TWHs, bad publicity and the power of the Internet
There has been an explosion of publicity, news reports and commentary here in Tennessee following the ABC News program showing the abuse of Tennessee Walking Horses. The persistence of abuse in the “Big Lick” portion of the breed has at last attracted national attention. While the news story initiated the firestorm, I expect that a YouTube posting on the Internet would have gone viral as well. We will see how long the focus of attention is kept on TWHBEA and what appears to be a deeply flawed organization being run by the violators themselves. The effectiveness of undercover camera work, the ubiquitous availability of such technology and the determination of groups such as HSUS to expose abuse all virtually guarantee further revelations.
I draw no parallels whatsoever between “Big Lick” shows and the Morgan Horse show circuit, but I wonder how many Morgan owners/exhibitors/trainers would care to face a camera and a national audience and seek to justify gingering or the tail nicking/cutting which we all know occasionally occurs? Strikingly, the AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners) recently came out with a position statement that they opposed the use of any tail alteration, including nicking, cutting, blocking (QH people…) and docking when done for cosmetic or competitive reasons. I predict there will be a movement to challenge the tail-setting of Saddlebreds and the docking of Draft horses, and that it will be fuelled by the Internet. Yes, yes, I know that tail cutting properly done does not interfere with the natural movement of the tail. Just try to get ahead of that story, though, when you have a thousand “experts” saying otherwise. As far as the draft horse people, I personally believe that there is no justification for docking drafter tails now that they no longer work daily in the fields or streets. It is done at this time based on tradition and cosmetic reasons only (shows off the hindquarters/legs), and the result is a horse who cannot fend off flies.
I suggest the AMHA get ahead of the curve on this and unequivocally come out with prohibition of gingering and tail alteration. The original justification for dropping the prohibition was that gingering could not be detected. That is no longer true-the Arabian people took away a National Championship a couple years ago because the horse had been gingered. Technology has caught up with us.
Do I think gingering is equivalent to the horrors inflicted by TWH trainers? Absolutely not. However, we as a breed do not need to court terrible publicity. One YouTube of a horse being gingered (such as a cute yearling) and you can bet the Internet will be screaming. Let us get ahead of this controversy.