understood by them. While often not popular, Jackson is consistently consistent in being an irritant to the Big Lick crowd and speaking out and standing up for what he perceives as injustice. He was present at TWHBEA meetings throughout the year making his voice heard. He also filed a legal action against TWHNC for what he asserted were wrongs done to him and his family.
Lori Northrup – A numbers person with high energy and focus, Northrup is a quiet force who has made a difference. She has led the way in creating a database to keep up with HPA violations, and hold the horse hurters accountable. Working largely behind the scenes out of public view, she never takes her eye off the prize and no one is more effective than Lori Northrup.
Iva Butler – An old fashioned, and canny smart, newspaper woman who is an icon at The Daily Times in Maryville, Tennessee. If you can’t get along with Iva Butler, you are either mean or crazy or both. The Big Lick buddy of Larry Joe Wheelon’s threw Miss Iva off his property when the Larry Wheelon customers horses were being returned to his property. All Iva Butler was doing was covering the story, as she has through the tawdry saga. She reports on what happens, seeks both sides and then writes about it so the public will know the truth. There are not many Iva Butlers left. It’s good she is telling the people this story about a window into the soring of Tennessee Walking Horses – and her words are being read way beyond Maryville, Tennessee.
Clay Harlin – A man of unquestionable personal integrity and gravitas with a quiet unassuming manner whose words are measured and always mean something. Clay Harlin has walked the walk and has the scars to show for it. His input during the trials of 2013 provided perspective and continuity from the representative of a family that has been synonymous with Tennessee Walking Horses for the last 80 years.
Carl Bledsoe – A reformed Big Lick trainer who spoke out and is making a difference in showing the way for a future where you can make a living working with Tennessee Walking Horses and not soring them. When his Mother spoke, everyone listened.
John Haffner, DVM – Native Tennessean, Vice President of the Tennessee chapter of American Equine Practitioners, member of the Horse Science Faculty at MTSU, wrote a compelling confessional letter to Congressman Ed Whitfeld (R-KY) which answered every question and closed all the doors on the horse soring which the Prevent All Soring Practices Act addresses. Haffner was “one of them” and everything he says, they cannot shake or discredit.
Roy Exum – A man who was new to the subject quickly grasped it because Exum like Faulkner recognized the involvement of the human spirit in conflict over the horse soring issue and has steadily addressed it in language that the lay person can understand. Roy Exum has made a difference, and truly, has tormented those who harm horses in the name of greed, profit, ego or for the purposes of control. There ain’t but one Brother Roy Exum.
The Blount County SPCA – A local Tennessee group led by Gino and Kellie Bachman who saw a wrong and tried to stop it by use of the Tennessee law against aggravated cruelty to animals and enforced it. When encountering setbacks that would have stopped others, the Blount County SPCA picked up the pieces in making sure that Larry Joe Wheelon and his alleged accomplices will have their day in court. They are afforded the presumption of innocence.
Mark Davidson, Assistant District Attorney General- 25th Judicial District (Buford Pusser Country) – Davidson has quietly, but efficiently become a source reference for Tennessee District Attorney Generals, in prosecuting persons who feloniously abuse Tennessee Walking Horses. For horse soring to stop in Tennessee, the prosecution will have to start at the local level with citizens helping report the abuse and make the cases. Then a proactive D. A. who will see that justice is served. Davidson has blazed the trail. It’s not often you get a guy sentenced to a year of house arrest and fined $25,000.00 for a misdemeanor.
Rick Wies – A fellow from Montana who has devoted years to the sound Tennessee Walking Horse. An intelligent well spoken independent person, Wies deserved a leadership position at TWHBEA,, but was denied it for just one reason – he is not corruptible and he is 100% Sound. Wies is a free thinker who is going to do what is right for the overall interests of the Tennessee Walking Horse breed, like it or lump it.
Nephew Eugene, Harold, Randolph and Mortimer – If you think what happens here is because of Billy and Radar, you would be wrong. These guys are amazing and nothing would be possible without them (and her).
These are only a few of the people who have made a difference in 2013. Some of them can’t be named because to do so would put them in harm’s way or result in economic damage.
Please trust me when I say it takes a village. Many people have given many years toward seeing that the soring be no more. All people who will step forward regardless of their time in or if they don’t know as much as some others should be welcomed.
This effort is already standing on the shoulders of all that have gone before and to them everyone should be grateful and homage paid.
Onward towards the prize.