Safety concerns raised about Open Horse Fun Show

Organizers of a recent horse show fundraiser for the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley say conditions were safe for the horses, despite concerns raised by an attendee.

Deborah Cronin, 61, of Marietta, who has trained horses, said she has been around the animals since she was 8 years old and has participated in many horse associations like the American Quarter Horse Association and the Palomino Breeders of America.

“That arena never should have been used,” Cronin said. “That is (plowed up) mud. It sets (the horses) up for serious leg injuries.”

The Open Horse Fun Show was put on at the Washington County Fairgrounds on July 20. The show raised $700 for the humane society. Kelly McGilton, vice president of the HSOV Board of Directors and county dog warden, said the event was not put on by the humane society itself, but was co-sponsored by Becky Johnston, president of the board, and Annette Dunn, who fosters many large animals, like horses and cows.

Cronin said while watching, she was concerned not only about the horses sustaining injuries, but the riders, several of whom were thrown from their horses.

“I was told one girl was bucked off her horse three times,” she said.

Cronin added that the “overanimated” movements of many horses showed distress.

Johnston said a professional barrel racer was on-hand at the event to determine if the conditions were right for letting the horses loose.

“I looked to her and said, ‘In your opinion, would you run?’ and she said, ‘Right now, it’s perfect,'” Johnston said. “In her opinion, it was great conditions (in the afternoon). In the morning it was sloppy at times…(which is why we) did not run classes we call speed classes (at that time).”

Deneene Winters, owner of More than Horsin’ near Whipple, said that while she was not present at the event, she saw photos and video taken that day. She said there is a possibility that horses could have been injured.

“It’s just my opinion, but I would not have allowed my students to run (at the arena),” she said. “I would have permitted them to walk/jog.”

Cronin said she believes those organizing the show do good work for animals but that she has a vast concern for the horses. She said an ideal arena to have a horse show would be dry.

“(The best arena conditions) would be dry, soft ground with a firm underbase,” she said. “In ankle-deep (mud) you’re putting so much stress on that horse and the horse will rebel (oftentimes by bucking).”

Johnston said the show that was put on was safe all around.

“We ran a safe show,” she said. “(Of the) 25 to 30 riders, I asked if they were having fun, if they wanted to do it again. They said, ‘It’s the most fun we’ve had in a long time.'”

McGilton said if the conditions were unsafe for the horses their owners would not have participated in the show.

“If conditions, were inhumane (for the horses), I have no doubt that the owners of these horses, whose (owners) treat them as family members, would not allow them to attend the event,” she said. “Some people from out of state drove here with their horses to participate and be a part of this. For them to do that, it would have to be an upstanding event…I have no doubt in my mind, the two women running it would have called it if anything would have been hazardous to any animal’s health.”

Johnston said the horse show is currently on the agenda for next year and there will be improvements.

“We’d love to be able to do it,” she said. “The contestants asked us to do it again next year. As with any new fundraiser, you fine-tune the tings you did and try to make it better for next year. (We might have) a change in venue.”