The Dirty, Low-Rent Ethics of the “Big Lickers”



Written by: Heather Clemenceau

Passing a bill in the United States Congress is not exactly a walk in the park. The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act was introduced in response to a 2010 Report of the Inspector General at the United States Department of Agriculture. In that report, the Inspector General concluded that the current program for inspecting Tennessee Walking Horses (TWH) for soring abuse is not adequate because the inspectors are hired from participants in the shows and therefore have a conflict of interest.

The PAST Act seeks to ban any artificial devices aimed at changing a horse’s natural gait, including caustic chemicals, stacked shoes, and weights and chains, and is apparently stalled, despite widespread support. We can lay the blame for this directly at the feet of the scurrilous crowd trying to halt this national effort to eradicate the abuse of TWH horses. This abuse has been illegal under federal law for more than 40 years. It’s also illegal under the state laws of Kentucky and Tennessee to intentionally injure the hooves and legs of horses to cause them to exaggerate their gait during “Big Lick” horse shows, all for the purpose of winning ribbons. In the meantime, horses are still being subjected to stacked shoes, caustic chemicals, and chains while we wait for Congress.

Part of the toe still remains attached to the shoe

Part of the toe still remains attached to the shoe

Wayne Pacelle, (CEO) of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) recently compared horse sorers to cockfighters:

“ These people, like the cockfighters, are scofflaws. They are actively working in the political domain – in this case, lobbying against pending federal legislation, H.R. 1518 and S. 1406, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act — to protect their criminal enterprise.”

Passing the Bill, which would eliminate the corrupt self-policing system while strengthening penalties for violators, is the only way to save the TWH breed.  Americans need to demand that Congress pass this Bill, with its overwhelming support, and not let a minority of self-interested animal abusers block a vote.

For all the efforts of horse advocates,  there is no shortage of  crazily-unethical supporters of continued abuse….

Applause for:

  • Ed Whitfield, ( R-KY) is the lead sponsor of the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act, which would strengthen federal protections for TWH in order to make them step higher in competitions. Whitfield’s legislation would require that inspections of Tennessee Walking Horses for signs of soring be performed by USDA certified inspectors. Whitfield recently released a redacted document Tuesday showing how a complaint filed against him with the House Ethics Committee appeared to involve major players in the TWH industry, despite denials from some of them. Whitfield denied that his wife had lobbied him on the issue, saying his interest in curtailing soring predated her involvement with the Humane Society of the United States, Connie Whitfield is a “policy adviser” with the group.
  • Congressmen Steve Cohen (D-TN), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Joe Pitts (R-PA) and Jim Moran (D-VA) who are co-sponsors of the Bill.
  • Marty Irby, a reformed “Big Licker” who is now a evangelic “Flatter.” Marty was also 2 time president of the TWHBEA (2010 – 2012) and is presently the International Walking Horse Association Legislative Counsel advocating for passing of the PAST Act. His decision to become an anti-soring advocate cost him his marriage and his contracting business, His father, William Irby, a Tennessee Walking Horse trainer, no longer speaks to him. A former world champion TWH competitor, Irby said he finally grew disgusted with pretending that soring wasn’t an integral part of creating the “Big Lick.” Irby says the ongoing practice of soring is perpetuated by a system of “corrupt animal welfare inspections, corrupt judging, corrupt training methods, corrupt business practices … corrupt horse shows, and corrupt titles.”
  • Bill Harlin, a man The Tennessean describes as “synonymous with Tennessee Walking Horses,” and the owner of Harlinsdale Farm where some of the most famous grand champions in the breed originated. He acknowledges that

    Toe and hoof wall still attached. What did this horse’s hoof look like after this shoe was pulled off?

    self-regulation will never work.

