As the 72nd Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration gets under way in Shelbyville, things seem to be going well for the breed. Controversies of recent years have died down and according to the "Shelbyville Times-Gazette," there are more than 3200 entries this year. A total of 20 classes will be split to accommodate the breed's popularity.
But my well-placed spies warn me that sinister forces have come up with all sorts of harebrained schemes to keep the breed relevant, accessible and in the public eye.
For instance, sure, horse owners must face economic realities; but some idiot is planning to go too far. I think it cheapens the competition when you rename the classic "Big Lick" motion as the "Value Lick." ("You want stamina and easy temper with that?")
Political correctness is the answer, others say. Call me intolerant if you wish, but I hope someone can stop the movement to change the name Tennessee Walking Horse to the trendier Tennessee Bowing Toward Mecca Horse.
I'm proud that Roy Rogers' horse Trigger, Jr. was a Tennessee Walker, and that Tennessee Walkers were among the horses portraying The Lone Ranger's steed Silver. But I resist the move to associate the breed too much with Hollywood. We don't need to emphasize the fact that Tennessee Walker hindquarters have recently been used to portray Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen off-camera.
Likewise, I don't want anyone copying TV and having umpteen spin-offs of Tennessee Walking Horses. The Hawaii Walking Horse would be a disaster because it's darned hard to "hang 10" when you have only hooves. The Arizona Walking Horse would neigh, "I don't have to show you my papers. You show me YOUR papers!"
I object to those who want to water down the judging standards. ("Western pleasure entries should exhibit a true, four-beat walking gait with cadenced head nod -- unless that's not the way you roll.") I certainly cringe at the thought of the old "three second rule" for food being adapted to a horse who throws his rider. ("He's up. Still good.")
Similarly, I respect the horses in the aged stallion class, but the AARP goes too far when it asks that they be allowed to use Hoverounds.
Fun is fun, but I don't want "The Voice," the official publication of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association changed to "The Voice After Inhaling A Helium Balloon."
Some think Tennessee Walkers need the publicity of a big political squabble. The breed was not developed until a century after the nation was formed, but I'm sure someone is trying to figure out what the Founding Fathers forgot to put in the Constitution about chains and pads. ("As Patrick Henry famously said, 'Give me action devices or give me death!'")
What's that? You think my well- placed spies are just yanking my chain? There's not really "Tennessee Walking Horses in bars" legislation before the General Assembly? That's a relief. I was just thinking that things would get really weird if the proponents of the legislation hit a few of those bars and came up with the "concealed carry permit" for transporting Tennessee Walkers. ("Ish a great idea! Somebuddy see if Mel Gibson knows the guys who did the special effects for 'Honey, I Shrunk The Kids.'")
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