Some dispute disqualifications at Walking Horse Celebration - WSMV Channel 4

Some dispute disqualifications at Walking Horse Celebration

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SHELBYVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

There's more turmoil at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, as the federal government cracks down on illegal practices it says are sometimes used to give walking horses their high step.

But some say regulators are disqualifying horses for no good reason or for the wrong reason.

A crowd favorite has been eliminated from competition, and that has a lot of people talking about how federal inspectors do their job.

A stallion named Honors had been favored to win the grand champion title at this year's Celebration and is even featured on a large billboard outside Calsonic Arena.

But he never made it into the competition ring because he was disqualified by inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

As Celebration CEO Mike Inman can testify, that prompted a round of booing by spectators.

"They booed on disappointment," he said. "If you want to see the home-run hitter come to the plate, and he doesn't get to come to the plate, people are disappointed."

The walking horse competition has had its share of controversy in past years, including complaints that federal inspectors weren't tough enough and didn't detect soring, or were too tough and disqualified horses other vets said were fine.

This year, Honors' disqualification is renewing the call for inspectors to judge by standards that are less subjective.

"And 'subjective' means 'opinions,' and sometimes opinions differ," Inman said.

There's an industry group that has been pushing to make the standards for detecting soring less subjective, and an official from that group quit his post in disgust Monday night.

Terry Dotson resigned, saying he believes the USDA disqualified his daughter's horses from competition just to retaliate against him.

"We were working to propose positive changes in the industry," Dotson said.

Channel 4 News asked to interview an official with the USDA on site at the Celebration, but we were told no one was available.

The Celebration wraps up Saturday night.

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