  • Clay Harlin, son of Bill Harlin, who also acknowledges that the soring cult of the “Big Lick” are unwilling to stop the abuse of show horses. He, too, called on Congress to pass the bill.
  • Veterinarian John C. Haffner, who recently related that his increasing exposure to ever more blatant abuse of horses compelled him to sell his veterinary practice. After years of witnessing trainers’ efforts to make sure their horses were in enough pain to perform the “Big Lick” but not so much that they’d fail inspections, he found the corruption to be unendurable.
  • American Veterinary Medical Association Dr. Whitney Miller, assistant director for the AVMA, scoffed at Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s (R-TN-7) Bill, H.R. 4098 saying, “In fact (it) will do nothing to protect gaited horses and stop the egregious practice of soring. This legislation is nothing more than an attempt to maintain the status quo in an industry riddled with abuse and will ensure that the broken system of seeing horses sored at an alarming rate does not have to answer for its crimes.”
  • American Association of Equine Practitioners
  • National Sheriffs Association
  • Association of Prosecuting Attorneys
  • The American Horse Council, along with The American Quarter Horse Association, the American Paint Horse Association, the American Morgan Horse Association, the Pinto Horse Association of America, the Arabian Horse Association, the American Saddlebred Horse Association, the United Professional Horsemen’s Association, the Appaloosa Horse Club, Maryland Horse Council, and other groups.
  • The more than 300 co-sponsors of the PAST Act – a majority of the Congress (45 Senators and 264 House members at the time of writing)
  • The Veterinary Medical Associations from 50 states that have helped create vast support for this Bill

soring5And a steaming pile of horse shit goes to:

  • The Performance Show Horse Association that brought the complaint against Whitfield. The printed names of the following 13 individuals appear on the bottom of the document (these individuals have a cumulative total of 53 violations of the Horse Protection Act (HPA), and a number of those have occurred this year following the filing of the complaint) The  PSHA and its lobbyist Jeff Speaks developed the strategy of filing an ethics complaint as an effort to stop passage of H.R. 1518,  because ethics complaints take time to respond to:
  • Jim Cortner
  • Jamie Hankins
  • Mike Inman (CEO of The Celebration)
  • Doyle Meadows (Former CEO of The Celebration)
  • Duke Thorson
  • Terry Dotson (Former Chairman of the Performance Show Horse Association)
  • Gayle Holcomb
  • Bruce MacDonald
  • Mickey McCormick (President of the Walking Horse Trainers Association)
  • James Linton Griffith
  • Jeffrey Howard (Editor of the Walking Horse Report)
  • Lee Wall McGartland
  • and Buddy Stasney
  • Chip Weddington, a TWH trainer who threatened Marty Irby less than 24 hours after Irby testified on Capitol Hill about the horrifying abuse of championship Tennessee Walking Horses. Irby received threatening message which came from the Facebook account of Weddington, who wrote, “I don’t associate myself with bitch made mother fuckers who sing like little fucking birds to the fucking [Humane Society of the United States] and everybody else … I hope your gay ass gets what’s coming to you soon!!!” If Irby ever approached him, Weddington said he would “knock ur ass smooth out!!!” According to USDA animal welfare reports, in 2011 Weddington was suspended from Walking Horse shows for a year after inspectors cited him for violating the Horse Protection Act.
  • The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association who canned Marty Irby and selected soring proponent Stephen B. Smith to replace him. The group also sent a letter to Congress detailing its opposition to the PAST TWH_with_StacksAct. Signed by current president Rob Cornelius, the letter states that due to “budgetary costs and resulting economic damage, the PAST Act is simply not something our country needs at this time.”
  • Stephen Smith, the newly minted TWHBEA President, is an avid “Big Licker” enthusiast and a powerful Republican political donor. According to forms listing violators of the Horse Protection Act, Smith was cited numerous times for soring violations at a TWH show in the late 1980’s. Smith and his family are major donors to GOP lawmakers in Tennessee, including Rep. Blackburn, the chief opponent of the PAST Act. Since 1989, Smith, his wife Denise, and their son Stephen B. Smith, Jr., have donated more than $270,000 to Republican political campaigns, most of them in Tennessee.
  • The discreditable crowd  who are desperately trying to halt a national effort to eradicate horse abuse of TWH horses with their own Bill.   Not shockingly, 7 of the 10 are from Tennessee, the epi-center of this sadistic method of “training.” Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-7) recently introduced an alternative bill, HR 4098, that would greatly reduce the measures being sought by Whitfield’s PAST Act. Blackburn’s Bill would not only allow the grotesque stacks but would also virtually eliminate inspection efforts called for in the PAST Act that are necessary to stop this torture.
  • The rest of the ethically challenged co-sponsors of Blackburn’s Bill are:
  • Diane Black (R-TN-6)
  • Scott DesJarlais (R-TN-4)
  • John “Jimmy” Duncan (R-TN-2)
  • Stephen Fincher (R-TN-8)
  • Charles “Chuck” Fleischmann (R-TN-3)
  • David “Phil” Roe (R-TN-1)
  • The three others who have endorsed Blackburn’s bill are Garland “Andy” Barr (R-KY-6)
  • Nick Rahall (D-WV-3)
  • and Harold “Hal” Rogers (R-KY-5)
  • Virgina TWHBEA Director Pam McKinney who was escorted from the Capitol Hill’s Walk on Washington by U.S. Capitol Police for improper conduct, which included the utterance of F-bombs and flipping the middle-finger salute.
  • The misguided attempt by random pro-slaughters, urban carriage people, and puppymillers, who had to get on the “ethics complaint bandwagon” against Whitfield with their own petition that has garnered only 244 signatures.
  • And finally, Speaker of the House, John Boehner, currently refuses  to bring the PAST Act to the floor for a vote.  His decision is inconsistent with leadership’s stated preference for adhering to regular order.  Furthermore, it is too late in the year to resort to a discharge petition according to House rules.
  • The "Wheelon Bucket Stance"

