The All American Walking Horse Alliance (AAWHA) is petitioning MTSU’s association with “big-lick” walking horses and asking President McPhee and other involved faculty to “sever ties” with this “cruelty.” Despite AAWHA’s allegations, MTSU Vice President of Marketing and Communication, Andrew Oppmann, says the event was not “organized or sanctioned by the school.”
AAWHA spokesman Clant Seay purchased a horse from an auction in July. The horse, Glimmer, was badly scarred on both feet from “soring” during his days as a big-lick show horse. Soring is a training method in which a horse is either burnt with chemicals on each of its front feet or pulled with chains to make it kick up its front legs in what is known as the “big-lick.” If a horse either has one active sore or burn, or two feet scarred from prior soring, it is disqualified from the competition and its trainer/owner can face citations and other disciplinary action because of regulations set in the Horse Protection Act of 1970.
In 2013, Glimmer was registered to walk at the MTSU Walking for Education Horse Show held on campus. Glimmer had been sored and not allowed to participate at the show. While Glimmer was not allowed to participate on MTSU grounds, Seay believes that by hosting these events MTSU is supporting the sport and therefore perpetuating the cruelty involved.
“We asked the outside group who staged the event to remove any reference to the university in their materials. The Tennessee Livestock Center and the Tennessee Miller Coliseum are among several facilities at MTSU that are available for rental by outside groups or organizations. Events staged by renters of these facilities are not university events and any activities held within those spaces are the sole responsibility of the outside groups or organizations,” Opmann wrote. “However, it is the responsibility of outside groups and organizations to ensure that any events staged in leased facilities comply with state and federal laws, including those concerning the health and well-being of any animals exhibited or housed at MTSU facilities. MTSU does not condone the illegal or unethical treatment of any animal. As home to the state’s largest Equine Science program, the university is a strong supporter of our state’s horse industry. We also recognize that the overwhelming majority of people associated with the industry maintain the highest standards of ethical care for their animals.”
Seay still pleads for people to sign the petition, which has recieved 8,984 supporters since its launch date of Aug. 19.Among the supporters are several who claim to be MTSU alumni “sickened” by the university’s involvement in the big-lick cruelty. There were several remarks on the petition that indicated they were alumni, but Sidelines could not independently verify the origin of the remarks.
Seay and the AAWHA will host a protest at the Calsonic Arena in Shelbyville on Thursday. Anyone who shows up to the event to protest is promised a free T-shirt.