Friday, April 23, 2010

The Response from speecees.

What an amazing group of readers I have! *warm fuzzies*

I wish I knew how many there are of you out there! I *KNOW* there's more than 22 of you that read at least occasionally, I wish I could see who you all are. 

I love what this blog is becoming. Its staring to grow and become a vehicle for things. Things such as this whole outrageous Big Lick Walker Shirt Design. Things I can't yet talk about - which frustrates me but is also very good because those things need to stay confidential to the authorities involved.

I woke up this morning to a response from the owner and ceo from speecees. What with being scheduled to open this morning, I didn't have time to post anything here without the risk of being late. 

I also see in the comments of yesterdays post that one of you also wrote and got a response. I will give kudos to the owner for her quick responses. However, thats almost all I'll give her kudos for. 

Without further ado, here is the response. 

dear beth*

thank you so much for your email. i am the speesees owner/designer/long-time horse lover and
had a relationship with a natural gaited tennessee walker. i had never heard of the *big lick*
horse or *soring* practices when i made this design, and am deeply saddened to know of these

the image was used out of love for a particular horse who was treated humanely. speesees in
no way condones the abuse of any animal, and we are sorry for any offense this image may have

rachel pearson

Now, while I appreciate the sincerity in her response, I'm not really sure if I believe it completely. 
I can easily see how one would not be aware of the soring practices in the TW breed. I have come across a LOT of people that have never heard of it, including people that have been in the horse industry a long time. 
What doesn't make any sense to me is once she found out about the practices, why didn't she change or modify the design so the outline of the horse wasn't the same, exaggerated motion of the Big Lick horses? 
How expensive can it be to change the design? I understand that you have marketing people, you have manufacturing contracts, shipping deadlines - I get that stopping a huge order in the midst of being produced is in most cases nearly impossible for some companies. The cost to stop often greatly outweighs the cost of production. I *GET* that. 
Yet this company continues to produce the same design even after being informed about what the image stands for. 
I am curious to see what you all think on this issue. How far should a company that has the start of what COULD be a semi-large PR nightmare on their hands go to please the public? This image was obviously based and inspired from a horse she knew and loved - that I think is rather cool. 
Yet - I'm sorry Rachel, but your excuses don't fly with me. If you really stand behind your statement that you would never condone the abuse of any animal, why do you continue to print the design - AND USE IT AS A COMPANY LOGO - especially after you learned about what a horrific practice soring is???
There are plenty of other similar Tennessee Walker breed outlines you can use instead if you wish to use the TW form. Outlines that DON'T include the horribly outstretched front leg movement of the Big Lick Horses. Outlines that reflect the natural movement of the TW. 
Self edit here: Ok, well after spending the last 20 minutes searching google images for variations of "tennessee walker clip art", turns out that most of what is out there for TW's is the more outstreched front leg, with the hind leg wayy underneath the body. This IS NOT THEIR NATURAL GAIT! 
The ONLY image I could find without spending (wasting) more time looking is the Friends Of Sound Horses website Logo. 
This image is more of what Rachel and speecees SHOULD use, if they still want to use a Tennessee Walker for their 'horse'. I'm sure FOSH would be more than happy to be contacted about possibly allowing the horse part of the logo to be used. 