    The “Wheelon Bucket Stance”


Please contact your U.S. Senator and U.S. Representative today and urge them to co-sponsor the PAST Act, H.R. 1518/S.1406, and do all they can to get it enacted quickly.

About heatherclemenceau

Hopefully as I've grown older I've also grown wiser, but one thing I've definitely become cognizant of is the difference between making a living and making a life. Frequently outraged by some of life's cruelties, and respect diversity. But.....I don't suffer fools gladly, and occasionally, this does get me into some trouble! I have the distinction of being the world's worst golfer - no wait, I do believe that there is a gypsy in Moldavia who is a worse golfer than I. Nor am I much of a dancer - you won't see a booty-shakin' flygirl routine from me! I'm also not the kind of cook who can whip up a five-course meal on a radiator either! And I've never figured out how to get an orchid to bloom a second time. I love to discuss literature, science, philosophy, and sci-fi , or even why Seinfeld is funny on so many levels. Words move me. I'm very soft-hearted about most things, especially animals, but I have a stoicism about me that is sometimes interpreted incorrectly. I do have a definite edge and an often "retro-adolescent" sense of humour at times. I'm a big advocate of distributed computing projects to advance science. Check out if you want to find out more. I'm an eclectic plant-based eater, and as such, it's a personal practice of mine to seduce innocent meat-eaters into cruising the (salad) bars at every opportunity. You would be powerless to resist. I was recently surprised to find that a computer algorithm concluded that I write like Dan Brown, which is funny because I didn't think Dan Brown could actually write. Check out your own style - Oh, and I love impractical shoes and funky hats.

13 responses »

  1. Thank you for this blog entry.

    More about the longtime abuses from Roy Exum:

    Please write Congress through and make your voice heard regarding support for The PAST Act. Everything you do matters.

    As to the end of the horse slaughter scam, we have very little time. Please add your request for support of The SAFE Act to your email or call to your Congress member. Tell friends who will act.

    Every 5 minutes, a healthy and useful equine dies for no reason but cash for petty criminals and their buddies in Congress. We must act now.

    Call, email, write a letter, tell contacts, pray. Anything will help.

  2. BTW, none of these abusers can ride, train or function intelligently around equines. It is obvious that these petty criminals lack education, basic ability, intelligence or have any reason to be around the famous TN Walker. TN has reason to be proud of this breed. These excuses for human beings do not speak for TN or for anyone but themselves. Torture take no ability and is the function of the lowest form of human flesh in existence. It takes no brains to be a criminal. “Stewarding” is the process of beating a horse into terror and these criminals intentionally traumatize horses. Slaughter is the fate of many TN Walkers and for no reason. Animal abuse is directly linked to the same violence directed at humans, especially children. “Stewarding” tells us what we need to know about the low life who somehow lingers around the TN Walker. These people need to do time for their violent behavior and need to be monitored to be kept away from animals after time is served. There is a lack of law in this situation as is true any time the most vulnerable and voiceless are tortured and killed for money. Pass the PAST Act and The SAFE Act

  3. Excellent blog on our situation regarding our fight- which has been going on for more than 50 years– to Prevent All Soring Tactics through FEDERAL protect our beloved Walkers from the cruel and crooked BIG LICK faction. As a supporter of the natural, sound, flat shod Walking Horse, I just cannot express how disappointed I am in Congress over it failure to do the right thing and pass a law to protect these horses.

