A Trojan Horse Maneuver From the Horse Soring Crowd

By on December 4, 2015 with 10 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

It’s hard to believe that there are any reputable politicians anywhere in the United States aligned with the horse soring crowd. The showing of sored horses has long been a federal crime, and it’s a gratuitous, inhumane act. To me, trainers who intentionally injure the legs and hooves of horses to get them to step higher and win ribbons in the show ring are architects of extreme animal cruelty, similar to cockfighters who persist with their organized criminal conduct.

Soring remains rampant in the “Big Lick” show world as our latest undercover investigation into ThorSport Farm, a major Tennessee walking horse training barn, made clear. That’s why we are working hard to upgrade the federal Horse Protection Act, give it some teeth, and close loopholes in the existing law. The bill we’re backing – along with the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Horse Council, more than 60 other national and state horse groups, American Association of Equine Practitioners, all 50 state veterinary medical associations, the National Sheriffs’ Association, Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and all major animal protection organizations – is called the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act (H.R. 3268/S. 1121). This legislation would prohibit the soring of horses, strengthen penalties from the misdemeanor to felony level, eliminate the failed system of industry self-policing, and prohibit the use of “stacks” and chains used in soring Tennessee walking, racking, and spotted saddle horse breeds.

Yet now comes competing legislation from the horse soring crowd that masquerades as a reform measure but does nothing to change the status quo. Congressman Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., is carrying the bill for the horse soring contingent, and it’s conveniently named the Horse Protection Amendments Act of 2015 (H.R. 4105). In reality, it attempts to make lawbreakers into victims, while vilifying the dutiful staff of the U.S. Department of Agriculture charged with enforcing the law.

Make no mistake, the PAST Act, introduced in the House by two veterinarians, Reps. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., and in the Senate by Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Mark Warner, D-Va., is the only bill before Congress that will make meaningful change to protect horses from the barbaric practice of soring. The PAST Act has more than 280 lawmakers signed on as cosponsors. The bill by Rep. DesJarlais, and a similar Senate bill from Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., have a combined 11 cosponsors between them. This “alternative” legislation is the product of a small group of lawmakers in Kentucky and Tennessee – where the “Big Lick” industry is centered – who have closely aligned themselves with the sorers.

The DesJarlais bill is identical to the sham bill introduced in the last Congress by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and does nothing to end soring. In fact, the DesJarlais and Alexander soring defense bills only weaken protections for horses under the Horse Protection Act by placing enforcement authority in the hands of individuals with ties to the “Big Lick” industry. This would make the disastrous scheme of industry self-regulation – documented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a 2010 audit as a failure riddled with conflicts of interest – even worse by putting a criminal faction of the industry in control of oversight.

The PAST Act will restore the reputation of the Tennessee walking horse and the state for which it is named, and enable these horses to live their lives without the pain and misery of soring, while the DesJarlais/Alexander legislation simply seeks to give a free pass to people who injure horses as part of their normal approach to preparing them for the show ring. One bill represents real reform, and the other is a sham.

Help pass the PAST Act »

Equine, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Ricardo cattani says:

    Animal are not a TOY!!!

  2. Sue Carey Saidi says:

    I am sorry but there is just on excuse for the practice of soring none at all its discusting and really horses that have had this done should be thrown out of competition.

  3. Annie Harmon says:

    I think animal cruelty has gotten so out of control in the past 45 years that people are numb to how serious and inhumane it really is ! Time is running out..people!

  4. rhonda ethridge says:

    It’s absolutely horrible!!!!

  5. Diana says:

    The judges are part of the problem as well since they continue to reward the owners/trainers/riders by placing them for having these poor horses show this way. The judges need to stop rewarding for this illegal behavior

  6. Joy says:

    If HSUS were truly against soring, why would they oppose a bill, call it a “Trojan horse”, that’s primary purpose is to utilize scientific methods to detect soring and thus make prosecution basically a slam dunk?

    Why hasn’t HSUS demanded a congressional investigation of the USDA? There’s a vast difference in horses disqualified versus cases prosecuted.

    What is needed is government transparency and accountability. If new laws are needed, shouldn’t they be based in science rather than banning shoes on 3 breeds of horses especially considering other breeds also use same or similar shoes? If the shoes are harmful for Tennessee Walking Horses, aren’t they harmful to other breeds as well?

