Help End Cruelty of Soring Horses

as published on The Lexington Herald Leader

Soring has been going on for about 60 years. It has been immoral all of those years, and illegal for 45 of them.

Undercover video footage released in 2012 documented cruel treatment of horses in the Tennessee walking horse industry. It showed the use of painful chemicals on horses’ front legs to force them to perform an artificially high-stepping gait for show competitions. This practice, known as “soring,” has been illegal for more than 40 years under the federal Horse Protection Act. Humane Society of the United States

Undercover video footage released in 2012 documented cruel treatment of horses in the Tennessee walking horse industry. It showed the use of painful chemicals on horses’ front legs to force them to perform an artificially high-stepping gait for show competitions. This practice, known as “soring,” has been illegal for more than 40 years under the federal Horse Protection Act. Humane Society of the United States

I have owned, cared for and competed on horses much of my life.

Soring is, without question, the most cruel training practice I have ever seen or heard about in the entire horse world.

Don’t know what soring is? You are not alone. It ranks right up there with dog fighting, but it requires a bit of explanation. It’s used by a hard core of trainers in the Tennessee Walking Horse world, and involves putting caustic chemicals on the horse’s front legs, wrapping the legs in plastic wrap and bandages, and letting the chemicals “cook” into the flesh.

After several days, the bandages are removed and chains are fastened around the ankles of the horse, biting into the injured flesh. Extremely heavy, tall shoes (“stacks”) are then attached to the front hooves with metal straps.

The effect of this painful process is that the horse tries to remove all weight from his front legs, adopting an exaggerated sitting position when moving and flinging out the front legs in a movement that is referred to as the “Big Lick.”

Among a very entrenched group of aficionados, the Big Lick is the pinnacle of show-horse movement. Among everyone else, it is horrifying cruelty.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees enforcement of the Horse Protection Act of 1970 that was supposed to end soring forever, has finally developed a set of regulations that have (somewhat) more teeth than the original legislation proved to have.

The new regs will eliminate the tall stack shoes (but not all weights in shoes), and also address a key problem in the inspection process at shows by mandating the use of USDA-approved inspectors — up to now, the industry paid its own inspectors, with predictable results.

USDA already has a few inspectors, but they can only cover about seven percent of all shows. But when they are present, they find a lot of horses that have signs of banned substances or scarring from soring chemicals and chains. Over 85 percent of horses that USDA tested were found in violation at the industry’s biggest championship show, the National Celebration, in 2015.

Soring has been going on for about 60 years. It has been immoral all of those years, and illegal for 45 of them.

With stronger regs in the offing, the industry is claiming that economic devastation of entire areas of the country will ensue.

Ridiculous, of course.

Soring advocates talk out of both sides of their mouths. On the one hand, they have recently started insisting that soring either does not happen anymore or that only a tiny number of trainers use these methods. Out of the other hand, they insist (most recently at a public comment session held by USDA in early August) that the proposed regulations will have huge economic impact.

They can’t have it both ways. Either there is no more soring going on, in which case the proposed regulations won’t impact anyone, or soring is happening every day, and they most certainly have to change their ways.

The solution is obvious: Stop training for the Big Lick. Do what many others do — train for a natural movement, which these beautiful horses are bred for. They will start to see spectators in the stands again, instead of empty seats. Charitable sponsors will come back. And they and everyone else won’t have to see billboards about horse torture. People will come back to this breed, instead of turning away from it.

For those who love animals and hate cruelty, go to http://www.regulations.gov and add your voice in favor of the regulations. Public comment is open until Sept. 26.

Jo Ellen Hayden, a prize-winning dressage rider and horsewoman, lives in Lexington.

13 comments on “Help End Cruelty of Soring Horses

    • There are some Judges that turn their heads the other way, like blinders on a horse but on them. Please just google the truth about the Big Lick and soring horses

      Liked by 1 person

  1. It is an absolute abuse to the horses and yet these same people will claim “they love” their horses. That is the sign of a very sick person because anyone can see how abusive it is

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  2. Yes, Call, write. email do anything to prevent this torture! How could anyone call this soring good horsemanship. Are people out of their minds! And the USDA is not equipped to handle all the shows. That breed is going down because THEY failed to protect the horses they professed to love. Again it is the selfish greed for the almighty dollar! I wouldn’t attend one of those horse shows if you paid me a Million dollars! Scum bag trainers and some owners. Pathetic excuses for human beings!

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  3. Pleasd do not forget about the Protest March in Washington, DC on September 22, 2016. The Coalition Against Horse Slaughter/Safe Food, Safe Horse Act has scheduled thus. We are also there to protest the inhumane treatment and killing of our Wild Horses and Burros. Ronnie Larson, a Marine Veteran, is riding his Mustangs he saved from slaughter from Texas to Washington, DC. If you.should get notification he is coming your way _please extend a hand to this courageous fellow. If you can please try to get there. There are a block of rooms available at the Americana. Small hotel in comparison but very friendly. Some are sharing lodging and protesting bodies count! There is more info on the website so look up the march on September 22, 2016. Only WE can make a difference. Another truck load of BLM Wild Horses left from Washington state for slaughter. ARE WE going to STAND for this???? I am on my way to my US Reps office very shortly.

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  4. I live in the UK (England) I have had horses for over 30 years, I have never heard of this practice in my country. How cruel, how shameful. You can’t be animal lovers in the USA to put up & turn a blind eye to this practice. I just can’t understand why anyone would do / carry out this practice on an animal. What is wrong with you people. Get a grip for Gods Sake. This needs to STOP RIGHT NOW.

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  5. The truth is the Walking horse industry in Tn cares nothing about the suffering of these horses.
    Where are the vets who participate in the abuse of these horses?
    Sadly that the veterinary profession turns a blind eye to the suffering of these horses in favor of monetary gain.
    Many walking horse breeders are multimillionares who could care less about horse welfare.

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