Bipartisan bill introduced in Congress to end cruel horse soring

By on January 24, 2019 with 40 Comments

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

A strong team of bipartisan lawmakers has reintroduced a bill to end the cruel practice of “soring” Tennessee walking horses and related breeds, a core priority for us here at the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund.

The bill, introduced by Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Ted Yoho, R-Fla., Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., Ron Estes, R-Kan., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Chris Collins, R-N.Y., is identical to the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act that attracted overwhelming bipartisan cosponsorship from 290 representatives and 46 senators in the last Congress. The only difference is the title – it’s now named the “U.S. Senator Joseph D. Tydings Memorial Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act” to honor the memory of the former senator from Maryland who introduced the original Horse Protection Act enacted in 1970 and championed efforts to crack down on this cruelty. Sen. Tydings worked tirelessly with us on the PAST Act until his death in October 2018, and securing its passage in 2019 will be a fitting tribute to this hero for the horses.

Soring is the practice of intentionally inflicting pain on the hooves and legs of performance walking horses – using caustic chemicals, chains, weighted shoes, hard objects, cutting and other gruesome techniques – to force them to perform a pain-based artificially high-stepping gait known as the “Big Lick” and gain unfair competitive advantage at horse shows.

Congress hoped to end soring when it passed the Horse Protection Act nearly 50 years ago, but a 2010 audit by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General and undercover investigations by the HSUS in 2012 and 2015 at top Big Lick stables found that rampant soring persists within a subset of the walking horse industry. These scofflaws, who insist on having their horses perform this grotesque exaggerated gait instead of valuing the beauty of the animals’ natural gait, don’t speak for the whole industry. In fact, it’s estimated that only about 10 percent of all Tennessee walking horses are shown in the Big Lick classes. And thanks to increasing public awareness about the cruelty of soring, Big Lick shows are losing attendance as well as corporate and charitable sponsors, while the shows that feature these magnificent animals without subjecting them to painful manipulation are thriving. That’s as it should be.

H.R. 693 will amend the Horse Protection Act to eliminate the failed walking horse industry system of self-policing (i.e., the fox guarding the henhouse), and put the U.S. Department of Agriculture in charge of licensing, training and oversight of all inspectors, as recommended by the Inspector General’s 2010 audit. It will also ban the use at horse shows of devices that are integral to the soring process, strengthen penalties for violations, and hold abusers accountable. And according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the legislation will accomplish all of these needed reforms without any additional taxpayer burden.

The PAST Act enjoys broad support from a coalition of the nation’s leading horse industry, veterinary, law enforcement and animal protection organizations, including the American Horse Council, U.S. Equestrian Federation and 67 other national and state horse groups, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Equine Practitioners, state veterinary groups in all 50 states, the animal protection community, the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, key individuals in the Tennessee Walking Horse show world, and major newspapers in Kentucky and Tennessee (the states where soring is most concentrated).

All reputable horse breed and show organizations endorsed the PAST Act. The only ones opposing this non-controversial legislation are those who are involved in this cruel practice and are profiting from it, and their handful of defenders in Congress.

We expect a Senate companion bill to be reintroduced soon by Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Mark Warner, D-Va. Please contact your U.S. representative and two U.S. senators now at 202-224-3121 and urge them to cosponsor the PAST Act and do all they can to secure its swift passage.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Companion Animals, Equine, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Sally Palmer says:

    Thank you, Kitty, for continuing the fight what more and more people are learning is a battle against insane cruelty. Thanks to HSUS and its partners relentless investigative and educational efforts, it is this awareness by the public and among those within the horse show industry that is going to finally push this law into action and more spectators away from this hideous exhibitio.

  2. AmandaCostantini says:

    These horses should never have to be made to perform in this manner it’s outrageous that anyone would believe these horses wish to get around like this, it’s definitely not a natural gait for any horse plus the abuse while making them learn to more in this manner is barbaric, ban ban ban

  3. Nancy O'Neal says:

    It would be a dream come true if we could end this cruel practice for these beautiful animals.

  4. Louise Harris says:

    I am disgusted by this practice. I would never attend an event which endorses this.

  5. Janice says:

    Not sure why it has taken so long to get this stopped. I have said for years just do not allow them to show, you can tell ehi they are. Also the way they shoe the horses has to stop.

    • Jennifer Hardacre says:

      To answer Janice’s question: the soring faction of the Walking Horse industry has for decades donated large amounts of money to powerful politicians who blocked all efforts to ban the big lick in return. The pain and misery suffered by the horses has brought in big bucks to their owners and trainers, to whom money means more than the physical and emotional well being of the horses that they profess to “love”. Some love! Be sure to contact your congresspersons and urge them to vote to end the torture of the Walking Horse.

  6. Pennie says:

    They who inflict this kind of cruel treatment, should have to endure the same pain they inflict.
    This is just sickening to think it’s all for a competition.

  7. Marilyn Suarez says:

    Congratulations on this bill. I don’t think it will be easy to stop the practice, but maybe this time you will. It is all about money again.

  8. Rain says:

    Please pass the Past Act! Ensuring the humane treatment of horses will ensure the rights of all human beings in return. We have to start a better way of living in order to improve our way of life. There is no justification for it or benefit from it for anyone, least of all the victimized horses!

  9. Mary Bassett says:

    There is no question that this is a painful inhuman practice. Stop this brutality and do it quick please.

  10. DeeAnn Allison says:

    What a horrible cruel act, all for self gratification…

  11. dj carruthers says:

    we have to stop all animal abuse…

  12. Carolyn Denton says:

    Anyone who participates in any manner of this horrible form of entertainment is guilty of animal cruelty. It Is disgraceful. Hope the end is in sight.

