Stop Soring Tennessee Walking Horses: Take Action Today!
Find out how you can put a stop to this abusive and illegal practicePublished September 20, 2012
DanDee Shots, Milton Horse Show
The official state horse of Tennessee is the Tennessee Walking Horse. The breed is well known for its pleasant disposition, willing nature and distinctive flashy gait. They are also huge crowd pleasers in the show ring, where judges reward those with the best signature step.
Spectators watching Tennessee Walking Horses (TWHs) compete may think the breed is pampered and humanely cared for. However, there is a dark cloud hanging over the heads of many of these gorgeous equines.
In order to produce the "Big Lick", the exaggerated high stepping gait for which the breed is famous, some trainers subject their horses to “soring,” an inhumane and illegal practice that intentionally inflicts severe pain to their hooves and legs.
Other methods intermittently used by unscrupulous trainers are the so-called “performance packages,” which include action devices employing metal chains, "stacks," and pads. These are nailed to the horse's hoof to add weight, forcing the horse to raise their feet higher, and to strike the ground harder. Sharp or hard objects are sometimes concealed in these "performance packages" designed to achieve a high-stepping gait by increasing the pressure to the horse's feet.
Public outcry against this animal abuse led Congress to pass The Horse Protection Act (HPA) in 1970. The HPA gave authority to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to have representatives inspect any show horse exhibiting signs of soring and prevents Tennessee Walking and Racking horses (a breed derived from TWHs) from being exhibited, shown or sold if signs of soring are observed. It also calls for any horse winning first place at a Tennessee or Racking show or exhibition to be re-examined to ensure that the winner was not sored. Penalties for violators include imprisonment up to one year, and maximum fines of $3,000.
But in spite of the HPA, according to an article in the American Farriers Journal, while soring is less conspicuous, some unethical folks involved with TWHs continue the practice. A quote from this article reads, “There are many ways to sore horses, with the tricks often being as closely guarded as Aunt Jean’s pecan pie recipe.”
Some animal advocates feel there is insufficient “teeth” to enforce HPA penalties and changes are desperately needed. According to the magazine, The Horse, on September 13, U.S. Representatives, Steve Cohen (D) Tennessee and Ed Whitfield (R) Kentucky introduced HR 6388 to amend the HPA to increase violation penalties to three years imprisonment and $5,000 in fines. Additionally, it would ban the use of performance packages.
Rep. Whitfield said, "This amendment is essential in helping to put an end to the practice of soring Tennessee Walking Horses by abusive trainers. Far too often, those involved in showing the TWH 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."
Such animal abuse continues to be perpetuated by some of the industry's larger players. Last May, famed TWH trainer Jackie McConnell pled guilty to a single count of animal cruelty and faced 52 counts of transporting and showing abused horses. According to NBCNews.com, this Tuesday, Sept. 18, McConnell was sentenced in federal court to three years’ probation and a $75,000 fine, following an agreement made with prosecutors, for the crime of soring show horses with a caustic chemical on their ankles.
As animal lovers, we can help to end the disgraceful act of horse soring by taking prompt action. Call your U.S.State Representatives to ask them to co-sponsor HR 6388, and contact your U.S. Senators urging them to support the bill.
Why do you think horse soring still continues? Tell us in a comment.