Friday, December 6, 2013

Feature Friday – FOSH President Teresa Bippen testifies in Congress on the - Prevent All Soring Techniques Act.

Howdy Folks,
Today we are honored to have the President of Friends Of Sound Horses (FOSH) drop by as a guest blogger to tell us all about her trip to Washington, D.C. to testify before a Congressional Subcommittee regarding the PAST (Prevent All Soring Techniques) Act. ... FOSH has been, and is on the forefront of the effort to stop the horrible practice of torturing Tennessee Walking Horses known a soring. This very important bill is gaining support in the halls of Congress but, if you can believe it, there are elected officials who oppose it. Please read Teresa's story and then share it, and contact all your legislators and tell them to enact the PAST Act (H.R. 1518, S. 1406). – Many horses are counting on us to end their pain and suffering ... We can do this, for the horses.  … Thanks ~ Dutch Henry

Dear Friends,

On November 13, I was honored to testify about the PAST (Prevent All Soring Techniques) Act before the Congressional Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade.  The PAST Act amends the federal Horse Protection Act (HPA 1970 and 1976) which was enacted to prevent the soring of Tennessee Walking Horses.  (Soring is the deliberate infliction of pain upon the front hooves and legs of a horse to create a highly animated gait in the show ring).   Despite being illegal for over 40 years, soring is still widespread in some show rings.

I was invited as President of Friends of Sound Horses (FOSH).  FOSH is a nonprofit, all volunteer organization that focuses on ending soring.  My contribution that day was to present the bleak picture of the current soring situation in the Tennessee Walking  Horse industry.  Luckily for me, FOSH has collected and analyzed data for many years that reinforced the urgency of this animal welfare issue.  With my testimony, I shared with the Subcommittee that soring is thriving and even more brutal than ever. 
Despite the industry’s claim that there are only a few bad apples, the Subcommittee was informed that the FOSH-produced Repeat Violators list, single-spaced, is 260+ pages in length—quite a bit more than a few bad apples.   They also learned that the industry’s claim that self-regulation works was totally false—when the USDA oversees inspections of some show rings, violations shoot up dramatically, sometimes 300% greater!

Whenever the industry explains how “clean” they are, I like to point out that 76% of the horses swabbed by the USDA at the 2012 Celebration tested positive for foreign, prohibited substances!  Let me mention that using these substances is cheating.  How many equestrian sporting venues have that many people cheating?

PAST provides three major changes.  First, it eliminates stacks and chains on big lick horses.  Why is that relevant?  93% of all USDA cited violations this year were on big lick horses.  Another major change is an increase in penalties for violations and to make soring a felony.  This will have a major impact on those repeat violators and also the Rider’s Cup contenders where the top 5 share 94 Horse Protection Act violations!  Finally, no more industry self-regulation which has been a disaster from the beginning or else there would not be hundreds of violations every year along with horses suffering from raw and scarred pasterns.

On a lighter note, my best memories are from the many well-wishers who sent emails cheering me on before that big day.  I was stunned.  I was also astounded that day in Washington, D.C. to meet many of those well-wishers for the very first time—they drove and flew to the hearing to support the efforts to fight soring.  Most of them went onto meet their very own legislators that day and ask for them to cosponsor the PAST Act, and I thank them for their passion and efforts to work towards the end of soring. 

I encourage all horse lovers to keep the pressure on their legislators to enact PAST (H.R. 1518, S. 1406) and to support FOSH in its battle against soring by becoming a FOSH member.  For more information on FOSH, please visit our website,

Thank You,
Teresa Bippen

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Why Would Anyone Annoy A Horse?

Howdy Folks,

About a week ago I came across a YouTube video about loading your horse on the trailer. As most Coffee Clutch followers know, Kessy and I have a wonderful "on again off again" (no pun intended) relationship with the whole trailer loading thing. Thinking I might enjoy the video I set aside 15 minutes to watch it and found it very interesting. Kessy and I have somewhat, sort of, mastered loading by me leading her in, but because ours is a step-up trailer and that's hard for me, I wanted her to learn to self load. That's what this video was about. Cool!

It proved to be a very well done video and was so much fun to watch and easy to comprehend I was excited to try it myself. It did work – sort of. The trainer demonstrated how to stand by your horse behind the trailer keeping the horse focused on looking into the trailer, and with the long end of the lead, tap, tap and tap the rump of your horse. "Not hard, just enough to annoy her," the trainer said. He also said, "It may take some time. Just be patient." Kessy and I tried it; it did take some time, about 30 minutes. We just stood there, her looking inside, me tapping. The second and third loads went much better. The next morning we started over again, about 20 minutes for the first loading, then the next a few seconds.

Knowing we were close, but not where we needed to be, I sent the link to the video to my mentor Diane Sept. She too found it very interesting and well done but replied with a simple, but extremely important question, "Why would anyone annoy a horse?" Oh my gosh, she is so correct! Frankly she always is … and after she asked that of me I was instantly embarrassed. She had taught me better than that. Years ago, very early on in our relationship she'd taught me there's a difference between "sending clear signals," and "annoying." Horses understand clear signals – unclear signals quickly become annoying.

I've never really understood training that suggests making something uncomfortable for the horse produced desired cooperation. Such as outside the trailer is uncomfortable, inside is comfortable. Or if she misbehaves under saddle do circles, or not letting her stop in the round pen, "until it's your idea," (I'm no fan of any round-penning, but that's just me). All these are forms of "annoying" your horse, I think. And there are many other ways folks believe are communicating with their horse, but are too often annoying. Why would anyone want to annoy a horse? Great question Diane.

I took Diane's question to heart, and Kessy and I had another go at self loading. Much of it I did the same way, led her to the trailer and focused her on loading, then gave her clear signals to "walk on." Much better, not perfect, but much better. We've still got some work to do, but a big improvement.
Kessy ready to go
But this is a story about more than trailer loading. It's about a much broader thought. Why would anyone annoy a horse?
Kessy's eye
 Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry