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John Henry, a Story of Redemption

Story ID:6802
Written by:Suzana Margaret Megles (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:various Tennessee USA
Year:2011
Person:Hal Bowden
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Today I received the Doris Day League Letter. On the front page was the beautiful
but haunting face of a horse - John Henry. If only he could talk- what a tale
of excruciating pain and suffering he would relate. Nevertheless, Hal Bowden
saw something beautiful in him and bought this Tennesee Walking horse even
though he was "damaged." His tail had been chewed off by another horse and
the heels of his hooves had been cut out. There was the unmistakable evidence
of soring whereby trainers cause intense pain to produce the high stepping gait
which gives them an edge in the judging.

After Bowden nursed him back to health, he took John Henry to a North Carolina
show to see how he would react in a setting now that his physical wounds had
healed. After putting him in a stall, he returned to find him cowering and covered
in a cold sweat. It was evident that after three years, the scars on his soul had
not healed.

The Horse Protection Act was supposed to have addressed this cruelty, but this illegal
practice continues today. In 2010 inspectors observed more than 400 violations of the
act at the 71st Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, Tenn.
This year 243 violations were recorded at the event.

I was horrified at the description given in this flyer re the actual procedure of soring:
"The desire for the showy, high-stepping gait known as the "big lick" drives the use of
soring, which makes stepping down extemely painful. Unscrupulous trainers spread
caustic chemicals like mustard oil or diesel fuel just above the hooves, then wrap the
legs in plastic so the chemicals cook into the skin. During practice and competition,
a metal chain slides up and down the blistered skin, exacerbating the pain."

I cannot tell you what I think of people who would do such a horrible thing to a poor
defenseless animal. And I am also disappointed that people should pay to witness
this suffering. At long last the flyer reports that the USDA is moving to crack down
on the practice of soring.

Still unscrupulous people try to hide the scars they have caused by turning to
"pressure shoeing" which is cutting hooves down to the sensitve quick before
nailing on the shoes. Sometimes hard objects like marbles or nails are inserted
between the hooves and pads the horse is forced to wear. How ingenious
cruel people can be.

As per usual, the USDA claims they don't have enough money to send needed
inspectors to stop "...one of the most egregious forms of equine cruelty we have
identified" observes Keith Dane, HSUS director of equine protection.

I had been disappointed in President Obama's seemingly lack of concern re
animal cruelty, but supported by a bipartisan group of senators and representatives,
he made a request in March for an additional $400,000 to enforce the Horse
Protection Act. Thank you President Obama.

As for John Henry, his hooves have almost grown to normal and he is now
more trusting of people. He even made friends with an old show horse
named Boo. Bowden has even entered him in a National Walking Horse
competition which celebrates the naturally smooth gaits of walking horses.
Thank you Hal Bowden for helping John Henry know what it is like to have
a kind and responsible owner like you.