  13. Marilyn Marshall says:

    I have made 3 unsuccessful attempts to sign up for your mailings.

    This is my email address:

    Can you please add me to your email list?

    Many Thanks,

    Marilyn Marshall

    • Blog Editor says:

      Hi Marilyn, I’ve added your email, please look for an email from Feedblitz in your inbox. You must click on the link in the email to start the subscription. Thanks.

  14. Patsy Aaron says:

    This is just cruel and totally unnecessary to do an animal harm for entertainment.

  15. Sylvia says:

    I don’t really understand why it has taken so long to take action against this cruel and barbaric practice. I only hope now they will enforce this and punish those who break the law. These poor horses have suffered enough!

  16. Linda says:

    I had a friend in the 70’s who trained walking horses (from what I understand he’s still in the business). In the competitions I went to with him, they checked the horses hooves and if they showed any discomfort the horse was disqualified from competition. Of course there were owners who didn’t care about the methods, just so long as their horse won. Sad the practice is still out there.

  17. Irene Stone says:

    Why has it failed to pass in the past, who kept it from passing, and how close were the votes? What is being done to stem the tide of failures? Seems like something this cruel and barbaric would be an easy thing to get votes on. Can we have more details please? Who is holding these bills up???

  18. D Hanna says:

    This is great news. I pray this practice is actually stopped and anyone who is found to still commit these crimes are punished to the full extent of the law. These horses would perform beautifully if treated humanly and with love from the owners and trainers. They are highly intelligent.

  19. Lora Roby says:

    Have been a long time supporter of HSUS and cannot believe these practices still go on. How can we respect ourselves if we don’t respect ALL of God’s creatures?

  20. Kat Jordan says:

    It’s time to outlaw the Class of ‘Big Lick’ completely to make sure soring horses is stopped. There’s no real reason for the class – as no one rides horses at such gaits outside the specific breed shows.

    Next should be the AQHA practice of tying horse’s heads down for Western Pleasure classes. It ruins their stifles and backs. Then they can go after the people who inject chemicals in their tails to stop them from swishing.

    After that – the Saddlebred practice of breaking/cutting a horse’s tail and setting it in a brace for weeks at a time.

    • Jo says:

      Pleasure horses these days are bed to carry themselves that way, only the horrible trainers (which are becoming free and far between) do anything like this anymore. That, and amateurs who don’t know any better.

  21. Elizabeth Turner Brinkley says:

    Are you aware this has already been made illegal? Enforcement and education are what is needed not more unenforceable laws.

  22. Ann says:

    I live in the south and I will tell you that there will need to be boots on the ground in Shelbyville to patrol these events and quite probably area riding practices leading up to shows. This will not die easily, even if it is against the law. These abusive trainers and owners believe they have a right to do anything they want and will continue to abuse these docile horses. When I admonished a huge man riding a two year old small horse with 25 pound weighted front shoes and blood dripping from his sides from being spurred cruelly, he said horses don’t feel pain.
    I am grateful for the bill, but there will have to be strong consequences when it is broken, because it will be.

  23. Dennis banzet says:

    I see nothing wrong with the training of these horses. you have to look at what the judges want the horses to peform like.

  24. Gloria. Mayer says:

    I have always hated to see this. They should be fined and not allowed to own horses again. Stop this now!!!

  25. Maureen McCarrick says:

    ” Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it.”
    Mark Twain
    Greed has no Compassion, absolutely heartbreaking how animals are tortured to entertain psycho man 💔💔💔

  26. Carol worsham says:

    These horses live in stalls their whole life in pain
    So sad

  27. Liz Wilkerson says:

    I don’t know how those people even can call themselves horse people! People who love horses consider this to be barbaric and completely inhumane treatment. It’s infuriating!!😡

  28. Lisa Pearce says:

    Thank you HSUS and Kitty Block for keeping the drumbeat sounding on this cruel practice. True horse lovers would never condone torturing their animals in such a way. This practice must end and those in violation should never be permitted ownership again.

  29. Carolyn Beswick says:

    I have been signing and sharing petitions re SORING for a few years, but the petitions ceased, so I thought that we had won the battle!!!
    So sad that this EVIL practice is STILL GOING ON!!!
    It would NOT be allowed in the UK as our rich EVIL, IDIOTS use the horses and dogs to RIP APART defenceless little FOXES.

  30. Cheryl Kucer says:

    The more cruelty I see people inflict on other people and animals the more I dislike people and love animals more than people

  31. everyone says:

    Government is allowing this, then they are the ones doing it. WE need to make this more personal to get help with this.. WE need awareness to who is allowing this.. and really get help for these animals..

  32. anonymous says:

    k soring is animal abuse and is completely unnaccceptable.if the US government is doing nothing about it they have least its bipartisan and at least the democrats can do something right for once

  33. Kathy Deaton says:

    What is the status of this bill now?

  34. Gudrun Hoerig says:

    Could we please find out what the status of this
    bill is now? Has it passed?
    Thank you

  35. Anna says:

    We can’t do this to horses they deserve better not this crap that is just a continuous pain for these horses, people who do these things should really ask there self “am I doing this for the good of the horse or for the good of myself, and is it worth to screw a horses life to get something for your self?” the answer is a BIG FAT NO and if people don’t agree with that and believe that THIS is GOOD, needs some BIG HELP. -_-

  36. Jay Dunn says:

    This is not torture .
    This is a tradition an American One.
    Let em Walk On.

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