THETA, TN  – Fran Jurga is welcome at Theta anytime.  There was a lot of thunder and lightning passing over North Maury County on Monday, and when it was all said and done, a savy country girl named Joy Smith from  Dumas, Missisippi thunder clapped the loudest in a square off of PRO PAST ACT and ANTI PAST ACT factions.  Ms Smith mounted a determined campaign opposing the PAST ACT which ironically featured a sored Horse,  “Cash For Keeps”, [1998 NHSC HPA citation, before winning the Big Stake in 2000.     See Fran Jurga’s article excerpt below.

When Joy Smith isn’t doing Thunder Clapping, she manages the Memphis. Tennessee Law Firm of Deal, Cooper & Holton:



Something tells me this isn’t the last one will hear of the Thunder Clappers.


Enter Thunderclap

Thunderclap  has been around for a while. It is a social media tool that makes some people run the other way, just as it attracts others like moths to a flame.

Anyone with a cause, a campaign or even just something to publicize can sign up for a Thunderclap social-blitz. The idea is to encourage your advocates to pledge to your cause, and on a given day at a given time, Thunderclap issues a flood of Tweets and Facebook updates to all the followers of all those who signed up.

By joining a Thunderclap for a cause you support, you allow Thunderclap to take over your social media accounts and issue messages on your behalf.

The  Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)  decided that today was a ripe moment for a Thunderclap to hit US social media. The goal: motivate people to contact their Congressional delegations and push for HR 1518, the so-called PAST Act, or Whitfield-Cohen amendment, to stiffen up the administration of the American Horse Protection Act.

Among the items specified in the PAST Act is the outlawing of stacks of pads and “action devices” on Tennessee Walking horses.

No sooner had HSUS launched its appeal for people to sign up to support today’s Thunderclap than supporters of the rival legislation,Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn’s  HR 4098 (“Scientific Methods to Protect Our Horses”)  launched a counter-clap.

By the time the Thunderclaps were to go live this afternoon, HSUS had gathered commitment from 464 supporters, representing 170,600 followers who would receive messages encouraging them to support the PAST Act.

Not to be outdone, Blackburn’s grassroots Walking horse faithful numbered 519 with a total following of 288,164 recipients.

Thunderbolt Joy Smith

Of interest is that the Walking horse supporters did not urge support for  Blackburn’s legislation; they chose instead to smear the PAST Act with the suggestion that the reality of enforcing that law would require horses to compete without horseshoes.

The language of what shoes would be allowed is vaguely stated in the PAST Act, in spite of a letter from Representative Whitfield in the fall, which did little to clarify how the law would be interpreted. Specifics of legal shoes would be determined after the fact by the US Department of Agriculture when and if the legislation passes.  Read more about the horseshoe section of the PAST Act here.

Blackburn’s supporters also spent the weekend contacting farrier and hoof-related organizations, intimating the coming ban on horseshoes if the PAST Act becomes law.

Does Thunderclap work? The website documents eight causes in the horse world that have used the tool to broadcast their messages. Wild horses, horse slaughter, New York carriage horses, and now  soring legislation have been put forward to over 1.6 million people using the tool.

This weekend’s Tennessee walking horse grassroots campaign has been, by far, the most successful horse-related campaign on Thunderclap, followed by the New York carriage horses.

– See more at:



Tennessee Congresswoman Blackburn Files Alternative Legislation in Congress to Amend Horse Protection Act, Inspect Walking Horses at Shows

Tennessee Walking horses enjoy great popularity at shows in the mid-Southern United States, where they have become famous for showcasing the “Big Lick” gait. The horse’s natural talent and action are exaggerated by heavy pad stacks and pastern chains. The American Horse Protection Act was passed to outlaw the cruel practice of “soring” or deliberately causing pain to the hooves and pasterns to accentuate the gait. Critics feel that only a total ban on pads and chains will stop the cruelty.

The Hoof Blog  has learned that Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R) has filed House Bill 4098 in the US House of Representatives; the legislation aims to reform the jurisdiction over and inspection of the way that Tennessee Walking horses are shod for show. This new legislation is an alternative to much stricter legislation already before Congress, known as the PAST Act, which was filed by Kentucky Representative Ed Whitfield in April 2013.

