Friday, February 28, 2014

"Feature Friday – Why Barefoot Peruvians-Guest Blogger, Jan Pippins"

Howdy Folks, 

We have a guest blogger today; Jan Pippins. She is a horsewoman, certified equine cruelty investigator and author. Her most recent book is “Henry Darrow: Lightning in the Bottle” the award-winning biography of actor Henry Darrow. She is currently working on a book about her experiences with horses and horse people ... I invited her to write a little about herself and her transition from the Tennessee Walking Horse and Big Lick world to the world of Barefoot Peruvians.


Jan Pippins
Thank you Dutch Henry, and Hello Coffee Clutch friends,

I loved horses as a little child. Being near them was heaven. Riding was beyond heaven. My first horse was a little gaited gelding named Pepper. He was a kindly, nondescript bay, the type of horse a kid could ride bareback with only halter and lead rope. My second horse, Dandy, was a fiery green-broke two-year-old Tennessee Walker. Back then, we rode two year olds because we didn’t know big didn’t equal grown. A green-broke two year old probably wasn’t the best choice for a nine year old kid, but my parents weren’t horse people. I loved Dandy fiercely.

Unfortunately for him, I became an unhappy teenager with the horse-show bug. Riding was about the only thing I did well. Soon, it wasn’t enough to ride Dandy on country roads and through the woods of south Mississippi. I wanted to win blue ribbons. So that good horse became a show horse for me. He was stalled because he had to wear built-up shoes. Because built up shoes (“packages”) were what Tennessee Walkers showed in. No more free time in the pasture with his buddies. This was serious business. His bit had eight-inch shanks, because that’s the kind of bit a Tennessee Walker showed in.

In those days before the Horse Protection Act (HPA), Tennessee Walkers were commonly sored for the show-ring. That is, caustic chemicals like mustard oil were applied to their front pasterns. Next came heavy chains or boots to slam against the chemical burns. The pain made horses jerk their front legs high. Their back legs did a crawling motion as the horse tried its best to avoid inevitable agony. Before the HPA, it wasn’t unusual to see blood and pus streaming from the legs of blue-ribbon winners.

I did not sore my horses. I drew the line there. But, like Dandy, later, better-bred Tennessee Walkers wore built up shoes and chains. They wore bits that make me cringe today. The tendons of their tails were cut so their tails could be braced up high for that show-ring look. They spent their days stalled wearing tail sets, harnesses to keep their tails limber for bracing.

Eventually, the cruelty at Tennessee Walking Horse shows and barns became too much. The Horse Protection Act had passed years before and soring had just gone underground. I didn’t like seeing horses in pain. I didn’t like making my horses live a life that was so unnatural for them. At 25, I sold my last horse, an honest fellow who spent too many years locked in stalls or performing in the ring. I hope had many good retirement years in sunny pastures and nice rides on pleasant trails.

When, after nearly twenty unhappy horseless years, I was able to own a horse again, I looked at Tennessee Walkers first. I couldn’t find a flat-shod one in our part of the country with good gait. Breeding for the “Big Lick” had taken its toll on the natural gait of the TWH. To move well in built-up shoes, a horse had to be naturally pacey. That’s what I found – TWHs so pacey they’d break your teeth.

I tried a couple of new-to-me breeds. Peruvian Paso Horses charmed me. Not only were they breathtakingly beautiful, they were natural. No built-up shoes, tail braces, soring, chains or artificial anything. In fact, shoes were prohibited in the ring. The theory being (rightly), that shoes can be used to alter gait. If the gait is “enhanced”, the most “enhanced” horses could begin to win. People breed to the winners and soon enough, the prized natural gait isn’t there anymore. Rather than start on that slippery slope, the Peruvian Paso Horse associations banned shoes all together. What a refreshing and stark contrast to Big Lick TWH shows! To top it off, Peruvian Pasos had the healthiest hooves I’d ever seen. Since even top show winners had 24/7 turnout, they had ample time to just be horses and were willing, eager and beautiful workers on trail and in the ring.

I became a convert to barefoot and 24/7 turnout. I don’t believe every horse does better barefoot, but many do. Even our Thoroughbred – people who warned us that his hooves would practically rot off if not shod changed their tune to, “Wow, I’ve never seen such beautiful feet on a Thoroughbred!” 

Today, our horses are trail horses. They are all somebody’s cast-offs, including a mentally damaged former “Big Lick” Tennessee Walker. Every horse and many of the horse people I’ve known have taught me a great deal. Unfortunately, one thing they’ve taught me is that change comes slowly when there’s money and prestige involved – over forty years have passed since the Horse Protection Act became law and yet gaited horses, especially Tennessee Walkers, are still sored. New legislation is pending to criminalize ALL soring tactics used in the Big Lick show world. The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) It’s supported by the AVMA, other prestigious groups and right-thinking horse people. It does NOT ban shoes ... It DOES ban a number of insidious methods used to enhance soring and make horses suffer (LEARN ABOUT THE PAST ACT HERE) and how you can help support it.
Jan's beloved Impresso
 I support the PAST Act in the memory of Dixie Dandy, Magic’s Black Pepper, Pride of Gunsmoke, Shadow’s Salute and “Big Lick” horses everywhere who have endured countless tortures to put money in their owners and trainers pockets and ribbons on the wall.

~ Jan Pippins

Thank you Jan for sharing painful lessons learned – and all you do to help horses and their people.

 – Friends you can join Jan on Facebook HERE and have a look at her book HERE

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry


  1. BRAVO! Thank you, Jan, for sharing your stories with us.

  2. I would love to leave my horses barefoot but not having a horse trailer and bring close to trails I have to do allot of road riding.