One of the largest walking horse shows in Kentucky virtually ground to a halt last week when U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors arrived, escorted by Kentucky State Police.
”They're here to inspect horses and the folks that were here to show decided not to show. That's their prerogative,“ said Earl Rogers Jr., manager of the Owingsville Lions Club Horse Show and the president of the Kentucky Walking Horse Association.
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Rogers said that USDA inspectors arrived Thursday for the last two days of the four-day show, in which 500 to 550 horses are typically shown. After the inspectors arrived, only 40 were shown. Hundreds of entrants turned their horse vans around and left.
Rogers said one person was cited. He said competitors left because they did not want to risk not being able to compete in the national contest next month in Tennessee.
USDA officials could not be reached for comment on Monday.
Keith Dane, director of equine protection for the Humane Society of the United States, said that it has not been uncommon this year for competitors to leave rather than face prosecution.
Dane said new technology is allowing federal veterinarians to detect foreign substances used as ”soring,“ numbing or masking agents on the skin. Soring is deliberately injuring a horse's legs to encourage it to pick its feet up higher and improve its chances in show competition.
Walking horses are a different breed from saddlebreds; the Lexington Junior League Horse Show, which started Monday, is the world's largest outdoor saddlebred competition.