SHELBYVILLE, TN – Following the disastrous 2014 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, Mr. David Thomas, owner of ShelbyvilleNOW (online community site) and Celebration Premier Sponsor, took a hard look at the August 20 – 30 event.
The 2014 CELEBRATION:
- A COLLAPSED HORSE WITH TRAINER KICKING HIM,
- A COLLAPSED “VAC” VETERINARY ADVISORY COMMITTEE,
- A COLLAPSED 95% HPA COMPLIANCE RATE BY THE CELEBRATION’S INSPECTION PROGRAM, S.H.O.W., PRESENTLY BEING DECERTIFIED BY THE USDA (UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE)
- COCK FIGHTER B. L. COZARD, JR. PREACHES AT CELEBRATION HALL OF FAME CLUB A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO SORE HORSES BECAUSE THEY ARE PRIVATE PROPERTY
COCK FIGHTING (“HARVESTING”) – CONSTITUTIONAL
HORSE SORING – CONSTITUTIONAL
Here is Celebration Premier Sponsor Mr. David Thomas (Winner’s Circle) assessment.
The Celebration & the Future of the Tennessee Walking Horse
This year’s show was about as bad as it can get in regards to attendance and the number of entries.
For the past six or seven years, attendance has been in a rapid free fall, and 2014 is no exception. Unfortunately, the numbers seemed to take an extreme nosedive this year. I have not seen a record of attendance to report the official numbers and I’m sure we will never know the “real” count. I can report, however, what I saw with my own eyes. The Celebration arena never appeared to exceed 50% capacity, and, for the most part, looked like a typical weekend show in Middle Tennessee.
One of the most alarming statistics was generated by the Shelbyville Times Gazette. The poll asked local residents their plans to attend the horse show. An alarming number (71.3%, to be exact) of residents said they would not attend the show at all””not even a single night .
That is astonishing.
According to several sources, most civic clubs barely covered the charges and commissions levied by the Celebration. I would also venture to say that maybe a handful actually made a profit.
The city of Shelbyville has seemingly walked away from the Celebration, but why? Someone needs to wake up!
It’s easy to speculate many things, but I have come to the conclusion that the average citizen of Shelbyville no longer understands the history or significance the Tennessee Walking Horse once had. The mystique of the Celebration is gone.
Who is to blame? It’s easy to cast blame in every direction. I have given it some thought over the past few months. Here are my thoughts:
The Celebration, with all of its history and pageantry, has steadily grown more complacent and taken the city of Shelbyville for granted. The city has also failed to promote this community event the way it should be promoted. It seems that the wall between the Celebration and the city””which has developed steadily over the years””has come to fruition. This wall is evidence of a severe lack of coordination and organization. So, who is responsible for this disorganization?
At one time, the Celebration was managed and executed by a group of civic clubs with a close coordination with the City. During those years, attendance was at an all-time high. The citizens of Shelbyville had a direct connection with the event, and community support was obvious.
But then some things changed. A new form of management took shape in the late 1980s. The civic clubs were put on the shelf and a self-perpetuating board was established. The management went behind closed doors. Since that time, numerous accusations have been made and investigations have taken place. During the 1990s and 2000s, a shadow of arrogance began to cloud the event. The average resident of Bedford County began to be pushed out. The Celebration developed a country club atmosphere. This may give some explanation as to why more than 70% of Shelbyville said they would not attend the show AT ALL.
Since 2007, the performance Walking Horse has been fighting a losing battle with humane groups and the USDA concerning the soring of the show horses. The USDA stepped up its enforcement of the Horse Protection Act. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is a driving force behind the removal of pads and action devices. The general public has supported the government’s efforts along with the efforts of the American Horse Council, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Equine Practitioners and every major horse breed organization in the United States. The PAST Act has 65% – 70% of congress ready to make a law to remove pads and action devices.
So, how will the Walking Horse survive? Will there be another Celebration in our future?
The total numbers of individual horses to participate this year was lower than 1,000 for the first time since 1952. The show results indicate that most classes did not have enough horses to hand out all ten ribbons in the class. Things are looking bleak for the future of the show and the breed.
Instead of having honest and open discussions about the realities of the industry’s bad image. The industry seems to have stiffened its neck and said, “Let’s fight the public and the U.S. Government with lawsuits. Let’s thumb our nose at every major horse breed in the world. Let’s fight the American Horse Council and every other respectable horse group in America.”
The Tennessee Walking Horse is on an island. This breed deserves better. Is there no shame that greed and self-indulgence has obliterated a beautiful creature? The Tennessee Walking Horse COULD be the most popular horse breed in the world if this stigma was not hanging around it’s neck. Is it too late for change??? No one is taking the lead to be proactive in promoting the Tennessee Walking Horse breed. However, the “leadership” is always in defense mode and always seems to shoot itself in the foot when trying to defend itself.
The real issues are never addressed directly.
This breed needs new leadership and now. The Celebration needs restructuring to get the residents of Shelbyville back involved and all conflicts of interest and politics should be removed. The City needs a renewed sense of urgency to reestablish the Celebration as its premier community event.
The truth is that everyone has dropped the ball. We need to pick it up before it’s too late.
Meanwhile Celebration Chairman David L. Howard’s crowd wants to beat up on the AVMA, Humane Society, and American Horse Council, when perhaps the real Bogeymen, happens to be Mr. Howard’s gang which, according to Premier Sponsor Mr. David Thomas, has crashed what U. S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) calls a cherished “Tennessee Tradition”.
Paraphrasing Slick Willie,
IT’S THE SORING, STUPID!