Sorry, but your company gets a giant "F" from me - For "FAIL". 
You fail to meet your own company standards and objectives by continuing to use this image to advertise your own earth and animal friendly products. 
The right thing to do Rachel is to research and design a better horse logo that doesn't bring up images of pain and torture.
In the land of google results, its amazing what you can get sidetracked with. I found myself on youtube, watching this really makes the difference between the Big Lick Horse and a regular gaited or 'natural gaited' horse obvious. (I'm not going to make the link live, so the audio doesn't start every time the page loads.) This video was produced by HSUS, and is highly informative.
I have to say though, during my employment with the Paso Fino barn, and during all of the mixed breed gaited horse shows we attended, very rarely would I ever go down and watch the Walker classes. You could always tell when they were in the main ring by the noise generated by the crowd too. We learned to stay away from the Walkers while they were warming up before the shows because quite frankly, they'd run our little Pasos OVER without a second thought. Or rather, their riders would. No concern for anyone else working in the ring at all either. The really sad part is that we'd see very few of the natural gaited horses, and I'd always make a point to at minimum watch THEM in the warm up rings, or if possible, walk up to them and always, always, compliment them on their horses. Seeing the Big Lick horses in the warm up rings with the trainers... *gah*. So many times we'd have to leave the arenas - my boss and I - because we'd run out of patience & self-control because the temptation to go over to the trainers, riders, and owners and just slap the absolute hell out of them was way too great. 
Last year we were up at Westworld during the annual Charity Carousel Show, a show run every March here locally in Scottsdale. Carousel is sponsored by the state Saddlebred club, and is a mixed gaited breed show - though the last few years the Saddlebred group has invited the Friesian barns out as well to piggy back on the Saddlebred shows. Which is really rather awesome. However, we weren't lucky enough to get placed in the barn with the Friesians, nope, we got a barn of Big Lick Walkers opposite our stalls. 
That was a week I'll never forget, for sure. I'd never, ever seen a barn put up curtains in the middle of a community type barn before - which was extremely rude in of itself. We complained to show officials, but since there are no rules against it, there wasn't much we could do. They didn't put the curtains up until the middle of the second full day though, so we got a front row view of private, behind the scenes stuff. Stuff that would make any person not involved absolutely insane. They brought their own farrier with them - they had 6 horses. The farrier worked on every horse, every day. What he was doing, I'm not sure I want to know. The pads were as high as their show regulations would allow, which to me was about 9 inches too high. 
That first night around 1 am, long after everyone else left for the night, and right as I was leaving to go home, I walked down to their stalls. I wept because of what I saw. Horses just absolutely crying out with their eyes for release from the torture. Two of the mares came up to the stall fronts trying desperately to touch me with their muzzles - I'm sure they were begging me to help them in whatever way they could. Every single horse had their legs wrapped to their knees, and one of them had managed to worry the outer cotton off so you could see the inner plastic wrap. As I watched, he was biting hard at his leg, trying to get the plastic off. At one point he heard me and looked up at me, and that look he gave me was absolutely heartbreaking. If horses could cry, he would have been bawling. He didn't come up to me at all, but didn't shy away either. He just stood there in the middle of his stall, biting at himself, muscles tensed up, nose wrinkled, unhappy ears, and just looked so afraid to move. 
That same gelding the next day nearly killed his rider. That little accident happened before they got their curtains up - but it wasn't very long before they were. The farrier was doing something to his front right hoof, and the rider was standing at the geldings hip, facing the farrier, and looking at the hoof/shoe. The farrier touched something on the hoof, and instantly the horse just exploded in 16 directions at once, knocking the rider flat on the ground and in his panic, came literally within inches of stepping on her head with one of his hind feet. You all know how most horses will do everything they can to avoid stepping on a human in a similar situation? He tried SOOO hard but because of his front legs he had no balance, and very little control of where his hind legs were going. He NEEDED his hind legs to keep HIM upright, or he would have flipped onto his back, due the lead rope tied to the stall door, and literally no place to go.
Of course when something like that happens, the entire isle full of people rush in to help, but when his handlers saw myself, my boss, and another person with us moving over to help, we got yelled at to stay away - and a shouted out threat to harm our horses if we did anything to help. Again, nothing was hand done by show officials when we reported the what happened.
Their groom was rude and refused to make anyone else's job in that barn isle easy. They demanded that they always have the right of way up and down the isle, and if anyone else had a horse out getting them ready, they'd scream for the horse to get moved out of the way. The riders would mount up in the barn and ride out in full gait - totally unnecessary. 
I ended up sneaking horse cookies and bits of carrots to the ones that would come up to me when they were all down at the ring for their classes. The mares especially were extremely friendly and as sweet as sugar to me - but just as mean and nasty as hellhounds when around their 'trainer'. Couldn't figure out why! *roll eyes*
The whole experience was one that I'll not ever forget, and not in a good way. While this was no where near my first encounter with the shady side of the gaited horse world, it was certainly the most memorable, and definitely one of the more disturbing. If I ever had any doubts as to the accuracy of the reports of what really goes on behind the scenes, they were completely shattered apart for good.
I know today is Friday, and normally I'd post the Fugly Friday Stallion. I wanted to harp on this subject a bit more today - this is way more important. I'll make sure the stallion post gets up this weekend. 
If any of you still decide to write to Rachel at speecess, PLEASE, be mature, be polite, be intelligent, use common sense, and don't demand unreasonable things! I think its perfectly ok to ask that they reconsider using that logo in the future, that they consider recalling their merchandise with the logo, and that they discontinue the use of it in the future. 
However, threats of violence, vulgar language, extremely emotional rhetoric, and other similar forms of "communication" will only backfire on you, and cause more damage than good. 
Final note: I want to make it very, very crystal clear that that my beef is NOT with Rachel personally. I'm sure she's highly intelligent, runs a great company, and is doing wonderful things to help the planet. The rest of the clothing on her website is extremely adorable, and I did find several things that I would consider buying in a heartbeat if my kids were still babies. She was very quick on her answer, very polite, and I appreciated her honesty in her answer.
I feel that this one decision was a very bad one, and I'd really love to see the logo changed or just discontinued. Please keep that in mind if you contact her via phone or email. 
Have a good weekend everyone! I'll be back with the FFFS post, so check back for that.


  1. I emailed speecess,got a VERY nice reply.. I do have to ask y'all,how old were you when you first learned of how the "Big Lick" horses were treated and did you believe at first that anyone could treat horses in that manner? I was (I think) in my 30s.

  2. Oh,and from the response I got,I think this was the first Rachel had ever heard of this practice.

  3. Peg - I was around 15 when I first learned of the practice. I wasn't even involved with walkers, but had just started cutting my teeth in the gaited horse world, and it was at my first gaited horse show with some paso finos that I first saw the Big Lick horses here in Scottsdale. I really don't remember what my first reaction was to them in the ring, but I do remember asking lots of people about why the horses move like that, and I got lots of different answers.

    Over the next three years working and showing with the pasos, we'd usually show all gaited breeds and they almost always had the walkers... I would never intentionally watch them, unless it was during a Saturday night Championship or the like.

    I'd start commenting out loud how disgusting the horses looked though during the classes... earned me some right dirty looks!

    It wasn't until a few years later though, in my first year of college that I really understood what was going on. I didn't have internet at home, and my only net access was in the computer lab, so during breaks between classes, I'd go play on the net.

    Being the horse geek I am, I of course started looking up horse things, and that was one of the things I looked up. I *DO* remember that first reaction as I read what atrocities the trainers do to the horses.

    As for Rachel... I sure hope we've made her think about things a bit... and thats all I can ask!

  4. I really think she had no idea--I'm a lot older than most of y'all,and the only horse here then was the Quarter Horse. The only thing I ever saw about TWH was in the magazines..and they said they got the action useing loose chains and rattles the horse would try to step out of..
    50 years later everyone is trying the "quick fix". The USDA has made the practice illeagle(I think),but there are still bozos that "the gumment can't tell ME what to do". It was an absolute shock to me that people can do such things to ANY horse of any breed just to win.