Enough is enough. For too many years, self-regulation by those promoting the Big Lick has put the fox in control of the hen house and not only permitted – but fostered – the cruel practice of soring
. Soring uses mechanical and/or chemical means to deliberately cause pain to artificially exaggerate the leg motion of a horse's gait. The Horse Protection Act (HPA), passed into law in 1970, was meant to eliminate soring. More than 46 years later soring continues, and horses suffer, because owners and trainers seek—and judges reward—such extreme gaits.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued its Fiscal Year 2016 (October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2016) USDA Horse Program Activity Report, and the numbers are disturbing. Thirty-one percent of horses inspected by the USDA in accord with the HPA were suspected to be noncompliant. Of those evaluated by USDA inspectors and suspected to be sored, 78% were disqualified from competition. Overall, 6% of horses shown in covered and monitored activities were disqualified for HPA violations. During the annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, 29% of the horses evaluated by USDA were suspected of being subjected to soring; in some other shows, more than one-half of the horses inspected were suspected by USDA inspectors to be in violation of the HPA.
This, in an industry that claims soring does not exist.
The comment period for the USDA-proposed revisions to the Horse Protection Act regulations closed on October 26. The AVMA and American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) jointly submitted a letter of comment to the USDA in support of the proposed revisions, but with suggestions for additional clarity to address concerns raised by horse breed organizations that believed they might be affected by the proposed rule, although their horses were not the target of it. Senator Yoho recently voiced his support for the revised rule, calling for approval before the federal administration change in January 2017.
Our sincere thanks go to all who supported the rule change and provided constructive comments that will assist USDA in addressing therapeutic and non-harmful shoeing and training practices, while still closing the loopholes that have allowed soring to continue. We’d also like to give a shout-out to the people who train, ride, and show their gaited horses without soring them, proving time and again that soring is not needed to appreciate the beauty of horses’ natural gaits.
The USDA will be considering the comments they have received on the proposed rule, and we’ll provide an update after USDA publishes the final rule.