Louisville, KY, urges Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul to stop blocking efforts to end horse soring, pass PAST Act

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

By on November 8, 2019 with 14 Comments

Council members of the largest city in Kentucky last night adopted a resolution with a strong message for the state’s two U.S. Senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul: co-sponsor and help enact the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act to end the torture of Tennessee walking horses and other related breeds.

The PAST Act would close loopholes in the Horse Protection Act that have, for decades, allowed violators in the Tennessee walking horse show world to continue the abusive practice of “soring” – the intentional infliction of pain on a horse’s legs or hooves – to make the horse perform an artificial, high-stepping show ring gait known as the “Big Lick.” Because the U.S. Department of Agriculture has allowed the industry to police itself, those who hurt horses face minimal repercussions, get deferred disqualifications, and are typically allowed to continue carrying out the abuses that got them disqualified in the first place. PAST would replace the self-policing system with third party, independent inspectors who are trained, licensed and assigned by the USDA. The bill would also ban the devices integral to soring, and would strengthen penalties for soring.

Unfortunately, Sens. McConnell and Paul are co-sponsoring competing legislation, introduced by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and supported by those engaged in horse soring, which allows the industry to continue policing itself with no accountability. Their sham alternative bill would actually make the problem worse by further weakening the USDA’s already limited authority and handing off more power to the perpetrators, while doing nothing to end the use of chains, heavy stacked shoes and other soring devices, or to establish meaningful penalties.

There’s plenty of momentum in Congress to pass the PAST Act into law this year. The bill has already cleared the House of Representatives by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of 333-96 in July, and a Senate companion bill introduced in April by Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Mark Warner, D-Va., received its 50th cosponsor last week. With many other senators (including previous cosponsors) expected to support the bill, we clearly have the votes needed for passage. But the bill cannot progress unless Sen. McConnell brings it to the Senate floor for a vote.

That’s why we are excited about the vote in Louisville: residents have told Sens. McConnell and Paul that they are tired of the current system, too, and of the abuse. They want change for the better, and they expect their elected officials in Congress to listen to their voices.

The resolution, which passed in the Metro Council of Louisville by unanimous vote, comes on the heels of a similar vote in Nashville, Tennessee, in August.

In addition to demanding action from Sens. McConnell and Paul, the resolution, introduced by Councilmember Marcus Winkler with support rallied by former HSUS Kentucky state director Kathryn Callahan, also urges the USDA to reinstate a rule against soring that was finalized by the Obama administration in 2017, but unlawfully withdrawn when the Trump administration took office. The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund are currently suing the USDA over this unlawful repeal.

We urge the Kentucky Senators to listen to the people who helped put them in office. It’s time our nation righted the wrongs that walking horses have endured for decades, and petty politics should not stand in the way of ending this cruelty. You too can help. If you live in Kentucky, please contact Sens. McConnell and Paul, and if you live anywhere else in the United States, look up your senators and urge them to cosponsor and work to pass the PAST Act. Let’s make this the year soring ends, as Congress intended nearly a half century ago when it passed the Horse Protection Act.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Equine, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Diane Higbee says:

    Must be mich and Paul have a have it this industry! Why else would they hold it up. Stop this insane cruelty! NOW!

  2. Rayee says:

    This is descusting!!! End this torture!!

  3. Emily Williams says:

    This is very inhumane! Making those sweet beautiful horse do this. It pull the ligaments in their legs so long. That there is no surgery a Veterinarian can do to relieve the pain for the horses. Let alone the soaring and chains. The people who do this THEY NEED TO PERFORM THE BIG LICK! AND TELL EVERYONE THEY HAVE NO PAIN . THESE POOR HORSES CANNOT STAND UP LET ALONE WALK AFTER ALL THIS. They cannot walk. And have to be euthanized. All this for a few minutes of game winning a ribbon and or a trophy and money. And totally destroy such a sweet beautiful animal. I own a tennesse walker . He gaits beautifully without all your torture bullshit! NO BIGLICK DONE BY MY HORSE EVER IN HIS LIFETIME!!

