What’s wrong with that horse?

It’s a question most people who are unfamiliar with the Tennesse Walking Horse show circuit usually ask when they see a padded or “Big Lick” horse move for the first time.

The horse in the following video makes us like yesterday’s sellers a little better.  At least their youngster wasn’t started under saddle yet!  This one’s apparently a late yearling, but I guess “coming 2” sounds better – because by 2 all horses are ready to cart around a grown man, right?

If you’re wondering why she’s being encouraged to move like an epileptic German Shepard, it’s because that’s what wins in the show ring.  Don’t believe us?  Here’s the victory lap of the 2010 TWHNC World Grand Champion…

Funny how Tennessee Walkers were originally bred to be smooth strided horses who could quickly cover long distances with minimal effort.  What ever happened to the good ol’ days when horse shows were about how well suited a horse was for a specific purpose?  Now people go to incredible lengths to screw up that naturally smooth gait.

But how does one screw up a horses natural gait train a “Big Lick” gait?  We’re glad you asked – but you may not be after reading what we found out.

There are three main (for lack of a better word) “techniques”:

1.  “Pads” (aka “stacks” or “packages”): Are added onto the horseshoe and held on by a metal band that runs across the hoof wall.  These pads can be up to 4″ thick in the heel and 2″ in the toe.  Imagine being forced to wear stilettos, but never, ever being able to take them off!

2. “Action Devices” AKA Chains:  so-called trainers are permitted (on and off  show grounds) to put chains weighing 2, 4 or 6 ounces on the horses front pasterns to encourage the “Big Lick” walk.  This practice is intended to be used with lubricant to allow the chains to slide easily along the horses pasterns.  I’m sure if you ask an inmate if his handcuffs would be more comfortable with lubricant he’d say yes, but would still vastly prefer not have them on at all!

3.  Soring:  Sounds pleasant, doesn’t it? Using this “technique”, caustic substances are rubbed onto horses pasterns, the bulbs of their heels or coronary bands resulting in burning and/or blistering of the exposed areas.  This is often used in place of the lubricant to make the “action devices” that much more effective.  This causes the horse to accentuate their gaits because THEY ARE IN SO MUCH PAIN!

Another abusive and fiery-death-deserving soring practice includes pressure shoeing.  Wherein the hoof is trimmed down so much that the sole is in direct contact with the shoe or pad.  Some horses are ridden for extended periods on hard surfaces so as to purposefully induce road founder (the horse is in pain and doesn’t want to put its hoof down, thus it elongates it’s stride).  Some “trainers” will go so far as to purposefully introduce foreign objects under the pads (ex. nails or screws) with the knowledge of, and intention to, cause intense pressure.

We’re not saying every TWH trainer uses all of these techniques, but when more than 400 soring violations are recorded at one show, there’s clearly a problem!

By the way, if you’re curious as to what a real running walk should look like:


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Posted on September 22, 2011, in Bad Horse Ads, Bad Riders, Conformation and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. Looks like a comfortable gait in the last video, but the head bobbing would drive me crazy!

    this is exactly the reason why I no longer show in the Morgan breed circuit. When they throw the breed standards out the window and most Morgans now look like Saddlebreds (at least the ones in the ring) and the hunt seat pleasure horses are expected to have as much knee to their trot as a park horse did back when I showed Morgans, it’s just dumb! It seems that breed shows and the actual useability of the horse are at complete odds. It’s no wonder people treat them like objects.Would you want to ride a heavy action Morgan, a big lick TWH or a quarter horse that trots slower than most people walk, out for a pleasure ride/trail ride?

  2. The music on that first video is ‘Isn’t she lovely?’ Nope, not lovely. Poor baby. She looks like a neurotic chihuahua scrambling to get across hot pavement before its owner hauls on the leash.

