SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. - Officials from the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville say some of their competition horses are being unfairly targeted by USDA inspectors under the Horse Protection Act.
"The USDA is wrong disqualifying horses from the celebration of 2012," explained Dr. Steve Mullins who works for the SHOW HIO organization.
The problem organizers say has to do with scaring - something that happens to walking horses' legs after they've been subjected to the controversial practice known as soring.
"That's not something we condone as an industry," Mullins explained at a news conference on Tuesday.
Mullins and his colleagues say the USDA is disqualifying horses because they've found evidence of scaring but Mullins says it's impossible for those horses to pass inspection one day and then have scars appear on their legs the next which would cause them to be turned away by the USDA.
"There's been several questions around the relationship with the USDA and there's no question it's a tense relationship," one official explained.
As for the USDA, they firmly stand by the work their inspectors are doing every single day at the competition.
"As far as our inspectors go, they do not falsely cite horses. We're going to continue to do the very best we can to ensure there's no sore horses that show at The Celebration," USDA spokesman Dave Sacks said on Tuesday.
Walking horses that are disqualified from the competition in Shelbyville are not banned from participating in other events through the state or the country.
"We fully stand behind the performance and conduct of all of our inspectors. The hope is that this (soring) becomes a thing of the past," Dave said.