By HEIDI HALL
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) – It was years in the making, but Marty Irby's epiphany about the Tennessee Walking Horse's future came in the middle of a competition ring in Wemding, Germany, his cellphone buzzing urgently.
The world's reaction to a Humane Society of the United States undercover video of a Hall of Fame trainer beating and burning a Tennessee Walking Horse was swift and excruciating.
As Irby, the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association president, fielded death threats from animal lovers, he saw two roads before his beloved breed.
Either keep the status quo and make owning a Tennessee Walking Horse synonymous with supporting cruelty – even though he knew that wasn't true – or dramatically change the industry in a way some of its most moneyed supporters would never accept.
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- August 28, 2012: Federal inspectors clash with walking horse groups
- August 26, 2012: Walking horse trainer banned from celebration
- August 21, 2012: Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration begins Wednesday
- May 23, 2012: Walking horse show bars trainer for life
- May 22, 2012: Trainer, stable hands plead guilty to horse soring
- May 17, 2012: Experts, others react to Tenn. soring horse investigation
- May 16, 2012: Video shows Tennessee Walking Horses being tortured, beaten