Schaumburg, IL— Soring, illegal for more than 40 years, is the abusive act of intentionally inflicting pain on gaited horses through the use of chemical irritants, broken glass wedged in between a horse's shoe pads and sole, or overly tightened metal hoof bands. The extreme pain caused by these abuses forces the horse to lift its legs faster and higher, perhaps increasing its chance of winning in show rings across the country.
"It's time for this egregious form of animal cruelty to end," says Dr. René Carlson, President of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors are doing everything possible to detect evidence of soring before horses are allowed to compete.
Unfortunately, due to budget constraints, USDA inspectors are only able to attend a small number of the shows being held. It is going to take a team effort to put an end to the inhumane practice of soring horses, so America's veterinarians stand in support of government regulators and the walking horse industry in their horse protection efforts," said Carlson.
In 2011, the USDA documented 587 violations of the Horse Protection Act while attending only 62 of the 650 or so gaited horse events held that year.
The USDA cited participants in the 2011 National Trainers' Show with 49 violations of the Horse Protection Act — the third highest number of violations for a single USDA-inspected show that year.
Prosecution of violators has met strong political opposition, challenging USDA's efforts at enforcement and creating an environment where recidivism is the norm.
"For that reason, America's veterinarians are standing right beside USDA inspectors in urging the strengthening of the Horse Protection Act. Everyone -- inspectors, judges, trainers, riders and even spectators at these shows must take responsibility for ending soring. A zero-tolerance policy being promoted by these shows would set a significant tenor for the entire show season," Dr. Carlson added.
To assist in the return of the walking horse gait back to its natural beauty, the AVMA has created an educational video, produced in cooperation with the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) and the USDA, to provide an overview of the issue of soring and highlight the tell-tale signs of when a horse has been sored.
The video includes an interview with Elizabeth Graves, a licensed Tennessee Walking Horse judge and gaited horse trainer and Dr. Nat Messer, a member of both the AVMA's and the AAEP's Animal Welfare Committees. Additional materials, including a factsheet, backgrounder, reporting procedures, and the formal AVMA policy are available for general use. The AVMA is confident that with appropriate recognition of the inhumane nature of soring; increased reporting of abuse; and stronger legislative and regulatory action, including adequate funding for inspections, the offspring of today's sored horses won't have to suffer tomorrow.
Available for interviews:
- Dr. Nat Messer, member of AVMA and AAEP Animal Welfare Committees
- Elizabeth Graves - Licensed Tennessee Walking Horse judge and gaited horse trainer
Video Clips available for download.