While the recent ban on carriage horses in New York City has been cause for celebration when it comes to the welfare of America’s horses, there are still unfortunate cruelties being committed against these animals.

The practice of horse soring takes place most commonly in the world of Tennessee Walking Horses, as it is used as a method to achieve the chest-high walk that woos crowds and wins awards, reports horsefund.org. Soring as defined by the American Veterinary Medical Association is, “the unethical and illegal practice of deliberately inflicting pain to exaggerate the leg motion of horses to gain an unfair advantage in the show ring. The chest-high stride achieved by soring is known in the industry as the ‘big lick.’”

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Common methods of soring, as reported by the AVMA, include:

  • Chemical Chemical soring involves the application of a caustic chemical to the hair and skin of the horse’s lower leg, then covering the leg with plastic and a leg wrap for several days to allow the chemical to “cook” into the skin.
  • Mechanical/Physical This type of soring involves trimming the hoof or applying devices that cause the horse’s hooves to be painful and force the horse to pick up its feet faster and higher.
  • Action Devices – The action device must be made of lignum vitae (hardwood), aluminum, or stainless steel and must have individual rollers that are smooth and uniform in size, weight, and configuration. As reported by Veterinary Practice News, “Action devices and performance packages are used to encourage horses to increase their signature high-step gait. The implements also may be used to hide chemical and mechanical irritants, according the AVMA and AAEP.”

The practice of soring horses for any reason is illegal. The AVMA clarifies, “The Horse Protection Act of 1970 (HPA) made soring illegal, punishable by fines and imprisonment.The HPA makes it illegal for sored horses to participate in shows, sales, exhibitions or auctions. HPA also prohibits transporters from transporting sored horses to or from any of these events. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for enforcing the Horse Protection Act.”

Recently, a new board of directors for that Walking Horse Trainers Association was announced, and according to their track record, every single one of them has broken the law when it comes to horse soring.

According to a Humane Society of the United States press release, “A review of records of Horse Protection Act violations turned up 112 total citations for soring and related offenses for the seven-person board. One board member had only one violation; one has been cited for violating the act 38 times. The majority of these citations never led to meaningful penalties.”

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There is somewhat of a positive outcome to this shocking and upsetting revelation about the industry. The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act (H.R. 1518/S. 1406) now sits in Congress and it would amend the current Horse Protection Act by disallowing the walking horse industry to self regulate (and thereby give lax punishments) and by banning the devices associated with soring, and strengthening penalties for violators.

For more information on the new bill, check out this article from Veterinary News featuring American Medical Veterinary Association (AVMA) Executive Vice President Ron DeHaven, DVM. And be sure to click this link to see if your congressperson is a co-sponsor of the bill, and if they are, send a quick thank you. If not, contact them and urge them to sign on for the horses!

Image Source: TN Tonmoy Islam/Flickr

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