Breaking news: Congress moves to make horse soring a thing of the PAST

By on July 25, 2019 with 54 Comments

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

We have terrific news to report in our long-running fight to protect Tennessee walking horses and related breeds from the cruel practice of soring. The House of Representatives has just approved a bill to end this heinous practice in which violators intentionally inflict pain on a horse’s legs or hooves, forcing the animal to perform an artificial, high-stepping gait called the “big lick.”

The U.S. Senator Joseph D. Tydings Memorial Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R. 693, was approved by an overwhelming 333 to 96 bipartisan vote. It would amend the Horse Protection Act and close loopholes that have allowed some trainers to continue soring innocent animals to get them to win ribbons and awards at competitions.

The PAST Act would end the failed and conflict-ridden system of industry self-policing (replacing it with a cadre of third party, independent inspectors trained, licensed and assigned by USDA and accountable to the agency). It would ban devices integral to soring, strengthen penalties and hold abusers accountable.

Soring is a particularly sinister form of animal cruelty. It’s like forcing a hurdle sprinter to race with broken glass in her shoes to make her jump higher and run faster. Trainers apply caustic chemicals to the horse’s limbs, wrapping them tightly for days to “cook” the chemicals in, then attach chains or “action devices” to strike the painful area. Pressure shoeing is another popular technique: cutting a horse’s hoof almost to the quick, jamming in hard or sharp objects, and tightly nailing on a tall, heavy platform shoe. These methods cause excruciating pain whenever the horse puts weight on his hoof. To evade detection, horses are also subjected to “stewarding,” in which trainers kick, shock and hit them with wooden sticks to get the animals to stand still despite the pain. The horses learn not to flinch when an inspector presses their sore legs.

In 1970, Congress intended to end soring when it passed the Horse Protection Act, led by then-Sen. Tydings of Maryland, but political interference and poor commitment to enforcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture allowed the practice to continue unabated.

The Humane Society of the United States has long led the charge to end soring. Our staff members – some of whom have been participants in the walking horse industry and tried to advance reforms from within – have exposed the cruelty and corruption in the industry, even under threat of expulsion and physical harm.

Our brave undercover investigators have documented the abject cruelty and blatant lawbreaking in undercover investigations that led to one of the first convictions ever under the Horse Protection Act and to the precursor of the PAST Act being introduced in 2012. Our attorneys, with the pro bono contributions of Latham & Watkins, LLP, have filed petitions with USDA on behalf of the HSUS and others seeking regulatory reform, leading to a strict new rule to crack down on soring that was finalized but later repealed when the Trump administration took office. Our Humane Society Legislative Fund and equine protection staff have successfully pushed Congress to boost funding and mobilized broad support for the proposed rule to strengthen USDA enforcement and, working with House champions and coalition partners, lobbied tirelessly to secure this important milestone for horses.

We are grateful to the champions of the bill — 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. — to the 308 total House cosponsors, everyone who voted today to pass this important bill, the House leadership for bringing the bill to a vote, and to former Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Rep. Cohen who introduced the first version of this bill back in 2012.

The PAST Act has also received the support of hundreds of stakeholder groups and individuals, including 70 national and state horse groups such as the American Horse Council and the U.S. Equestrian Federation, the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, the state veterinary organizations of all 50 states, key individuals in the Tennessee Walking Horse show world, National Sheriffs’ Association, Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and major newspapers in Kentucky and Tennessee (the states where soring is most prevalent).

It’s now up to the Senate to act to stamp out this cruelty. A Senate companion bill, S. 1007, introduced in April by Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Mark Warner, D-Va., currently has 41 Senate cosponsors. We urge the Senate to act swiftly to pass this important bill.

Tennessee walking horses are a breed known for their beautiful natural gait and wonderful disposition. But at this very moment, horses are being sored in preparation for the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in August. There is no reason nor excuse for delay. Please contact your U.S. Senators and urge them to cosponsor the PAST Act if they haven’t yet, and do all they can to get it passed quickly. And if your U.S. representative voted to pass the bill, please thank them for helping end this cruelty.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Equine, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Congress Moves to Ban Cruel Horse Soring | LIVEKINDLY | July 25, 2019
  1. Frances Leard says:

    It’s about time they acted on this cruel insane treatment. They do drag their feet when it comes to the cruelty of all animals.
    Thank you for taking action in this matter.

    • Vicky says:

      It is about time thank you for taking action to protect these amazing animals. Now put all the violators in the jail for good

    • Rosalie Mietzel says:

      The Celebration event is taking place right now in Shelbyville. When will the Big Lick competion be eliminated completely so the soring practices will also end.

      • Judy says:

        I wonder why any person with a heart would want to go and watch those poor helpless animals that are being abused for the amusement of all the sick-in-the-head people… May God pour out His wrath on all humans that has anything to do with this!!

        • JB says:

          Amen”Lock them all up forever. Don’t understand a human being being so cold with no heart.

