Have you Seen My Magic?
The 13 year-old Tennessee Walking Horse named See My Magic whose handling outraged horse lovers around the world, was calmly loaded into a trailer behind a pickup truck and driven to an undisclosed location last week on the morning of April 4th, neighbors report. Pierce County Animal Control, which has been involved in this case since 2012, would not give any details.
The chestnut-colored horse had been locked in a stall for at least two years wearing angled performance shoes several inches high, according to owner Ted Taylor of unincorporated Pierce County near Roy, Washington. Animal News Northwest first reported this story in January 2016.
The controversial shoes, called “stacks,” are used on the Tennessee Walker’s front hooves during competitions to create an exaggerated “Big Lick” style of gait in performance. Worn outside the show ring, the shoes can cause injuries to the animals who can trip on uneven surfaces. Taylor said that’s the reason he has not let See My Magic out to pasture. He doesn’t exercise him because of a personal back injury.
Since our first story, social media campaigns have ignited passionate followers who are urging authorities and advocates to come to See My Magic’s rescue. Petition sites have gathered almost 30,000 signatures calling for his release. An online fundraising page and private donors have raised more than $20,000 in an attempt to buy his freedom.
The owner would not sell.
While the online buzz has spun into a frenzy, See My Magic’s owner, Pierce County Animal Control, and local and national Tennessee Walking Horse associations have remained silent.
In lieu of releasing actual records, the Pierce County Auditor’s office distributed a prepared statement to people filing complaints to their office, stating its animal control officers have visited the horse and owners six times between June 2015 and March 2016. “The horse in question is receiving adequate care, as defined by law,” they wrote.
Their office has been deluged with hundreds of emails, phone calls, faxes and postal mail from people around the world calling on animal control officers to do something. So many complaints have come in, the office opened a new investigation at the end of February.
The office stopped fully responding to all requests for records or interviews until mid-April. No current records of officer’s activities at the property have been released since mid-January.
Through it all, See My Magic continued standing– silent and isolated– in his stall, occasionally peering out through the barred window at the rainy world beyond.
New signage began to appear around his barn. A “No Trespassing” sign was tapped into place beneath the bars of his window. From the side of the barn, above a huge door swung wide open, was a security camera and additional “No Trespassing” signs.
The owners have told authorities they are being harassed by the activists, an accusation neighbors dispute in this quiet community that requires a pass code to get in through the gate.
And then, on Sunday, April 3rd, the Tennessee Walking Horse was loaded up and driven off, leaving the people who have worked so hard to free him wondering if they would ever see See My Magic again.
“We’ve been informed that Magic has been relocated while his owner is unable to care for him while recovering from surgery,” writes Whitney Rhodes, public records officer at the Pierce County Auditor’s office in an email dated April 4. “Magic is residing at a stable where he is receiving full care during this period.”
Word Gets Around
The “free Magic” campaign had its start two months ago when Nicki Callahan saw the story and felt she had to do something. She had participated in circus protests and efforts to send the Woodland Park Zoo elephants to a sanctuary, but had never run a social media campaign before. “I just wanted to help,” she said in a phone interview. “And it grew.”
She started a petition page and within four days had over 4,000 signatures. She printed them out into a 2 ½’ stack and brought them to Supervisor Brian Boman at Pierce County Animal Control. “He was nice,” she said. “We spoke for about 30-40 minutes. He was cordial. He told me legally there was nothing he could do. He said ‘I don’t agree with it but no laws are being broken.’”
She then went over to Ted Taylor’s house with the thick stack of printouts, planning to talk over options and see if she could help straighten out the situation. “I don’t understand what his motivation is for keeping a horse that he doesn’t ride,” she said. – a question that had begun echoing beyond the boundaries of this gated neighborhood and into the comments’ section of social media postings around the world.
Ted Taylor and his wife Mary weren’t interested in talking with Callahan. When she introduced herself and told them she wanted to help Magic, they responded by accusing her of trespassing.
So she left. And took her 4,000 followers with her. Who then spread the message to their friends on social media. Who then donated toward See My Magic’s freedom.
Now Callahan has tens of thousands of followers.
“Most people are in disbelief that (enforcement) agencies can’t step in and help Magic,” she says. She has heard from people in England and California who said Magic’s situation would be illegal there. People urge her to contact animal advocacy groups and the media. “And I have to keep responding that technically it is not against the law. If you want to use your imagination and assume that Magic is in pain and being inflicted with pain then it would be against the law, but nobody wants to make that step. They want to go by the letter and not stick their necks out.”
Pierce County Animal Control would not comment for this story, nor will they provide any current enforcement agency activities on the matter but provided this briefing explaining their stance on the law.
In this quiet, rural horse community in unincorporated Pierce County near Roy, Washington, many neighbors have stepped up with offers to help the Taylors. Their offers have been declined.
Cyndi Arent has lived behind the Taylors for 16 years, and remembers their first Tennessee Walker, Thunder. “Ted had Thunder when he moved here. He had all the shoes on. We could hear the drills and the hammering that goes on when he used to personally adjust the horse’s feet and stack them.”
“He loved that horse,” Arent said. “But he never let Thunder out.” It upset her that Taylor would exercise him hard for short periods of time and then lock him back up in the stall.
Arent recollects the death of Thunder, who she said died of colic after many hours of suffering while Taylor was gone.
