Horse Health

Walking Horse Groups Take Their Arguments to Congress

by Paul C. Barton as published at

“Current laws against Soring are not adequately enforced, and they need to be…”

Effects of Horse SoringWASHINGTON — Legislation to further protect performance horses against practices that artificially increase their gait comes before the House Wednesday for what is expected to be an emotionally charged hearing.

The subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will consider arguments on HR 1518, the Prevent all Soring Tactics bill.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., has 216 cosponsors, including one from the Tennessee congressional delegation, Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis.

A Senate version offered by Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., has 26 cosponsors. Tennessee Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker are not sponsoring the legislation.

Soring – inflicting pain on a walking horse to make it more high-stepping – is already prohibited by the Horse Protection Act of 1970.

Whitfield’s bill, however, would enhance the Department of Agriculture’s inspection and enforcement capabilities at horse shows and specifically outlaw the use of special pads on hoofs and chains on lower legs to make a horse raise its limbs higher.

Animal-rights groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, contend such “action devices” often rub on areas made sore with blistering agents to inflict additional pain and achieve their purpose. Many involved in the walking horse industry say the charge lacks scientific evidence.

The fact that only one member of the state’s congressional delegation is cosponsoring the bill angers Marty Irby, past president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’Association.

“I’m tremendously disappointed but not surprised,” Irby said, adding that many horse owners who want to preserve the status quo are politically connected to the delegation.

Irby said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, has told him she will oppose the bill and offer an alternative. Blackburn’s office did not respond by deadline to requests for comment.

As for the other delegation members, “They won’t give you a straight answer,” Irby said.

Opponents of the bill, including the Performance Show Horse Association, contend it is the proponents who are utilizing political connections. They point out that Connie Harriman-Whitfield, wife of the Kentucky congressman sponsoring the bill in the House, is a policy adviser to the Humane Society.

The Humane Society “has an agenda to eliminate the Tennessee walking horse as a breed,” said Jeffrey Howard, board member of the Performance Show Horse Association.

Tennessee congressional members who did address the bill offered differing views.

“We all want to protect horses, and if the industry is smart it will clean itself up. Current laws against Soring are not adequately enforced, and they need to be. If enforcement doesn’t improve, Congress should take additional steps,” said Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville.

Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Jasper, questioned aspects of the bill that would increase powers of the Agriculture Department.

“Certainly there must be sufficient measures in place to protect the welfare of these animals,” DesJarlais said. “However the answer is not to simply expand federal bureaucracy and allow the USDA to inconsistently police an industry where there is less than 2 percent of a problem. We all must strive to end the practice of soring, and I believe the sport’s 98-plus percent compliance rate over the past several years indicates positive movement towards that goal.”

Alexander’s office said the senior senator “is concerned that a few bad actors threaten the treasured Tennessee Walking Horse tradition.”

Alexander is reviewing the legislation and wants to examine expert testimony from the House hearing as well, his office said.

Corker’s office said, “We look forward to reviewing the legislation and testimony from Wednesday’s hearing in the House.”

17 replies »

  1. What an emblematic collection of quotes from cowardly, wishy-washy, special interest driven humans (especially “no reply/response”) responsible for the very cruelty to animals around the US!

    Howard is a buffoonish liar and the journalist gets a C-….most people concerned about equine issues are activist advocates….. “animal rights” is a code phrase.

    Every elected politician in TN, especially Alexander and Corker should be ashamed and since they are not…..VOTE THE TROLLS OUT! (unless TN, like KY is populated by a majority of trolls)


  2. Since you only need to fool some of the people all of the time, or all of the people some of the time, horse exploiters such as the Walking Horse Trainers Association can actually get heard in Washington, D.C. by recasting themselves as the “Performance Show Horse Association.” You can be sure they will be coached by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s “Welfare Coordinator” and other like-minded property rights zealots in sheep’s clothing.


  3. Its completely political just as slaughter is! This is simply about greed, these offenders Rule the shows winnings and wont give it up that its cruelty. I was in walkers and I know Big Lick Horses Well, these people in the industry who are angered by this are disingenuine and dont care about the horses. The people making stricter rules are saving animals Not destroying the Walker. I loved riding these horses without all the garbage done to them in shows, but the ones injured are usually shipped to slaughter because they have to hide evidence so who destroys the walkers? I think the politicians and wealthy people condoning this sport soring are corrupt. The horse shows are bringing more people in with more restrictions more people will attend. These people do not see the benefits of bringing this to the public eye, its improved their Society following, but they are just interested in the Win and less people viewing it doesnt matter. Obssession in a cult like atmosphere with abusive practices that include intimidating industry people and spectators into submission drive the Walker into oblivion not honesty, happy, healthy horses are dramatic too.


  4. I have left messages that if they protect the Walker from this soring I have personal knowledge many people including myself would come back to the industry. We had just seen enough, how can you ride a happy, healthy horse Next to the injured, sore, unhappy ones and have a good time? Then lose when they cheat? We won against some who were reknowned because the horses healthy happy frame and expressions mattered more to the judges.


    • Agreed! None of my 10 walking horses are registered with TWHBEA. They are registered with most of the other gaited horse registries. I have some great bloodlines here such as Prides Generator and Suns Delight, but refuse to be a member of TWHBEA anymore.. The love to promote the chains and soring.. Makes me sick


  5. TWH are generally Naturally Gaited as well as some other breeds. There is no reason to chain or sore these horses. I own 10 gaited horses and have never even shod them. They either lift the foot high or they don’t, either way they are great horses with a wonderful disposition and smooth ride, why spoil that by causing them pain???????????


