Horse Health

This Abusive Practice Still Happens At Horse Shows; Here’s How One State Is Cracking Down

By Ameena Schelling as published on The Dodo

“You cannot have a big lick without pain”

walkinghorseshoesIn an effort to stop soring — the brutal practice of injuring horses’ feet to make their walk more “attractive” — North Carolina has ended a 30-year-old state fair show that features Tennessee walking horses performing their token exaggerated gait.

The breed’s already distinct walk is often amplified into a “big lick” gait for performance competitions, usually by adding heavy platforms to the horse’s front shoes.

However, advocates argue that such competitions encourage the illegal but all-too-common practice of soring, an inhumane process where horse’s feet are cruelly injured. The pain causes them to lift their feet up quickly and emphatically, creating a more dramatic walk.

One common method of soring involves burning horses’ feet with toxic chemicals such as diesel, kerosene and mustard oil, then wrapping their legs in plastic wrap and leaving the chemicals to blister the skin.

Another method, called pressure shoeing, involves trimming a horse’s hoof almost to the quick to cause excruciating pain. Some trainers also hammer nails and tacks into sensitive areas of the horse’s hooves.

“The big lick is a pain-induced gait,” Clant Seay of the All American Walking Horse Alliance told The News & Observer. “You cannot have a big lick without pain.”

Though no one’s being charged, the decision to ban the walking horses from the North Carolina State Fair comes after protests at last year’s event and an online petition that garnered nearly 20,000 signatures.

Soring was banned under the U.S. Horse Protection Act of 1970, but the practice is still quite common because it gives an advantage in gait competitions. Many judges still use criteria that favors sored horses, and trainers are often skilled at hiding soring from show-mandated veterinary inspectors.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, some trainers may apply numbing agents to horses’ feet so they don’t flinch when they’re handled by vets, and some even beat horses during staged practice sessions so the animals learn that flinching will only lead to worse pain.

A bipartisan group of congressmen and horse enthusiasts have rallied around the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act, which would increase USDA oversight, increase penalties and ban the use of devices associated with soring. The bill should be reintroduced this year.

17 replies »

    • I cannot watch this beyond the point they are applying the caustic concoction and wrapping the horses ankles. I want to whack this man many times with the bat he was using on the horse in crossties. Apparently, my rage wants to take action.


  1. Good to see that this horrible practice is getting publicity – and hope people will notify the sponsors of these shows and tell them that they will not be coming to the shows or buying their products and WHY.


  2. Well then, let’s make a new rule for any trainer who gets caught soring their horse for show. Let’s apply the same methods to them and make them carry a rider so they can do the big lick. I think the punishment should match the crime. Don’t you? Yes, I am so against any abusive treatment of any animal and to do it for looks or status makes it all the worse. Good decision state saute guys!


  3. I cannot watch it either I know what they do, and it is a disgrace and the horse is in constant pain ……………………….. Anyone doing this to a horse is most definetly an abuser and should spend his life in a prison !!!!!


  4. After the release of this video & watching poor freaky animals forced to do this “Big Lick” – how can anyone whether they are horse people or not – think this is ok? Looking at those horses sitting way back on their hocks just to keep weight off the front – Just blows my mind that they are allowed to get away with it. Hopefully, the attendance in Shelby will continue to drop until there is no one who wants to see it.


  5. The hooves in the photo provided (without any spring evident) are still very pathological hooves. If this is the “approved” model there is still a lot to be accounted for regarding horse suffering.


  6. Good for North Carolina for taking a stand to end the brutal practice of soring in their state. Hopefully, other states will follow to end the horrible suffering of these gentle animals.


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