NASHVILLE, TN – Gallatin resident Donna Benefield became the face and spokesperson for the PAST ACT today in the State of Tennessee. Accompanied by U. S. Senator Joe Tydings (D-MD), Donna Benefield appeared today before The Tennessean Editorial Board. The Board interviewed Benefield and Tydings for over an hour. Following the newspaper session, Senator Tydings and Donna Benefield appeared at a television press conference held at the Parthenon in Centennial Park which was covered by Nashville’s NBC Channel 4 television station.
Senator Tydings recalled his history of sponsoring the Horse Protection Act passed in 1970. He brought with him and gave to the newspaper his documentation of the work he did to get the law passed, and gave credit to persons assisting including several prominent Tennesseans.
Tydings said the PAST ACT has over 60% of the U. S. Congress supporting it. He said the only answer to end the soring would be to remove the pads and chains which has continued now for over 60 years. He described what is being done to the horses as “brutal” and “has no place in a civilized society”. He called upon the citizens of Tennessee to make themselves heard supporting the PAST ACT.
Benefield laid the blame on the institutionalized culture of soring which has been built up around a criminal enterprise. While working as a Consultant for the Celebration in 2010, she witnessed a veterinarian do a nerve block on a horse to allow it to get through inspection. She reported the incident to APHIS Deputy Administrator Chester Gipson, DVM. She brought with her a built up package (pads,wedges and shoe) also called a “stack” used on the Big Lick horses, along with other soring tools and techniques. She demonstrated and explained for the Editorial Board.
Benefield called out PSHA Spokesperson Jeffrey Howard for being less than honest in his appearance before The Tennessean Editorial Board regarding a statement Howard made that the weight of the “stack” would comparable to that of a ladies tennis shoe. Benefield produced a ladies tennis shoe and a stack so the journalists could examine them.
Benefield provided a picture of PSHA Spokesperson Jeffrey Howard presenting a $15,856. 00 check to Trainer Charlie Green who had 22 HPA citations for winning the Rider’s Cup. Green was 2013 Trainer of the Year. Benefield provided statistics showing how many HPA violations that the top Trainers had accumulated.
She also called out the PSHA Board members and the Walking Horse Trainers Board for being loaded with people who had received Horse Protection Act citation violations. She showed a picture of the 2013 World Grand Champion “I Am Jose” from the recent National Trainers Show exhibition which she described as “bad image sore”.
She also produced a photo of a 21 month old colt by The Titelist exhibited at a colt preview at the Celebration’s Calsonic Arena which was owned by PSHA Chairman Jim Cortner. Benefield was critical of the image of the colt, and questioned the welfare of the horse that was subjected to such training practices at such a young age.
To further show how the soring culture has taken over at the Tennessee Walking Horse breed registry, she produced an HPA violation given to TWHBEA President Steve Smith whose Trainer was David Landrum. She detailed Landrum’s soring history. Smith presently serves as U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander’s Campaign Finance Chairman. Alexander has not yet publicly taken a position on the PAST ACT.
Benefield challenged the Big Lick supporters claims of a 98% compliance rate as simply not true. She also said the Big Lick statements about $3.2 billion in economic damage and 20,000 unemployed were absurd and had no basis in fact. She said that the Big Lick horse was less than 2/10th of 1% of all living Tennessee Walking Horses based on a 2012 USDA commissioned survey. She provided photos and statistics that the Tennessee Walking Horse breed would be fine if the Big Lick was eliminated. She said the Big Lick is keeping the breed from reaching its potential.
Tydings and Benefield were critical of the Blackburn alternative as being a Bill To Enable Soring. They said it would be a continuation of the culture of soring which has existed for over 60 years.
Benefield and Tydings were interviewed by NBC Channel 4 Reporter at the Parthenon at Centennial Park. Both called on Tennesseans to support passage of the PAST ACT to protect the horses and to stop Tennessee being labeled as a “horse abuse state”.
The Tennessean newspaper’s coverage of the sore Big Lick was instrumental in the passage of the Horse Protection Act in 1970.
It looks like it may again have that opportunity.