February 15, 2012
A: Soring is done by irritating or blistering the horse's forelegs through the injection or application of chemical irritants or painful mechanical devices.2
Chemical soring—Chemical soring involves the application of a caustic chemical to the hair and skin of the horse's lower leg, then covering the leg with plastic and a leg wrap for several days to allow the chemical to "cook" into the skin. Some of the chemicals used for this type of soring include: kerosene, diesel, croton oil, GoJo hand cleaner, WD40 oil and mustard oil. Once the chemicals have made the horse's skin very sensitive "action devices" are placed around the pastern. The action devices slide up and down as the horse travels further irritating the areas already made painful by soring. In addition to sensitive skin, the chemicals cause the horses hoof to become sensitive to striking the ground.
These chemicals can produce obvious skin scars and send up "red flags" to inspectors. As scrutiny on scarring violations has increased another cruel practice has emerged: owners and trainers apply a chemical stripping agent to the horse's legs to burn off scar tissue caused by the original chemical soring. This chemical stripping is an additional painful process for the horse.
Action devices— One action device per limb is permitted by the Horse Protection Act.1 The action device must be made of lignum vitae (hardwood), aluminum, or stainless steel and must have individual rollers that are smooth and uniform in size, weight and configuration. In addition, the device must not weigh more than 6 ounces.
Mechanical/Physical soring—This type of soring involves trimming the hoof or applying devices that cause the horse's hooves to be painful and force the horse to pick up its feet faster and higher.Some of the methods used include:
Designated Qualified Persons (DQPs)— USDA designates DQPs, veterinarians knowledgeable about the industry and trained by the USDA to detect evidence of soring. The DQPs are hired by the manager of the event to make sure that sored horses are not allowed in the ring. The DQPs physically inspect every horse before it can be shown, sold or exhibited. They are also responsible for reporting horses that do not meet the federal regulation.
Veterinary Medical Officers (VMOs)—USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) conducts unannounced inspections at horse events where soring may occur.
Horse Industry Organizations (HIOs)—USDA certifies HIOs which "self-police" the industry. The HIOs are approved to perform inspections for violations of the HPA.
A: The AVMA has condemned the practice of soring for over 40 years. AVMA currently endorses the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) policy on "The Practice of Soring".
For more information about the AVMA and AAEP policies on the practice of soring:
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) www.avma.org/KB/Policies/Pages/Practice-of-Soring.aspx
American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) http://www.aaep.org/soring_position.htm
Friends of Sound Horses Inc. (FOSH) (www.fosh.info) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to informing the public about the humane care, treatment and training of gaited horses and to promoting the exhibition of flat-shod gaited horses.
A: Please report incidences of soring to the USDA: this includes incidents of soring at barns or shows; reporting barns, trainers and owners engaging in soring practices; and reporting "outlaw shows" organized without licensed HIO inspections.
FOOTNOTESa USDA attended a total of 208 shows from 2008-2011. USDA estimates the total number of shows per year to be 700.
REFERENCES1 USDA APHIS. The Horse Protection Act. Available at: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_welfare/hp/hp_act_regs.shtml. Accessed October 19, 2011.2 USDA APHIS. The Horse Protection Act Factsheet. November 2004. Available at: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/animal_welfare/content/printable_version/fs_awhpa.pdf. Accessed October 19, 2011.3 Lawrence, LA. Horse Conformation Analysis. Washington State University Extension. May 2006 (Reprint). Available at: http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/cepublications/eb1613/eb1613.pdf. Accessed October 19, 2011.4 USDA APHIS. Questions and Answers: Animal Care's Use of Thermography. February 2009. Available at: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_welfare/hp/downloads/faq_useofthermo.pdf. Accessed October 19, 2011.5 USDA APHIS. Horses Protection Foreign Substance Penalty Protocol. Available at: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_welfare/hp/hp_foreign_substance.shtml. Accessed October 19, 2011.6 The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration 2011 Class Schedule. Available at: http://www.twhnc.com/. Accessed August 19, 2011.7 National Walking Horse Association. The National Showbill. Available at: http://www.nwha.com/nationalshow/2011/TheNationalShowbill%20FINAL.pdf. Accessed October 19, 2011.8 Friends of Sound Horses. North American Pleasure Gaited Horse Championships Premium Book. Available at: http://www.naghc.com/2011%20Premium%20Book%20Color.pdf. Accessed October 19, 2011.