The 69th Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, held Aug. 22 through Sept. 1,  was pronounced a success by show managers, competitors, and trainers who said the event marked a milestone of cooperation among inspectors and exhibitors that resulted in 98% compliance with equine welfare laws.

“Everyone was on the same page,” said Mickey McCormick, first vice president of the Walking Horse Trainers Association. “The trainers presented very good, compliant horses and the DQPs did a great job with the USDA. It will set a precedent.”

That spirit of cooperation was in contrast to last year’s Celebration where tensions between trainers and inspectors over compliance with Tennessee’s anti-soring laws and the Horse Protection Act temporarily shut down the show. This year, strict event rules including equine drug screenings, inspections, and post celebration polygraph testing of judges, DQPs, and show managers restored the event’s credibility said Ron Thomas, Celebration show manager and CEO.

“Also, the attitude and the spirit of the USDA and their medical officers was outstanding,” Thomas said. “That ‘Us versus Them’ attitude was gone. It was so refreshing.”

In a written statement, issued during the event, USDA Deputy Administrator Dr. Chester Gipson praised show management for its cooperation, and commitments to competing horses’ welfare.

“We hope that the standard set at this year’s Celebration will be adopted by other show managers,” Gipson said.

Thomas said horse entries declined 7% from the previous year and spectator attendance fell about 12,000.

“It was what we expected after last year” he said, “but I think any show would be happy to have such a small decline after last year’s circumstances.”