VOLUME 6 - 2013-2014 - ISSUE 2

When Cheaters Prosper: A Look at Abusive Horse Industry Practices on the Horse Show Circuit

Kjirsten Sneed

6 Ky. J. Equine, Agric. & Nat. Resources L. 253 (2014).

In late summer, Shelbyville, Tennessee plays host to the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration (“Celebration”). A staple on the Tennessee Walking Horse show circuit, the Celebration has been held annually without interruption since its 1939 debut, when Henry Davis first conceived it to showcase his county’s most valuable asset, the Tennessee Walking Horse. Increasing in popularity over the decades and growing to over 2,000 horses in recent years, the Celebration is currently conducted on its own 100-plus-acre equestrian complex. The World Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horse’s emergence on the eve of Labor Day commences the eleven-day festival, during which $650,000 in prizes and awards is given away.

In October, a similar event is held in Columbus, Ohio: the All-American Quarter Horse Congress. As dawn breaks over the barns, there is a flourish of activity under the quiet rooftops as horses are primped and preened for the upcoming competitions. These horses, with their manes braided and coats polished until they shine, are laden with silver –sparkling on the saddles, bridles, and even the riders–and are ready to impress judges and spectators alike. Out in the show ring, one beautiful horse after another goes by, with seemingly perfect quiet strides and calm demeanors. Yet, despite this practiced and refined display, these horse shows shield far more sinister activities lurking behind the scenes.