TWH Celebration Changes Testing to Detect Soring Strolling Jim - Celebration World Grand Champion, 1939

TWH Celebration Changes Testing to Detect Soring

The controversial Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration announced Monday it is changing the testing protocol utilized to detect the abusive practice of soring.

TWHs will enter the ring in high stepping fashion beginning Wednesday. Every horse competing will be reportedly swabbed for chemicals utilized to sore horses – an illegal and abusive practice used by some as a training shortcut to achieve the “big lick.” The swab also tests for numbing agents used to desensitize the horses – so they don’t react to pain when the inspectors palpate the horses’ feet or legs.

The test results, which normally aren’t available for days, will be expedited, and any horse trainers caught using abusive techniques will lose any winnings. The abused horse will also be disqualified for the remainder of the show. Up for grabs is more than $650,000 in awards and prizes making it big business.

The swab results will be made public. The US Department of Agriculture is expected to also attend.

The Humane Society of the United States also launched a billboard campaign across from the show site. A hotline is available for people to report suspected abuse on the grounds.

Those involved with the competition have been scrutinized for the alleged abuse of horses for years. In May, graphic undercover video was released which led to the indictment and eventual guilty pleas of trainer Jackie McConnell and three of his associates. McConnell was ripped from the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration Hall of Fame as an inductee after the exposé. He awaits sentencing on September 10.

Doyle Meadows, CEO of the celebration, says the group’s top priority is horse safety. He says the celebration goes “above and beyond” to ensure all horses are trained safely and humanely and partners with a strict horse inspection organization.

The swab test was first used at the Celebration 2011, and was administered by the USDA. The objective test found 52 out of 52 randomly tested horses were positive for foreign substances.