    • Susan Trout says:

      As a lifelong horse lover, guardian and advocate, I find it inconceivable that people actually enjoy and find these “big lick” classes exciting. If you know any thing at all about equine conformation and movement, you’ll understand that what humans do to these animals in the name of winning is absolutely ridiculous and unconscionably cruel. The big lick action is so contrived, so unnatural that it is laughable to any true horseman/woman who appreciates beautiful, natural movement. Big lick classes should be banned, just like bloodsports. Don’t give me your bull$hit, Joy, about laws needing to be based on science. It doesn’t take an Olympic-winning equestrian to see that treating and showing horses in this extremely artificial class is mindless, out-of-control egotism. Tennessee Walking Horses have a beautiful, natural gait that is so lovely to ride. Making them perform like goose-stepping Nazis is NOT one bit attractive or exciting. I have no doubt that you,Joy, are deeply involved in keeping the status quo. Otherwise you would be clearly in favor of strengthening laws to severely prosecute those guilty of “soaring” these beautiful, innocent creatures. I’ve had my fill of “ball-less”, uncaring legislators who are clearly in the pockets of the Big Lick thugs. If you people truly care about helping these horses, demand that your elected officials support legislation that will make it really painful and expensive to harm them. Those that continue to rub shoulders with the abusers should be shamed and driven out of office. They DO NOT speak for the majority and they sure as hell don’t care about the horses!

    • Vaishali Honawar says:

      Hi Joy, I am the editor of A Humane Nation. Here’s a response to your question from Keith Dane, VP of equine protection at The HSUS: Advocates of S. 1161/H.R. 4105 claim these bills will introduce objective, science-based, peer-reviewed inspection techniques. But the methods now in use already meet the criteria in this legislation’s definition – e.g., digital palpation (considered by the veterinary community as a reliable means of identifying pain responses in horses); thermographic examination used to detect inflammation and visual inspection to identify patterns of scarring – both indicative of soring; foreign substance testing so advanced that it can break into chemical components the different illegal substances found on the horses’ legs, including agents designed to numb the legs and mask pain; and digital x-rays revealing pressure shoeing and the insertion of foreign objects used to create pain or add illegal weight to shoes. 1161’s/H.R. 4105’s supporters often tout blood tests as a sort of magic bullet objective means of detecting soring. But they don’t mention that while blood tests detect injectable masking agents, they are unable to detect topical application of caustic chemicals and masking agents that don’t get into the blood stream, nor do blood tests detect scarring or abusive shoeing methods. The bottom line – USDA’s current methods are indeed objective, science-based, peer-reviewed inspection techniques that are widely recognized as legitimate by veterinarians, folks with ties to soring just don’t like getting caught, so they complain about the methodologies.

      The USDA works hard to enforce the Horse Protection Act with the limited resources at its disposal, but unfortunately, soring is rampant and resources are limited. That’s why the PAST Act is urgently needed because it will enable the USDA to redirect its enforcement efforts and resources in a more efficient and effective way.

  7. Terri says:

    I think the ‘big lick’ is ugly & nauseating. Those heavy exaggeratedly high shoes strapped to the horses front feet are horrible looking and can’t be good for the confirmation of the poor horses’ legs or body. When you change how a horse stands or moves with such shoes it not only hurts their feet and legs, but it hurts their body such as causing their backs and hips to become sore as will as causing pain in their shoulders.

    Any one entering a show with such shoes or any type of contraption used to cause a horse to step so high should be disqualified and the rider, trainer and farrier (after all they’re the ones who put these shoes on the horse) should be arrested and charge with animal abuse.

    The show administrators and judges shouldn’t allow these poor horses to enter their show. Any judge who select those horses with such treatment to the front feet should have a fine put on them and maybe even arrested for allowing a horse to participate in the show.

    Like what both Susan and Vaishali said it’s cruelty at it worst and it’s going to take a judge with guts to help eliminate such horses from winning.

    I also don’t like how these poor horses’ tail is forced into their high carriage. Their poor tails are broken and strapped into a contraption that causes them to loose the ability to switch away the flies or to express their emotional feelings.

    I know I won’t go to a show that allows such things to happen to one of God’s creatures.

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