  4. June Massey says:


  5. Melissa Foglia says:

    The practice of soaring so horses can perform their high jinks is nasty to say the least.
    Why is their a question regarding how humans can and will, inflict pain on an animal.
    Are the senators of Kentucky and Tennesse that backward in their thought process?
    Maybe back in the day their daddy’s didnt question it. Hello you are in the 21st century.

    Wake up and know people want transparency in the politicians who hold power. Would a video with the practice maybe help open their eyes. That’s if they can still see, hear and feel pain. That’s as better question for them.

    • Jennifer Hardacre says:

      Melissa Foglia – The sad truth is that there is a lot of money behind the big lick. Many of those who want to see the soring and misery continue are very wealthy and make big bucks from the big lick. They donate big dollars (thousands!) to powerful politicians like Lamar Alexander, Mitch McConnell, Marsha Blackburn, Robin Webb, Rick deJarlais, etc., who use every trick in the book to block attempts to legislate the big lick out of existence. They don’t care that horses suffer! As long as the money is flowing their way, they will keep on supporting the big lick. But! voters in Kentucky and Tennessee can vote these people out of office! And in the meantime they can politely but firmly and repeatedly call and write to let them know that citizens abhor this abuse, and demand that they cease their obstruction of legislation to free the horses from the big lick.

  6. Kacy says:

    Bout damn time.. McConnell is the major hold up. Ya think if it tis ok with him to be inhumane to an animal.. what does he think decisions for the American people?

  7. Don Scott says:

    Those within in the industry constantly lay claim to love for their horses and their humane treatment, but that is without question meritless unless self-policing that will continue to allow despicable soring is replaced by independent investigations.

  8. Sondra Sweeney says:

    Hideous horse brutality. It should have been stopped a very long time ago. Whatever possessed anyone who loves horses to think this atrocity was okay?

    • Jennifer Hardacre says:

      Sondra Sweeney – When there is money involved, people who “love” their horses will close their eyes and minds to the atrocity of the big lick, persuading themselves that the training practices are not harmful, in spite of all the research to the contrary. What do they really love? The ribbons, rosettes, bragging rights, photos of themselves in the winners’ circle, and of course, the money they make from standing their stallions and breeding their mares. Money fuels their cruel delusion.

  9. Jennifer ann de Lignieres says:

    Who voted for these people? They can’t even be called people. VOTE THEM OUT!

  10. Susan Lemer says:

    Kentucky is the home base of horse racing. There are big bucks in the horse industry. If this law passes it will open the door to more restrictions on many terrrible practices in the industry. That would negatively affect profits, and obviously money is their property.
    McConnell has proven himself to be apsychopath. Why do the residents of Kemtucky keep re-electiing this hollow and evil
    man ? There are only two possibilities, either they are part of the horse industry or they are naturally unempathetic and wiillfully ignorant.

  11. Cindy thomas says:

    As long as Mitch and Rand continue to accept campaign contributions from the supporters of this horrible abusive torture, they will never support the bill. Its money over everything else. Welcome to the horse capital of the world.

  12. Sherry L West says:

    Mitch McConell you are an old man. You will be leaving this earth soon and you are a Baptist so you must believe in Heaven and Hell. I should have pity on your soul. Any human being that loves and believes in God could not let the pain and suffering of these Tennesee Walking Horses keep happening for the devil’s show the Big Lick. You are blocking efforts to pass the PAST act which would at least help, although if you have a conscience at all you would fight to ban it altogether . I cry thinking about the horrid cruelty and abuse and the pain inflicted on these beautiful creatures God created. I don’t know how you sleep at night, I don’t know how you could have compassion for anything, including American citizens. I will not judge you but I hope you remember that God will.

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