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Veterinarian Advisory Committee Releases Results

The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration made the decision to retain the services of a Veterinarian Advisory Committee (VAC) to enhance welfare at the 2014 Celebration, the Tennessee Walking Horse's World Championship horse show. As part of the protocols developed by the VAC, a list of prohibited substances and drugs were published and tested for at the show. The initiative marked the first time in history that significant, professional blood testing has been done at any Walking Horse show.

In addition to the blood testing, horses were subject to digital radiography examinations to detect any improper shoeing. During the show, 131 horses were radiographed and the VAC found no improper shoeing or pressure shoeing as a result of those examinations. In addition, during World Grand Championship classes, 9 horses had their pads and shoes pulled and were tested via physical examination for any improper techniques. Again, no horses were found to have any evidence of any improper shoeing.

During the 15 performances of the show, 407 horses had blood drawn and of those horses 230 were sent to the LGC Science, Inc. laboratory for testing. As a result of that testing, 36 horses were found in violation of the prohibited substances. The test results had been scheduled back prior to now but delays occurred. "The delay in processing of the results came as a result of the difficulties in getting the schedules and travel coordinated between the VAC veterinarians to perform a thorough and complete review. Given the demands of the program and its first year of implementation the VAC wanted to be diligent in the analysis and issuance of violations," said VAC spokesperson Tom Blankenship.

"Obviously, we were hopeful for better results from the testing initiative however with this being the first year and a new testing protocol some of the failures were to be expected. The major culprit of the failure was due to improper dosages of therapeutic drugs administered to horses too close to competition time. In addition, the digital radiographs showed no signs of any improper or pressure shoeing," said VAC Chairman Dr. Jerry Johnson.

"We firmly believe as the level of education and understanding increase, the compliance levels will also significantly increase. This first step is an important step as the Tennessee Walking Horse industry moves to more objective inspection methods rather than the currently used subjective inspection methods."

"We commend the Celebration for taking this important step to ensure the welfare of horses competing at the World Championship show and appreciate their professional approach to the VAC as well as their total independence from our initiatives and working environment. In addition the VAC would like to express their appreciation to the trainers and exhibitors for their cooperation as well as their desire to learn and understand the digital x-rays. Most everyone expressed their appreciation of the action taken by The Celebration and the role of the VAC and we sincerely thank them for their cooperation," concluded Johnson.

All horses that competed at the 2014 Celebration were inspected prior to competition by the SHOW HIO as well as the United States Department of Agriculture per the guidelines of the Horse Protection Act. The winner and reserve in each class were also inspected post-show by the SHOW HIO and/or USDA. After going through both the mandatory pre-show and post-show inspection per the HPA, those horses were also subject to the new objective inspection implemented by the VAC.

"This action taken by The Celebration and the work of the VAC has provided objective, science-based results that will provide a roadmap for future testing and changes to the inspection protocol to eliminate from competition those horses that should not compete for any reason. It is our hope that in the future this type testing will be accepted and implemented across the industry and regulatory authorities to ensure only sound, compliant horses compete," said Tom Blankenship.

The move to independent, objective, scientific inspections has the complete welfare of the horse as its basis and deals in science and fact instead of predetermined agendas and bias that can exist with any subjective determination of compliance. "The number one goal with the support of the Celebration, TWHBEA, trainers and vast majority of the industry should be the utilization of objective testing measures to ensure the welfare of all Tennessee Walking Horses competing during the 2015 show season," concluded Blankenship.

The horses found in violation of the prohibited substances that are not under appeal or further review can be found at the www.celebrationvac.com web site.

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