  6. The “big lick” has ALWAYS been an aboration of human arrogance, hubris (redundant) and self-willed ignorance for personal aggrandizement.

    It has NOTHING to do with contribution to a better world and more seriously, a better equine. It is not horsemanship.

    Those that lie, quibble or stay silent are worse than the perpetrators.

    “Big lick” is stupid and cruel; akin to those very fat butts that like to ride quarter ponies/horses where the stirrup is about 12′ from the arena floor….the rider doesn’t fit the horse.. And the industry REWARDS them as champions.

    They look like adult bullies on 13 year old teenagers at a frat party gone bad.


  7. Interesting hearing. I watched the whole thing and, took some cursory notes and drew my own conclusions, but look forward to an in-depth report from the HSUS and others.


    • I got there too late….what did you think of the fact that more than 2 of the testimonies were from equine killers (AHC and AVMA.AAEP)?
      Your interpretation of the Congressional industry speakers?
      I didn’t recgonize any one that was for equines save for 2 people/orgs that I have never heard of.

      Good gravy!!!!!! In the 21st Century, why can’t the government do a better job with IT?!?! No wonder the ACA is more than stumbling.


  8. The Horse Industry has been supporting, aiding and abetting the liars, the people without the skill sets who have to compromise their morality to cheat in any discipline. I have also got a beef with “regular horse owners” the people who come into have a horse trained saying only need walk, trot, and that’s it, or simply one skill that’s any good, one month or two at the most and then they cant see why they don’t get better prices or permanent homes for their horses in the future. The fact that people in all aspects of the horse industry are riding on the back of Torment, that’s it’s customary to be abusive and dispose of the horses because they found a better one. What if the horses were the ones choosing, there would be a really large herd of horses not wanting to go home with very many people. But its the people who do the choosing, the abuses come from the desire for a perfection that doesn’t exist like in the Walking Horse Industry. They say their fear is no one will watch the show! Bull crap! People watch shows because they want to go somewhere and do something NOT because they are abusing these animals. I know Duquette is spear heading this one because he is trying to get the leaders in politics that own horses up in arrears at the people, including HSUS, that want to prevent abuse. I know that reiners suffer abuse also. I KNOW that there are many things that people do keeping horses from receiving the proper care and training to make their lives MORE fulfilling and profitable to each owner. I also Know the FACT is that the AQHA was the one who wanted to keep their business expanding when they hit a dry spell 20 years ago and they stated people needed to specialize and no longer have the all around horse, well rounded in every thing, trained for any rider, capable beyond belief and useful for a lifetime. I know for a fact, it was a financial move on their part to separate the training of the athletes and give CERTAIN trainers and BREEDERS exclusive rights to being the leaders in the AQHA. I think that the entire thing within each breed began eroding away the reasons for the horse. Then you have kill buyers telling people like a neighboring community a man had a daughter with horses the kill buyer wanted them and before the father realized what he had done, he constantly made her cry saying she was too old for horses and needed to raise a family at 19 then kill buyer made such an unrest in that family he sold the horses off and she was devasted she hasn’t visited the family in 5 years since moving out! So if its unrest within others that lets loose the horses, ruining the natural way of training horses for everyone to find useful being diminished, and then abusing them for a public arena to force people to believe the breed has the capacity to do this and never be able to compete against them without doing the tricks. This has taken a death toll on the horses at 160,000 a year, it will rise when they reopen the plants, the abusive owners will more abusive, the kill buyers will get more horses that way, then the cycle of death continues. The fact that they cant sell it, or that no one wants wont stop them, the fact they are killing animals alive or abusing their owners wont stop them. They are just out to make money-I was asked once if I wanted that Huge trophy from the Walking Horse Jamboree and I just said No, not really, the guy shocked asked whynot, its coveted. I explained it was too high a price to pay. I competed with an animal that wasn’t sored, she displayed the beauty and pride and comfort that I asked her too, her owner was kind and proud and never sored her to win, at 81 years old last year he told me… he was glad I didn’t want to allow her to be sored, he said in his heart We did Win, we rode without doing her any harm, and her true beauty was displayed…..he gets it. But these other people? Sorry so long but its the truth!


  9. Oh and the Yakima Indians are targeting Oregon again for reopening slaughter plant. So if you know people in Oregon get them on ALERT! Article is They Eat Horses Don’t They? Bucking the Slaughterhouse Ban on Horses its in the Indian Country Today media network .com. Please read as they CLAIM To have tried everything and cant do anything else but slaughter RIGHT THERE IN OREGON!


  10. Opponents of the bill are apparently not interested in protecting their breed or else they would be in full support of it. If the breed has nothing to hide, then they won’t mind if “a few bad actors” get their just deserts.

    Bet if you ask the 2% of horses how they like being tortured to achieve a freakofakeo gait, wonder what their response would be? How about broadcasting the tortured 2% and let’s see what the American people have to say?

    Guess what, only 100% compliance will do!!!


  11. Can we please have a source and caption for the horrific photo accompanying this article? I would like to know whoever was caught doing this to a horse was at least in jail forever.


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