          • Donna Potts says:

            DP 1/8/22. All those who participate in this cruel animal abuse,that includes those in the bleachers ,should be procecuted like any animal abuse casè.This law needs to be passed. Save those beautiful animals.

            • Karen says:

              Totally agree. They refuse to admit this grotesque abuse to horses is wrong. These people also include vets, farriers, trainers, the industry and retailers that make the chemical that burns the horse’s legs and feet. An absolute, Totally abusive all around to the naturally gaited horses. This is so very reprehensible! Something needs to be done, not just small fines, but huge fines along with jail time for those who practice this scoring. Remove the horse from the owner’s possession to be adopted by an owner who will treat the horse with love and respect. Think of the time it will take a horse to heal physically and mentally from being treated with such horrible abuse!

            • Marie says:

              Shelbyville Tennessee showing sored horses, chains and pads, August 2022. This is illegal and they are not arrested.

        • Mike says:

          I agree!

      • Brenda says:

        It’s horrible there still performing these acts. It hasn’t stopped. The one person who they prosecuted been banned from events shows up at a event. Is that justice??? This is for human entertainment. Really sad.

    • Avoriaz85 says:

      Thank you🥰❣️❤️‍🩹

    • Karen says:

      May 19, 2022 at 12:24 pm
      Totally agree. They refuse to admit this grotesque abuse to horses is wrong. These people also include vets, farriers, trainers, the industry and retailers that make the chemical that burns the horse’s legs and feet. An absolute, Totally abusive all around to the naturally gaited horses. This is so very reprehensible! Something needs to be done, not just small fines, but huge fines along with jail time for those who practice this scoring. Remove the horse from the owner’s possession to be adopted by an owner who will treat the horse with love and respect. Think of the time it will take a horse to heal physically and mentally from being treated with such horrible abuse!

    • Hank says:

      First of all Let me be clear I am not an advocate for anything related to soring or chemical enhancement. Let me also state I own and have owned several Walkers. I have shown Flat Shod (No Blocks)_showing off only the natural Gait and capabilities of in my opinion the finest, smoothest, smartest horses of all breeds.
      You cant lump all the Performance trainers in the same basket. Yes some do use “Motion Lotion” which is a cruel un excusable act. The shout be taken behind the barn and well you know. However I’m not sure applying a Package or Block is cruel without the other nonsense. The AQMD has been inspecting these animals for years and most are found to be in good shape to show. Would I use them? No
      but obviously there is a way to do it right and to an acceptable level.

  2. Judith keene says:

    Passing the PAST Act quickly would be great! Its long time this horrible practice was ended once and for all! But they also should make it illegal to hold the big lick classes in the TWH horse shows as there will still be some that will try to go against the law if passed.

    • Bonnie says:


    • Linda says:

      I agree with you Judith. There is nothing natural about the so called Big Lick. It looks ridiculous and looks ugly to me. I would never watch a horse show class showing that horrible cruel technique. Shame on those cruel people that torture the TWH.

    • Cindy C. says:

      I completely agree with Judith and would add that persons committing this cruel act should be legally prosecuted. Thank you to those in the House of Representatives who made this possible.

  3. Colleen O'Connor says:

    I am so happy for this wonderful news! It’s hard to believe anyone would support this horrific practice. The most important part of a horse are their hooves. To deliberately inflict harm to them is inhumane. Thank you so much to all who working to end this cruelty.

  4. Emily williams says:

    We have two very important Bill’s that need to be passed as quickly as possible. The big lick s.1007. And THE SAFE FOOD ACT H. R. 961 / S. 2006 THE SAFE FOOD ACT H .R

    • Kim Hice says:

      So, you would prefer a horse die a long, hard death from abuse and neglect, rather than be sold for slaughter and a more humane death?

  5. Thomas says:


  6. Thomas says:

    Its about time. Now stop Horse slaughter.

  7. Judy Rumsey says:

    There needs to be a ban on the big lick classes! Until then horses will continue to suffer this abuse, illegal or not.

  8. Betty Erickson says:

    I want to thank you all for passing this law to quit harming these horses. I think that anyone who has done this should suffer the same way the horses suffered.

  9. Sandi Inches says:

    Yes, I totally agree to commenting policy. Please stop cruel practice of soring.

  10. Joanne says:

    The folks on called CCABLK (concerned citizens agaist Big Lick) have worked tirelessly year after year protesting the training practices involved to get the big lick gait. They have travelled to all Tennessee Walker horse shows in the south, posting signs outside the events. The got donations rescinded in support of one show. It’s amazing the work they’ve done on a volunteer basis with donations.

    • Suzanne Rogers says:

      Yes, I agree!! These people working tirelessly day & night going to the horse shows & standing up to the *ssholes who abuse these magnificent horses are to be commended!!!!!!
      I saw them online & they are who “introduced” me into this DARK World of TWH torture/abuse- We don’t hear or see this done in CA…. Thank You ALL who worked your *ss off day & night to get the word out so we could join you in the Fight to end HORRIFIC soring once & for all!!

