Bribery alleged at Celebration, which ends Saturday

Friday, September 4, 2009

SHELBYVILLE - With allegations of bribery and dissatisfied exhibitors this week, the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration is stepping high toward crowning another World Grand Champion on Saturday.

This week, a walking horse industry regulating group suspended exhibitor Clay Mills of Mount Airy, N.C. The group recommends a five-year suspension and a $25,000 fine after its investigation. Talk of corruption on walking horse Internet message boards and at picnic tables were confirmed Tuesday afternoon.

"We are investigating the situation," said Doyle Meadows, CEO of the Celebration and head of SHOW, Sound Horses Honest judging Objective inspections Winning fairly.

Mills is a director of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association, headquartered in Lewisburg. Meadows declined to name the industry horse inspector involved, how the alleged bribe was attempted or why.

Later, the Walking Horse National Celebration said, "A preliminary investigation was conducted and the allegation was found to have merit. Because the gravity of the circumstances (the horse industry organization) found it appropriate to suspend ... Mills ... immediately and indefinitely..."

Still, the horse show crowd was talking more about inspections than Mills, according to reports from the Celebration grounds.

A recurring complaint among horse enthusiasts blames federal horse inspectors when their conclusions conflict with those of inspectors paid by industry groups.

For every horse emerging from the arena with a blue ribbon early Tuesday night, at least two were denied the chance to compete, close observers report.

A recurring issue is application of the federal scar rule - whether a horse is sensitive to an inspector's specific touch above the hoof.

"I have absolutely no respect for our federal government, the way they are selling us out," said Robert Wiley. His wife's horse was approved for showing after one inspection but denied after another.

From the Shelbyville Times-Gazette.