Roy Exum: A Horse Doctor’s Letter
According to Dr. Haffner, as long as there is the love of the Big Lick, there will be soring. It is time we appreciate the Tennessee Walker for its wonderful natural gait. ~ HfH
From: The Chattanoogan
By: Roy Exum
John C. Haffner is a highly-respected veterinarian who has loved and worked with horses since he was 15 years old. Now, as there are bills pending in both Congress and the Senate to help eradicate horse abuse centered in Tennessee, he has written a terrible but heart-felt letter to the bill’s sponsor, Kentucky Congressman Ed Whitfield. It is his eyewitness account of sheer madness that pervades the industry today.
The reason he wrote the lengthy letter was to assure Rep. Whitfield and other lawmakers that the sadistic soring of Tennessee Walking horses is still rampant in the industry. It is his staunch belief that pain is the only tool available to achieve the unnatural gait known as the big lick. And the reason for his unabashed certainty is because there was a time in his life that he took part in it.
Dr. Haffner, who today is the vice president of the Middle Tennessee Academy of Equine Practitioners, wrote in his letter, “I saw the pain. I did not only see these things, I helped do them. Gradually I became aware of the inherent wrongness of the training required to achieve the big lick. I say gradually became aware, but that is not accurate.
“I think I always knew it was wrong, but because of many factors, I lied to myself,” he admitted. “Factors such as: horse shows are fun, the big lick is exciting, I was making a lot of money working with the horses, I liked the people, it couldn’t be all that bad because so many people that loved their horses were doing it kept me willingly blinded to the harm that was being done in the name of showing horses.”
But as time went on and the horses’ pain soon blended with his own, Dr. Haffner told Rep. Whitfield, “This came to a head in the early 1990’s at the Columbia, Tennessee horse show. I was asked to examine a horse that had been turned down by the USDA. After I examined the horse and could find no problem with it, I repeated the exam with a videographer recording my examination.
Habitat for Horses is always on the lookout for a few great people at our ranches. The work is unique, the animals are special and we want folks who both know and understand the special connection our animals need.