While the text of the legislation is not yet available for reading,  Hoofcare and Lameness  has been able to confirm through the Library of Congress that a bill by that number and filed by Blackburn has indeed been filed and referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Congresswoman Blackburn is the Vice Chairman of that committee.

The new legislation is designed to be an alternative to the widely supported H.R. 1518/S. 1406 Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, which has been endorsed by both the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), as a way to strengthen the American Horse Protection Act and finally bring an end to soring by prohibiting pad stacks and other action devices.

Tennessee Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn represents the district of Tennessee where the Walking Horse Natural Celebration is held each summer. Her legislation counters the previously introduced and widely supported PAST Act by reducing the impact of anti-soring abolition on the Walking horse industry. (House GOP photo)

According to press releases issued by the  Walking Horse Report, Blackburn’s legislation will provide a “scientific method” for inspecting Walking horse hooves and pasterns at shows, which would be overseen by a regionally-administered governing board.

The US Department of Agriculture is currently charged with enforcement of the Horse Protection Act by having jurisdiction over inspections at horse shows.

From the  Walking Horse Report‘s interpretation, it appears that this legislation would empower state government agriculture agencies to govern the issue of Walking horse show soring.

According to the press release, provisions of Blackburn’s bill are:

  • Objective inspections
  • Using science based protocols, that are capable of producing scientifically reliable, reproducible results
  • Create a single independent inspection HIO
  • Governed by an independent board appointed by the heads of State Agriculture agencies from Tennessee and Kentucky, which in concert with the industry representatives will select 3 additional independent members
  • The independent HIO will only license qualified, conflict-free inspectors.
Walking horse “Big Lick” shoeing setup, with pastern chains. (AVMA photo)

In an article on the  website of the  Tennessean  newspaper, journalist Heidi Hall states that the Blackburn legislation would allow the continued use of pad stacks and pastern chains, although that was not mentioned in the  Walking Horse Report  news release. The PAST Act would end the use of pad stacks and pastern chains.

The PAST Act was introduced in the House of Representatives on April 11, 2013 and in the Senate on July 31, 2013. In spite of the bi-partisan support of 264 co-sponsors and widespread public support, the bill has remained in committee for almost a year. On November 13, a hearing on the PAST Act was held before the committee, which included Congresswoman Blackburn.

Blackburn’s H.R. 4098 has nine co-sponsors on its first day. Eight are Republicans, one is a Democrat.  Six co-sponsors are from Tennessee, two are from Kentucky and one is from West Virginia.

Very little legislation has made it through Congress in the last few years. The PAST Act should not be faulted for being stalled in this climate but with the bi-partisan support is has enjoyed, it is clear that the regional resistance from the area where the horses are most popular has also been a detriment to its forward progress.
Perhaps Blackburn’s legislation is a tactical effort to de-fuse the PAST Act and allow it to pass through Congress without the legs needed to bring true reform.
If so, horses could end up being the next pawns of the political process in Washington.
As  anti-soring blogger BillyGoBoy so succinctly put it, “Under Blackburn’s bill the USDA would continue its ‘regulating soring’ role. Under the PAST Act, the USDA would be charged with ‘eliminating  soring’.‘  
 Ms. Jurga might need to check out the grades Billy Go Boy is giving the USDA.  The last grade was “A” for Saturday night at Shelbyville.   The sore Lickers didn’t put but 31 Big Lick horses in the show ring that night,  although some of the ones which got in were bad image.


The grading will start back at Jackson, Mississippi this weekend.


  1. This line further down in Jurga’s article is telling:
    “Social media was “invented” to bring people together; we were promised that it would create a giant living room for friends and families to easily exchange news, photos and video. What it is becoming is a battleground where seasoned marketers and influencers jockey for public opinion and not just for our support or donations but our commitment to the cause.”
    Sort of makes me wonder how many Lickers used multiple devices and emails to artificially raise their Thunderclap count. Personally, getting one comment out of me a day is doing good.

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