The American Association of Equine Practitioners issued stringent recommendations earlier this month for eliminating the abusive practice of soring in Tennessee Walking Horses, which it deems "one of the most significant welfare issues affecting any equine breed or discipline."
Soring, or the infliction of pain to create an extravagant or exaggerated gait in horses for training or show purposes, is prohibited by the federal Horse Protection Act of 1970.
Some continue the practice, according to the AAEP, which says this is documented by the Department of Agriculture's issuance of 103 competitor violations during the 2007 Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration, the industry's championship event.
Key points in the report, titled "Putting the Horse First: Veterinary Recommendations for Ending the Soring of Tennessee Walking Horses," include:
- immediate institution of drug testing at every competition
- abolishment of the Designated Qualified Persons Program and the establishment of a corps of independent veterinarians to conduct horse inspections and impose sanctions for violations of the Horse Protection Act
- development of objective methods to detect soring to eliminate the current practice of conditioning horses to tolerate pressure applied to the limbs
- establishment of a single industry organization that has governance responsibilities and sets and enforces uniform standards and regulations
- reevaluation of judging standards so that the innate grace and beauty of the breed are valued instead of rewarding the currently manufactured exaggerated gait
The report was developed by the AAEP's Tennessee Walking Horse Task Force, a group with specific knowledge of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry and equine welfare issues. Dr. Midge Leitch of Cochranville, Penn., chaired the Task Force.
The AAEP has no regulatory authority over the Tennessee Walking Horse industry but says it intends the white paper to provide guidance and support to those within the industry who are working to permanently end the soring of horses.
To view the document, visit www.aaep.org.