Scores of federal lawmakers say no to keeping horses sore

By on March 30, 2017 with 9 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Today, in a show of legislative horsepower, U.S. Reps. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., introduced the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, HR 1847, with nearly half the lawmakers in the U.S. House joining them in a quest to close loopholes in the almost 50-year-old Horse Protection Act that have enabled the cruelty of horse soring to persist. They were joined by a strong leadership team of Reps. Tom Marino, R-Pa., Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., Chris Collins, R-N.Y., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and a whopping combined 209 original cosponsors – a level of support for bill introduction that is very rare in Congress.

Identical to the bill of the same name introduced two years ago, the PAST Act contains the reforms that are so urgently needed to crack down on soring – the intentional infliction of pain on the legs and hooves of Tennessee walking horses and related breeds to create the exaggerated gait known as the “big lick.” It will end the corrupt and failed system of industry self-policing and ban the devices used in, and integral to, the soring process. Reps. Yoho and Schrader are both veterinarians with experience treating horses, and they spoke compellingly about soring at a recent briefing on Capitol Hill.

The nationwide campaign to end the cruel practice of horse soring came so close within the last year, and we’re still reeling from the failure of Federal Register personnel to properly publish a U.S. Department of Agriculture rule to crack down on the activity. Last July, the USDA announced a proposed rule that was years in the making, to ban the use of stacks and chains on the horses’ feet and legs and to eliminate the industry self-regulation program that has enabled corrupt practices to persist on such a widespread basis.

Although Congress passed and President Nixon signed the Horse Protection Act in 1970 to stop soring, the practice has continued to infect shows for Tennessee walking horses in Tennessee and other states where these exhibitions occur, due to weak regulations and underenforcement. The agency’s proposed rule received more than 100,000 supportive public comments and was endorsed by numerous equine industry groups, key veterinary organizations, and 224 Representatives and Senators who called on the USDA to finalize it swiftly. But in a tragic one-two punch, the Obama administration fell literally one day short of publishing the final rule before leaving office, and it then got caught up in the Trump administration’s blanket regulation freeze. Thankfully for the horses, the bill introduced today provides a potential source of relief.

The PAST Act goes beyond the pending USDA regulations in that it will create stronger penalties for violators, to more effectively deter this criminal activity. PAST has overwhelming support, with endorsements by the American Horse Council, the United States Equestrian Federation, more than 60 other national and state horse groups, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Equine Practitioners, all 50 state veterinary medical associations, the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and major newspapers in Kentucky and Tennessee (the hotbeds of soring), among hundreds of groups and key individuals.

The pro-soring coalition has its own bill that masquerades as reform. Rep. Scott DesJarlais’ “Horse Protection Amendments Act” is nothing more than a smokescreen for big lick torturers, and shamefully, 10 Representatives (from Tennessee, Kentucky, and one from Mississippi) have cosponsored this sham bill. These legislators represent the very region where the horses need the reforms of PAST the most. Rep. Cohen of Tennessee, on the other hand, has been an unwavering champion for animal welfare and continues to help lead the PAST Act, while Rep. John Yarmuth, DKy., is a PAST Act cosponsor again.

While the provisions in the USDA rule that’s on hold are critical, we also knew that we’d have to go to Congress to increase penalties. So now we have two pathways for reform — unfreezing the rule and getting the PAST Act over the finish line. With more than 200 lawmakers joining together to introduce this legislation, we welcome a vote on the issue and call on House leaders to take up the PAST Act within a reasonable time frame. Our nation should no longer tolerate trainers and owners intentionally and maliciously injuring horses in order for them to win ribbons at shows. The ribbons mean nothing to the horses, and this human blend of vanity and cruelty should be stamped out by national lawmakers and by President Trump.

Pass the PAST Act to end horse soring >>

Equine, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. DEBRA KEY says:


  2. Nancy O'Neal says:

    This has nothing to do with loving horses. This is all about human EGO. Stop it!

    • Lori says:

      Nancy, you are so right!

      My father was one of these TN Walking Horse Trainers, and I grew up watching this abuse all the time, though I tried to keep me away from the barn. Years later I understood why. He always went on and on about how much he “loved” his horses.

      I always opposed his treatment of horses but was too afraid to stand up to him because when I did, he abused them worse. So I learned to be silent until moving far away from middle Tennessee, the hotbed of Walking Horse abuse.

      Two years ago, I became involved with HSUS and protested “big lick” Walking Horse classes at the NC State Fair. The protests of our very small group of five people, and the TV and press coverage that resulted, finally made a difference. The classes did go on in 2015, but they were cancelled in 2016 and moving forward.

      Please get involved in fighting for the welfare of Tennessee Walking Horses. They don’t have a voice so we all have to use our voices for them.

  3. Lily Curtiss says:

    You call people who do this horse lovers?!!

  4. Margaret Wolfe says:

    These horses don’t deserve to have their tails cut, wear a tail set at night which has to make it impossible to rest, wear a gag bit that pulls their mouth up towards their ears (imagine the pain if the they stumble and the rider pulls to save them from falling), they shouldn’t wear pads that can conceal lead weights, wear chains that hit the sore areas soared by mustard oil, etc. There used to be over 70 entries in a class. Now there are ten if lucky. Out law the outlaws and entries will increase ten fold. The horses and honest owners have waited too many years for protection.

  5. Lorna says:

    There is NOTHING humane about riding horses. Period. Metal bits in horses’ mouths, curb chains, spurs, kicks in the side to signal go, yanking the bit into the horse’s mouth to stop, riding crops. Disgusting. I know several so-called “ethical” vegans who ride. YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER. How would you like to be suited up the way you suit up a horse and told to ‘go left go right and jump over that 3 foot barrier over there with 150 lbs on your back.’ If you want to give a horse a good home, let him live out his life in a sunny green pasture – no bits no saddles no kicks no yanks – just kisses, apples and chin scratches. I wish both Humane Society and PETA would take a stand on this issue.

  6. Linda Langan says:

    I am asking you to please vote against horse soring. A person who loves his horse could never do such a horribly painful thing. It is only done for show and greed. If they say it is for tradition, the horse will disagree. Horses are beautiful as they are. Please vote against soring if you care about animals.
    Thank you,

  7. Dixie Peters says:

    Please stop this horrible practice of scoring our wonderful Tennessee Walking Horses and other breeds. It is cruel and inhumane,

  8. Xxxx. Xxxxx says:

    The soring won’t stop as long as there are pads and chains!! I’ve owned Tennessee Walking horses and been to barns. Horses are kept so sore they won’t eat or drink because they can’t walk to their buckets! Shame on the continue to allow this horror!!

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