Genesis Awards: Roy Exum is Walking the Walk…


…Not Just Talking the Talk–When He Reports on Soring from Tennessee

Equus – March 28, 2013

“The Horse Protection Act has been as lame as the horses it meant to protect”–Roy Exum


At Saturday night’s Genesis Awards in glitzy Hollywood, American horse reform politics walked out a winner–not just once, but twice.

Roy Exum, award-winning columnist

Roy Exum, award-winning columnist

But you might not have noticed the hard-working, horse-caring journalists among the Hollywood stars.

Begun in 1986, and backed by the Humane Society of the United States, the Genesis Awards are a chance for Hollywood celebrities who have a penchant for animal-related causes to dress up and saunter down a red carpet as they recognize each other and the media for increasing public awareness about animal treatment issues.

The event was hosted by Carrie Ann Inaba, judge of ABC’sDancing with the Stars, and the names on the A list  for this event are impressive: Stephen Colbert? Check. Ke$ha? Check. Gray’s Anatomy? Discovery Channel? They all won for doing their part in publicizing animal treatment.

And so did several dedicated journalists and news producers dedicated to ending the soring of Tennessee walking horses.

Yes, among all the dogs and kitties and whales and near-extinct species was the wonderful Tennessee Walking horse. Sadly, the Walking horse was in the spotlight because laws designed to protect the horses

ABC Nightline producers Megan Chuchmach ("Nightline" producer), Cindy Galli ("ABC World News" ) and Rhonda Schwartz ("ABC World News" Chief Investigative Reporter) accepted their Genesis Award for the segment on Walking horse soring undercover investigations. (HSUS photo)

ABC Nightline producers Megan Chuchmach (“Nightline” producer), Cindy Galli (“ABC World News” ) and Rhonda Schwartz (“ABC World News” Chief Investigative Reporter) accepted their Genesis Award for the segment on Walking horse soring undercover investigations. (HSUS photo)

from abuse still haven’t done their job.

It was an unlikely jump from the cute Modern Family sit-com dog Beatrice to the ugliness of pad stacks, chains and mutilated pasterns on Walking horses but the Genesis Awards made the leap.

First on the list was an award to ABC-TV’s Nightline program for airing the now-infamous undercover expose of Walking horse trainer Jackie McConnell beating and shocking horses in his training barn. “The Ugly Truth Behind High-Stepping Horses” aired a year ago.

But it was later in the night, and much further down the list that an award caught my eye.

Roy Exum is a columnist for the Chattanoogan, the daily newspaper in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was the award winner in Hollywood–and he managed to beat  New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who came in second.

Roy Exum has now penned roughly 24 columns advocating an end to horse soring in the Walking horse industry and exposing the political and social systems that cheating trainers depend on for the abuse to continue. You can read most of the columns, as they are archived on the web site.

Surely many of the people who read the Chattanoogan are Walking horse owners. Surely many of the advertisers in the paper are involved in some way in the Walking horse show world. But Roy Exum’s columns continue to pull no punches, and they continue to roll out.

In fact, in perfect timing with this article, Roy Exum published his latest call to action today. Trainer Jackie McConnell, the abusive “star” of the ABC undercover video was convicted of violating the federal Horse Protection Act last year, but did not receive a jail sentence.

In the meantime, Tennessee’s new animal abuse felony classification means that he is to be prosecuted again, on the state level. And this time there is a chance he will go to jail.

Roy Exum wants the public to demand it.

Also on Exum’s hit list is proposed legislation in Tennessee that will basically remove undercover videos as evidence in farm-related abuse cases. There are several similar legislative pushes like this in state legislatures across the country.

The big lick gait of the Walking horse has inspired trainers to do many things to exaggerate the horses' natural movements. (Randall Saxton photo)

The big lick gait of the Walking horse has inspired trainers to do many things to exaggerate the horses’ natural movements. (Randall Saxton photo)

Keith Dane, director of equine protection for The HSUS, is also a Roy Exum fan. “His newspaper columns played a key role in exposing and publicizing of the mistreatment of these beautiful creatures and greatly helped The HSUS in its mission to put an end to the cruelty,” Dane said.

I hope the day is coming when Roy Exum writes his last column calling for Walking horse reform. Not because he runs out of steam,but because the problem will be solved. And this could be the year.

The trick is to clean up the showing system without destroying the livelihood of trainers and owners or the breed. As with so many challenges in the horse world, the problem is not in passing another new law, new rule, or new penalty but in designing and making real a new way to show these horses that is just as exciting and crowd-pleasing, but that doesn’t abuse the horses.

That’s a tall order, but if horse trainers have spent so much time and effort to figure out how to get around the rules and not get caught, those same minds can invent a new show style for the Walking horse.

Roy Exum might have some ideas, too.

To learn more:

THECHATTANOOGAN.COM – Roy Exum – multiple part series on Tennessee Walking Horse soring

To comment – Click Here


AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
  • Marcia

    The law against the soring of walking horses was one of the first issues I was calling and writing about–decades ago. I was delighted when a law was passed outlawing the practice. I have since learned the sad lesson that most animal “protection” laws are full of loopholes, have very intent for enforcement behind them, or are not allocated the funding that is needed. Somehow or other the vested interests are seldom curtailed much in their abuses. The so-called enforcing agencies are frequently coopted by powerful special interests. Guess we really need to keep trying and hope help comes for some of the unfortunate victims until the culture changes and abuse is no longer tolerated so lightly.

    March 29, 2013
  • Debbie Tracy

    Congrat’s to so many that have made a HUGE difference to ending the cruelity of horse’s and abuse!!!


    March 29, 2013
  • Robynne Catheron

    Way to go, Roy! Thank you from the bottom of my TWH-loving heart.

    March 29, 2013
  • Linda Jackson

    My daughter and I boarded our mixed breed (Dutch Warmblood/Morgan) in a barn that rolled out the red carpet for the owners of three Walking Horses. Not only did they put those awful, high shoes on the poor things but also put alcohol on their injured hoofs; post burning. One of their horses was a stallion who was boarded up in his dark stall every day and was dosed with barbituates; supposedly for seizures…but I doubt that. Before we know what this industry was about, my daughter attended a Walking Horse show in Mississippi with the “proud” owners. She and I later learned what they were up to and were sad to discover these abuses occurring. The Walking Horse Shows are not allowed in Florida, I think.

    March 29, 2013
  • CanAmFam

    Roy Exum has been a wonderful advocate for humane and common sense reforms – not an easy task in TN. He has also come used his forum to raise awareness about horse slaughter in the U.S. This award is extremely well deserved.

    And thank you also to HSUS, who hosts these awards. It’s critical that we recognize people in the mainstream media working to help raise awareness and educate the public on animal issues – and that includes Jerry Finch, the writer of this terrific blog that I have used many times to educate people on equine welfare issues! Thank you to you also, Jerry.

    March 29, 2013
  • Arlene

    Thank You Roy Exum !!! You are a true Gentleman and a Scholar !!!!!! I absolutely Love the Magnificent TWH !!!!!!

    March 29, 2013
  • janwindsong

    Thank you Roy for your steadfast loyalty to thesebbig beautiful horses whose big lick is a natural step of exuberance and joy.

    I hope to see unfettered horses again eating up the groynd in their unique way of going. Thank you for exposiung the nasty cruel humans who as always try to take advantage for their own selves. I hope the guuy gets jail and lots of it. And I hope the horses he abused have found solace and comfort in the pastures of true horse lovers.

    March 29, 2013
  • Karin Buckham

    Congratulations Roy! Thank you & God bless you.

    March 29, 2013