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Robert Longley

Bill Would Outlaw Horse Soring

By September 19, 2012

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U.S. lawmakers from Kentucky and Tennessee have introduced a bill intended to outlaw horse "soring," an abusive practice of intentionally and repeatedly injuring the forelegs of horses in order to enhance their performance in competitive events.

Most of often used in the training of Tennessee Walking Horses to accentuate the breed's distinctively exaggerated gait rewarded in competitions, soring is accomplished by blistering the horse's forelegs with chemicals or forcing the horse to wear devices that irritate or actually cut its legs.

While soring is already illegal under the federal Horse Protection Act (HPA), the law places responsibility for detecting and preventing the practice on horse show organizers and sponsors. Sort of a "fox guarding the chickens" approach, according to U.S. Reps. Ed Whitfield (R-Kentucky) and Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee).

Their bill, H.R. 6388, would help the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) enforce the Horse Protection Act by eliminating those self-policing inspection practices.

Hailed by the ASPCA, the Whitfield-Cohen bill would also increase penalties for soring and expand the list of illegal soring practices.

"The Horse Protection Act was specifically enacted in 1970 to prohibit this abhorrent practice, and yet it continues to pervade the gaited horse industry four decades later," stated Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations in a press release. "We thank Representatives Whitfield, Cohen, Schakowsky and Moran for introducing legislation to protect these gentle animals and bring an end to horse soring."

Earlier this year, the USDA reacted to reports of widespread soring violations by beefing up its own show horse protection regulations. But according to Reps. Whitfield and Cohen, whose home states of Kentucky and Tennessee are in the heart of horse show country, something even stronger is needed.

"Far too often, those involved in showing the Tennessee Walking Horse have turned a blind eye to abusive trainers, or when they do take action, the penalties are so minor, it does nothing to prevent these barbaric acts," said. Rep. Whitfield in introducing the bill. "This amendment does not cost the federal government any additional money and is essential in helping to put an end to the practice of soring Tennessee Walking Horses by abusive trainers."

"How we treat animals is a direct reflection of our character, both as individuals and a nation," said Rep. Cohen. "There is no ribbon, no prize nor championship worth the price of one's humanity."

Also See:
USDA Finds Flagrant Abuse of Show Horses
USDA Moves to Better Protect Horses


September 20, 2012 at 10:15 pm
(1) mindbird says:

The only reason this could go on is that most people haven’t seen it.

It’s time to use all this technology to monitor what goes on in animal “husbandry.” No big agency of investigators, just webcams with public access. Mandatory, like a fire alarm. That should stop a few abuses.

October 6, 2012 at 7:17 am
(2) gmomt56 says:

I had never heard of horse soring, but after watching a video posted by the humane society, it left me sick. I have written to my US Senator and Congressman asking that they support bill HR 6388. We have so many laws, but very little enforcement. Maybe if the penalties for this abuse were stronger (i.e. fine & jail time), abusive trainers would think twice…or maybe not. It’s worth a try. These noble steeds certainly don’t deserve this!

October 16, 2012 at 1:54 pm
(3) Loni says:

I have 3 Tennessee Walkers, we show and NEVER have sored our horses. What people don’t know is this bill is also making it illegal for us to put padded shoes, bands, or anything on our horses. These things do not hurt them, soring does. They are two different things. What I hate is the people supporting this bill have no idea about horses, the people who made the bill probably do not either. Yes it’s terrible and a cruel thing to do. But I am not going to support this bill because I love to show my horses and they love it too. They have a good life and are never mis treated.I suggest you all learn about horses more before you go and support random things that you have no clue about.

December 10, 2012 at 3:03 pm
(4) HorseLover says:

I have four horses — two are rescues so feel I have right to speak about abuse because I have seen it first hand. I also adopted children who were subjected to abuse. Abuse is not subjective — if it causes pain, harm, or fear, it is wrong.

Anything put on a horse’s feet to force them to artificially lift higher seems wrong to me. The bands put pressure on nerves — the horse lifts to avoid the discomfort. Even if it does not damage the feet, why would any horse lover want to do anything to their horse that caused them discomfort is beyond me. I am sure you do not see it as wrong because it only causes temporary pain. But I could teach my kid not to play with matches by holding his hand over the stove just enough to hurt but without actually causing a burn. That would be seen as child abuse. You are teaching your horses to avoid discomfort to get an unnatural response.

Love the horse more than the sport.

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