Hot heads over hot feet

A wild meeting in Tennessee ended in a close victory for the put-upon Walking Horse
June 12, 1960

The most celebrated sore feet on the sporting scene may belong to Dr. Barbara Moore, that peripatetic Englishwoman who is at present walking across the U.S., but the man-inflicted foot troubles of the Tennessee Walking Horse (SI, May 16) have caused the sorest heads.

Gathering in Lewisburg, Tenn. a fortnight ago, members of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders Association staged an annual meeting that was just about as well organized as a train wreck and twice as noisy. When the noise had abated, the association still had its old officers, but it also had a scrubbed-up set of bylaws that meant only one thing: the day when trainers can with impunity sore a walking horse in order to win a show has just about passed. The association provided stringent penalties for offenders. If proved guilty, they may be banned completely from TWHBA-recognized show rings. If proved guilty on several occasions, the offenders could be banned indefinitely from the show horse business.

The official agenda of the Lewisburg meeting called for election of officers and reconsideration of the quarter-boot substituted in March for the old, sour-ringing bell boot. The incumbent slate of officers, headed by President J. Glenn Turner of Dallas, favored either further study or abolition of all boots. An opposing group led by Trainer Vic Thompson wanted to go back to the bell boot.

Since both sides had indulged in premeeting denunciations, it was hardly surprising that violence broke out. Fortunately, it was not of long duration, nor was it serious. During a heated verbal exchange, Tom Fulton, onetime undertaker and present executive secretary of the TWHBA, clipped W. O. Crawford, a former candidate for the presidency of the organization, on the head and felled him. The fight did not spread, and when the stand-up votes were counted the incumbents were still in office by 50 votes.

The election did not, however, end the acrimony. President Turner accused the Thompson-Crawford forces of trying to break up the meeting to prevent a vote. Somebody, for example, turned on the heating system instead of the air conditioner. "Ten or 15 created all the commotion," said John Amos, chairman of the TWHBA executive committee. "They stomped around the room cursing and trying to vote twice, and did cause several people to leave."

Thompson charged, in rebuttal, that Amos had packed the meeting with 60 coal miners from eastern Tennessee and Kentucky. These alleged miners arrived early on meeting day in two chartered buses. They told reporters they were horse lovers.

Last week the defeated Thompson still seemed determined to regain his right to keep the old way. From Oklahoma, where he was showing last week, he announced plans for a new association which would blackball any show in which 1) J. Glenn Turner's horses were entered and 2) any show that hires an association-approved judge.

This clearly is a desperation move. Some scare-easy managers may find excuses to return Turner's entries, but others probably will simply drop the entire division—and with great relief. Just this week the American Horse Shows Association, governing body for most of the major horse shows in this country, acted to plug one loophole that had permitted wide latitude to the bell booters. No longer can "guest judges," not subject to ASHA rules, be imported to judge—and overlook—sore walking horses.

While Thompson's supporters were busy deciding just how to cut off their noses to spite their faces, J. Glenn Turner, Amos and crew went into executive session and made some sweeping amendments to TWHBA bylaws, chief among them:

1) The executive committee may suspend members of the association for crude or uncouth conduct, or for making false or misleading statements about the association or its officers.

2) Officers will be elected for two years rather than one.

3) Responsibility henceforth will be placed where it rightfully belongs—on the horse owner. He can no longer claim he does not know about the condition of his horses. So where formerly a sore horse was merely disqualified, now the horse, the trainer and the owner can be disbarred.

"The gloves are off now," said John Amos. "We plan a rough-handed campaign against soring. Our changed bylaws give us the authority to act and punish. And we will."