  11. Erin says:

    This is barbaric and revolting. Absolutely no need for this and needs to be abolished immediately! Please help these innocent being from further torture by humans.

  12. Louise Kingsley says:

    Thank goodness someone is finally taking action. Thank you.

  13. Alan Shapiro says:

    Inflicting pain to make A horse walk in an unnatural manner should be out banned. It is awful to torture any animal. It is disgusting that this is done for the human vanity of getting A trophy for the one inflicting the pain.

  14. Diana Cao says:

    I am so glad Congress is taking action to protect these innocent horses, who cannot speak for themselves, from the cruelty of soring. Animals have the right to enjoy their lives in peace without being abused by human greed and ignorance.

  15. Ann Myers says:

    Thank goodness this horse torture will stop.Make it illegal to show these horses for profit.There should be heavy fines and ever jail time if found.

  16. C Sevier says:

    My husbands Aunt had a Tennessee Walker. When her husband went to check on the progress of the training and saw what they were doing he said hell no. He took the horse away from the trainer and brought it home. It was cruel but we were never told what they did that was 45-50 years ago. I’m sure they learned worse tricks

  17. Sundae Fassig says:

    I can’t believe how anyone could allow such cruelty be done to their horses let alone people allowing it to happen at all.
    Some human beings do not deserve to own such beautiful animals.
    Inflicting intentional pain on animals should be considered animal abuse and punished to the highest degree of the law
    Any person who commits these abuses should not be allowed to own any horses

  18. Susan Trout says:

    I’m ecstatic to learn that the end to this horrific “entertainment” is near. My heart aches for all those horses who have suffered so but we can now focus on the future and encourage those who love the Tennessee Walking Horse to do all they can to promote humane treatment and show practices for this lovely horse. I pray, too, that we end the slaughter of horses for meat. Hundreds of thousands of pitiful creatures have suffered beyond human imagination and we cannot claim to be civilized until we include all living creatures in our circle of compassion. Never give up. Never give up. Never! Never! Never give up.

  19. Tami Pierce says:

    so tired of the animal cruelty that goes with the horse show, and race industry, some people only care about winning the big dollar at the expense of their mount. Once passed I hope they do the part to enforce this

  20. Petra says:

    All my prayers that this go through without any further delay. And that the ppl they harm those beautiful animals like that burn in hell. Just look at the creep in the foto who rides the horse. Freddy Kruger’s brother. Sick world!

  21. Sandy Walter says:

    It has been proven by physicologist that cruelty to animals, will & does seep into how any ABUSERS of animals reflects on how they also treat their fellow human beings! That being established, I was angered, again, by trump’s administration repealing a bill that was finalized to end this horrific practice! Perhaps this is a reflection of why the trump family never had pets!

  22. Cindy jo alspaugh says:

    This should not take Congress to stop owners that let a trainer do this need to be stopped.but right on Congress

  23. Sunny Martin says:

    Please stop this sori g and protect these beautiful horses!!!

  24. Denise says:

    They are just downing the walking horses right now. They better start on the saddlebreds, quarter horses they all do something that isn’t right. They have tricks and traits also.

  25. Frances Bates says:

    Do any of you guys own horses? The HPA (Horse Protection Act of 1970) already out laws horse soring… The (PAST) Act, H.R. 693, that was approved by the House of Representatives will amend the Horse Protection Act… which includes ALL horses. Does you horse wear a shoe? That will be OUT.. No weighted shoe allowed.. All horse shoes have weight. This is a deceptive, misleading bill. It’s not about horse protection.. or Stoping ‘abuse’.. it’s about ending horseback riding of any kind.

  26. Frances Bates says:

    HSUS and others (financially supported by HSUS) seeking regulatory reform (in 2016) leading to a strict new rule to crack down on soring (They tried to slip Pass Congress but got caught when Trump won the election and stopped all reforms until they could be reviewed… )
    Old data and pictures are being used that don’t reflect the industry of today. The Tennessee Walking horse is the Most inspected horse in History!! More laws are not needed to improve that 98% of all TWH Show horses are in compliance with USDA rules now.

    • Karen Wonnell says:

      Frances, u must be an advocate of animal,horse abuse if u think the trainers of the TWH that do the big lick are compliant to anything other than cruelty. It goes on today at all the TWH shows and the celebration is in August so go and watch the show so u can see how non compliant these sick trainers are and look into the eyes of these gentle horses and see the pain and fear, that should tell u clearly that soring is on going today unless u r blind or paid off.

  27. Norah says:

    Why would they do this to these horses?! Good thing this is illegal. I first learned about it on a tv show. Thank you A Humane World for speaking up about this.

    • Jeanelle says:

      In some states it is legal but if you go on youtube and look up the big lick competition you can see the big blocks on their feet, and chains going up and down on their legs, it’s so sad, they are in constant pain 24/7 before competitions they smack their ankles with wooden sticks so their feet go up higher,…..people need to stop.


  28. Atill says:

    The fines and prison time should be more severe for these offenders .

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