    The flat-shod horse looks like a much nicer ride! I know the head nod is correct and doesn’t bother the horse, but it makes me dizzy just watching it. I’d probably change my mind in a big hurry if I had a back or hip injury, though – I hear they’re lovely to ride.

    • hehe “neurotic chihuahua” – too funny! We agree, the music is just ludicrous!

      I (DE) have a back injury and would LOVE to try a TWH – I’ve heard they’re an excellent way for us partial cripples to keep riding as well 😉

  3. I can just feel the hocks on those big lick horses blowing out with every stride. :c

  4. “Isn’t She Lovely” video looks like a baby horse trying to climb out of chest-high mud with a spur wearing gargoyle attached to her back…. the only excuse for riding with that much hunch in your back is if you have an arrow stuck in your gut and you’re trying to make it to the doctor! Now that I think about it, riding a horse that young and ridiculously should come with an arrow in the stomach!
    The “Champion” looks like a stereotype… like animators drew it to poke fun at something! The worst part is that the natural gait is fancy on many of those horses anyway… just let them do their thing!!

  5. GAWD! I could not even finish watching the first 2 videos! Now I’ve read about all those big lick “training” aka torture techniques but to actually see them in action is pretty scary. I mean, how much pain does a horse have to be in to be moving like that?!
    Of course, after being chained sored (is that a word?) and having nails stuck in your feet I would imagine A LOT! I imagine it would be like when I had to walk barefoot on sharp rocks, except there is never any sand in sight to rest my feet on!

    And dang, that head bobbing in the last video is crazy, but so nice to see a horse that doesn’t looked crippled 🙂

  6. I just don’t get why anyone would want their horse to move in such a crippled looking fashion. We have a few TWH at our barn and one of them was a former “big-lick”. He has the life of luxury now, gaiting out the trails however he pleases no more shows for him, hence why he is ring sour, but he still has a knack for throwing his front knees up pretty high. He still bears the scars on his pasterns. And I REALLY don’t understand why they allow those freaking frankenstein pads to be worn while showing. Do they allow other “aids” to be used when showing, like tie-downs, blinders, or whatever other bandaids people use to “train” their horses? I don’t show, unless it’s a fun show and all you get is bragging rights to your freinds back at the barn.

  7. You are so correct. Love the strike through line.

  8. Isn’t it ashame that horses at the top of the breed are treated so poorly while their backyard counterparts are treated like kings and queens in comparison?

  9. …and I think some “trainers” break their horses’ tails, too, so they have that specific “look”. Notice the horse’s tail in the second video….my parents used to take us to all breed shows (until we became aware of some of these “training” techniques) and it is like a whole other world…..poor horses….

  10. Hideous! What price the glittering prizes? What happened to compassion and equine welfare? Absolutely shocked.

  11. I worked with some lovely Walkers and gaited Saddlebreds. We did pad up our horses BUT it was a pad that went between the shoe and the foot. Normally 1/2 to 1″ thick made of high density rubber of leather. It was absorb the shock of the foot striking the ground when they gaited. No one road a horse before they were physically ready, normally around 3, but some needed a bit longer as they were bigger and had the knees close up later. The horses were only padded up for the show season, end of April – Oct. They were let down for the winter and spring training was done either barefoot or flatshod. We doted on these horses. To purposely hurt one is unthinkable, we worked our butts off to keep them 100% so they gave their ALL in the ring. There are only a small % of truely abusive AssHats who pull the kind of crap you show. The gaited community, the ones who are the power players anyway, know they are poison and need to be banned from all Horse related associations. They are loathed by their own as ignorant Twats who resort to abusive illegal shit because they don’t know how to pick out the horses who are naturally gifted and then train and win using proper technique. They are being pushed OUT of the gaited community so they have NO venue to show their poor abused horses.

  12. Ugh, nasty! I had heard about the hot mustard, and chains, but that shoeing is news to me. Disgusting.
    Are these same practices used to modify Saddlebred horses’ gaits, I wonder?

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