Immediately afterwards, she said Taylor got See My Magic, who she has never seen let out, either.
Anita Vannoy has lived in the equestrian-minded neighborhood in the Pacific Northwest for 23 years where she says every homeowner has 2 ½ acres or more. Short, quiet streets void of sidewalks and traffic lights meander through this gated community of manicured, affluent homes. Horse barns on wide open paddocks can be seen prominently on almost every property.
“(Ted) doesn’t mistreat See My Magic, like starving him,” says Vannoy. “But if he would just put a little paddock up so the horse could go in and out, feel the sun. He won’t. He says that’s the way you keep a thoroughbred.”
Horses, she points out, need to be with other horses, whatever the breed. “Horses are herd animals. They protect each other.” Her gaze scans over the fenced paddock to a half-pint sized miniature horse. “Peanut! Peanut!” she beckons. The friendly equine comes right up to the fence for a stroke on it’s brow. After one of her mares died she explains, “I didn’t want another big horse because its hard to ride two horses so I decided to get with my husband get a miniature horse.” She says the two are inseparable except at mealtimes.
Vannoy said she went to the Taylors last fall with offers to help after she heard Taylor was ill. She offered to groom See My Magic, let him run around for a couple of hours, and take him to the riding arena. She told him it wasn’t fair to keep the horse stalled 24-7. “He said, ‘Well, that is the way this horse was raised.’” She said he never got back to her.
Tennessee Walking Horse owners chime in
Tennessee Walking Horses are a breed of horse that naturally walk with a very smooth gait. The community is divided between those who put normal shoes on their horse and the small percentage of owners who put “stacks”, or “pads”, on their horse’s front hooves. The high angled shoe causes the horse to exhibit an exaggerated gait called the “Big Lick”, often accompanied by painful chemicals and action devices such as chains to their ankles in a practice known as “soring”.
This discrepancy sharply divides the Tennessee Walking horse community between the “lickers” and the “flatters”.
Kim Widner, who identified herself in a fax to Pierce County Animal Control as the Washington state director of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association, would not comment on See My Magic’s situation for this article. Rory Williams, executive director of the same nationally based group could not be reached.
But others owners of the Tennessee Walking Horse breed are weighing in.
Kelly Bast, from University Place, Washington took out a loan to buy her first Tennessee Walking Horse around 35 years ago, a 2 ½ year old neglected horse named Spyder who had been locked in a stall for all of her short life.
“When I bought her she was so skinny and had whip marks on her body,” she wrote in an email. “It took me probably four years to get some of that mental anguish out of her. Though she never got over being aggressive in her stall or her fear of going through gates, Bast said she loved riding on the trails.
Last month she wrote a letter to See My Magic’s owners, Ted and Mary Taylor, offering to act as a mediator between them and the horse advocacy groups. She never heard back.
She estimates it would take six months of gentle progression for See My Magic but once he becomes a horse again it would be wonderful. “He can be rehabilitated. It’s not a problem.” she says.
“I feel real bad for Magic,” she goes on to say, “because he’s like a prisoner. Mentally it has to be affecting him. It has to be affecting his eyesight. It has to be affecting his edema in his legs and sheath. And I don’t understand why they’ve got to keep him on stacks. They’re probably never going to use them again.”
Jeannie McGuire, from Unionville, Virginia, has had horses all her life. She has a degree in equestrian studies and has owned, bred and trained Tennessee Walking Horses for 20 years. She formed the All American Walking Horse Alliance, a group that rode their horses on the lawn of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. and rallied in support of the PAST Act, an amendment to the federal Horse Protection Act that would eliminate the stacks, chains, soring and abuses associated with the “Big Lick” performances.
“You can imagine how annoyed and angry people are when they see a horse like Magic in as faraway state as you can imagine from Tennessee standing there on stacks, never being exercised. (These horses) do not get turned out with the stacks on. There could be injuries to ligaments and tendons and perhaps even worse.
“The main thing is that a Big Lick horse is ridden and exercised at least daily. Magic is not.”
In Tennessee or Kentucky, she said, animal control officers would “smell a rat.” “But in Washington state they show up and they’re like ‘Oh you know guys, he has a right to do what he wants with the horse.’”
McGuire says the image and the negative stigma that is created by the Big Lick is taking away the livelihood of all Tennessee Walking Horse owners, even those who do not put high stacks on their horses front hooves. “It has limited my ability and all my peers to be successful.” She believes amending the Horse Protection Act with the PAST Act could alleviate this.
The removal of See My Magic from his 14’ by 16’ stall Sunday stunned the thousands of concerned people who have followed his case. Nicki Callahan, the social media administrator, said she felt like she’d been hit in the stomach.
She is hoping that See My Magic’s fate will take a turn for the better. “If I could just see that he is in a better place, with other horses, and know that slowly he will be taken off the stacks and allowed to roam, I would be happy.
“That is all I wanted – that is all any of us wanted. But for now, we simply do not know.”
Money donated to the cause is continuing towards finding and rehabilitating See My Magic and associated legal fees. Callahan is also working with others who want to change the confinement laws for horses in Washington state.
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Statement from Pierce County Animal Control
Change.org petition Free Magic from his cell of Torture
Saving Magic Go Fund Me
Saving Magic Facebook
Explanatory video made by the All American Walking Horse Alliance about supporting the PAST Act (HR.3268, S.1121)