Columnist Roy Exum has been honoured by the Humane Society of the United States for championing the cause of walking horses.
Exum has been a prominent voice in the fight to end the illegal practice of soring.
The society has named Exum as its Humane Horseman of the Year.
Each year, the award is given to an individual who demonstrates an outstanding commitment to protect America’s horses.
The society chose Exum because of his unwavering commitment to exposing the cruel reality of the Tennessee walking horse show industry.
In his opinion column in The Chattanoogan, Exum shone a light on the corruption and abuse behind the celebrated “big lick” gait, and those who use chemical and mechanical irritants to achieve it.
Exum reported on the society’s undercover investigation into the industry and closely monitored the industry’s biggest competition, the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, Tennessee.
The society’s director of equine welfare, Keith Dane, said the charity applauded Exum for his perseverance in the months leading up to the Celebration.
“Roy helped the HSUS lay bare the torture these horses endure, and he advocated that they be treated with kindness and respect.
“His newspaper columns played a key role in exposing and publicizing the mistreatment of these beautiful creatures and greatly helped the HSUS in its mission to put an end to the cruelty.”
In nearly 20 columns and counting on the topic, Exum held nothing back when criticizing the Tennessee walking horse industry.
In response to the federal sentencing of Jackie McConnell for Horse Protection Act violations, Exum wrote: “The ruling, although just, dashed the hopes of ‘many, many hundreds’ who had written Judge Mattice to ask for stronger justice. But because of woefully inadequate federal laws against the depravity that has plagued the walking horse industry for well over half a century, the Horse Protection Act has been as lame as the horses it meant to protect and a plea arrangement was deemed at the very onset as the best ‘legal solution’.”
In a column praising the US Department of Agriculture’s new regulations to crack down on soring, Exum opined: “Call me callused or a cynic but when the top 20 trainers in the fabled Rider’s Cup standings have a total of 161 violations in the past two years and eight of the last 10 ‘Trainers of the Year’ have violated the Horse Protection Act, the only thing that will ever make a difference is placing anyone who would purposely injure a horse in the dark and dank basement of a jail.”
In response to public outcry about the cruel treatment of Tennessee walking horses for the show ring, Congress has introduced H.R. 6388, the Horse Protection Act Amendments of 2012. The bill will significantly strengthen the Horse Protection Act, which outlaws soring.
It would also end the failed system of industry self-policing, ban the use of certain devices associated with soring, strengthen penalties, and hold accountable all those involved in this cruel practice.
In a recent column, Exum expressed his support for the bill, writing: “The amendments are badly needed since there has been continued and rampant abuse of soring in the Tennessee walking horse industry this year.”