  4. Testimony from a fellow commenter on another blog “Tuesday’s Horse and from a while ago:

    Peggy Kuhn commented on “Walking Horse Trainers Association blacklist local diner” in response to M P Clark’s comment: “This is just more evidence that the pro-torture “trainers” and breeders are getting desperate for money. When this story gets spread around, the bad guys will lose even more financial support. Their “product” is tortured horses no one wants. How many attendees are there at these so-called shows? Aren’t numbers declining even now?…”

    From Peggy Kuhn:

    To:MP Clark….”I am a resident of Tennessee and use to show TN.Walking Horses never allowing the horrible acts of cruelty to be done to my horse of course never winning the first ribbon because flat-shod horses don’t have the “Big Lick” nor do the Horses that show…It is not natural for a horse to walk that way and if anyone tells people that it is a flat lie…….Nancy Amons is friend of mine and one of the very best reporting in this area she did a story for me when in my wording Three Devils Farm had their 1st accident…..My two TN. Walking Horses came from an auction in Mayfield KY. before going to kill buyers……She is one of the very best in reporting she has also helped me with the updates on the Horse slaughter issues and Rep. Curtis Johnson is also against this horrific act…..Rep. Andy Holt along with our State Vet. are worthless in helping to do the right thing they are both idiots….There are numerous people in Tennessee that are against Horse Slaughter and DO NOT approve of the way the show horses are treated ………I myself would go that extra mile to protect and do whatever I can sending letters, contacting anyone that will listen…..The whole Jackie McConnell abusing horses he has been at that for years as so many Walking Horse trainers are. Not only here in Tennessee but also Kentucky I was ask to go under cover to expose people like David Landrum and several others and my husband at the time said no way I would end up dead……The Dorian Ayache incidents outraged so many people,and numerous Tennesseans have spoken out about that…….We all know that we don’t want to be known for being a state that doesn’t take a stand on what is right! There are many of us that love our four-legged companions and will “FIGHT” to protect them and seek the maximum penalties for those who abuse or mistreat any innocent creature that can’t speak for it’s self……We are outraged at what is taking place!”

    • It is frightening to learn what lengths these subhumans will go to to protect their “industry” of pain. It’s sad to realize your husband was right in stopping you from going undercover.

  5. Pingback: The Dirty, Low-Rent Ethics of the “Big Lickers” | Comedyflyer's Blog

  6. We have to act and persist to see this hell change.

    See more information from Speak Up for Horses Rescue newsletter:

    Call, email or write your congress person about this issue now. Use for easy access to agencies and elected officials. Tell those who will act. We have no time.

  7. We must act now.

    We have no time to wait. Hammer your Congress person and any agencies from for passage of The PAST Act (and The SAFE Act) .

    For more information, see the 2012 newsletter from Speak Up for Horses Rescue (KY)

    We can change this if we act and persist.

    Act and tell everyone who will act. We must act on Congress and directly and persist. If we ever give up, we will never win.

  8. I got started with TWH in 1975 in northern IN. I got into showing eventually and met Mr. Harlin and his son, Clay when I bought my pleasure show horse, Praise Hallelujah from them. it is a crime what has happened to all the good, honest men who stood up against soring in the 90s and of course, later. I wanted to tell the story of the walking horse, soring and good old horse stories, so I wrote a memoir: “The Horse That Wouldn’t Trot” it was published in 09 and a lot has happened since then, for which I am grateful, including all this work on the PAST ACT. We will not give up! Good must prevail!

  9. Ms Clemenceau: Please do not “throw around” my name, especially when you have no clue about which you speak! It is apparent from your article that YOU ARE ANOTHER OF THE GULLIBLE IDIOTS FALLING FOR THE HSUS PROPAGANDA & LIES! My son does not speak to me & has purposefully withheld his cell # from me! Where were you 44 years ago when the HPA was passed? How many performance horse shows have you personally attended & observed today’s inspection process for you to become an expert? Send me your email address & maybe I can send you some FACTUAL information to help better educate you on the matter! This would include FACTS disclosing my son Marty’s personal vendetta against the TN Walking Horse Celebration & the Chairman of it’s Board. Please try to learn more about the subject so you won’t be broadcasting incorrect information!

  10. Pingback: Called-Out Comment: Is William Ty Irby Trolling Me? | heatherclemenceau

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