New poll shows overwhelming support in Tennessee for ending horse soring with the PAST Act

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

By on September 10, 2020 with 14 Comments

More than 83% of Tennessee voters want Congress to end the terrible practice of soring walking horses and related breeds to win ribbons at competitions, a new Humane Society of the United States poll shows.

Respondents belonging to both parties in the largely conservative state overwhelmingly supported passage of the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, a bill that would crack down on soring, the practice of inflicting pain on the legs and hooves of show horses to force them to perform the artificial, high-stepping “big lick” gait. Only 7% of respondents opposed the bill and 10 percent were undecided. Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy interviewed a total of 625 registered voters by phone between Jan. 28th and 30th for the poll, which had a plus or minus 4 percent margin of error.

The PAST Act has already cleared the U.S. House but has failed to see any action in the Senate because of political maneuvering, including strident opposition from the two Tennessee Senators, Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn.

We are releasing the poll just as the walking horse industry wraps up its biggest annual event, the National Celebration, in Tennessee. Once again this year, several trainers scheduled to begin long federal disqualifications stemming from citations for soring violations exhibited their horses and won. These included 2019 Walking Horse Trainers of the Year Philip Trimble, Trainers Association president Bill Cantrell, Howard Hamilton, Patrick Thomas and Herbert Derickson. The trainer of the horse named 2020 World Grand Champion, John Allan Callaway, served a disqualification that ended in 2018.

Two trainers who exhibited at the show, Gary Edwards and Casey Wright, have brothers who share a training operation with them and who are currently on federal disqualification. Edwards is scheduled to serve his own disqualification period starting in 2022—as soon as his brother ends his.

This is now a common theme at walking horse events, where the industry doesn’t just turn a blind eye to those cited for abusing animals — it actually rewards them. What is making matters worse is the USDA’s lax enforcement of the Horse Protection Act. The federal agency is charged with inspecting horses at shows, but it has increasingly failed to issue citations and even allows violators to serve deferred disqualifications. The federal agency does not consider it a violation if a trainer on federal disqualification continues to advertise their training operation.

All of this proves just why we need the PAST Act to become law as soon as possible. The bill would end the cruel practice of soring and amend the Horse Protection Act by banning the use of devices integral to soring, replacing the failed system of industry self-policing with a team of independent inspectors overseen by the USDA, and increasing penalties for violations.

The bill passed the House of Representatives in July 2019 by an overwhelming, bipartisan margin (333 to 96) and currently has 52 Senate cosponsors, but political cronyism has kept it from moving forward in the Senate. Sens. Alexander and Blackburn are not only opposing the PAST Act, they are instead sponsoring competing legislation that would make the situation worse, by doing nothing to prohibit the torturous devices used in soring and by codifying the industry’s failed system of self-policing while actually further weakening USDA oversight. They should take note of these poll numbers that clearly show what their constituents really want their elected lawmakers in Congress to do about soring.

There should be no debate over ending soring—it’s animal abuse of the worst kind, and it needs to stop, period. The PAST Act is endorsed by every major horse industry, veterinary, law enforcement and animal protection group in the country, and it’s time our Senators put politics aside to pass this commonsense bill. Please contact your U.S. Senators today. Urge them to cosponsor and do all they can to help pass the PAST Act without further delay.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.


Subscribe to the Blog

Enter your email address below to receive updates each time we publish new content.


Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Alan Alejandro Maldonado Ortiz says:

    Ya no podemos permitir que más animalitos sigan sufriendo solo por diversión hacía los humanos

  2. Pam says:

    This should have been alleviated years ago! Plenty of proof out there to do it, and Hsociety has plenty of donations. I see no progress when we continue having these abusive showings. It is illegal and people doing it should be in prison. I have rescued many of these horses and am tired of this even being an issue. If there were no shows, then there would be no more abuse. It’s all about ego and power and money. It is shameful that an organization has not stopped it and received so much financial help in the name of this problem.

  3. William Galbraith Carlyle says:

    Yet another horror story of animal abuse by sub-human scum who have clearly relinquished their right to live in a civilized society.
    There appears to be no limit to the depths of depravity to which humankind will sink.
    Regarding crime and punishment, there should be NO distinction made between human beings and members of our precious animal kingdom.
    Therefore, every perpetrator of crimes against animals should, dependent upon the nature and severity of the crime, either be jailed or PUT TO DEATH.
    Regarding ‘soring’, this must be stopped and AT ONCE.

  4. Linda Grab says:

    End the soring!!!! Stop turning your head to the abuse happening.

  5. Renee Doan says:

    The “SORING” must STOP NOW!! It’s ugly, very painful & very wrong!!!These are very heartless, very pathetic, greedy scum-bags doing this very painful, horrific acts of torture on innocent horses! No way, ever do innocent, beautiful horses deserve Soring, not ever! Horse racing must stop!

  6. Joyce Carroll says:

    There is no excuse that this has not stopped !

  7. Lisa says:

    Ban soring NOW ONCE AND FOR ALL!!!!! These beautiful innocent horses were created to walk the way that God intended for them too; NOT BY TORTURING AND ABUSING THEM TO WALK THE WAY HUMANS “THINK” THEY SHOULD!!!!!😡😡😡






  8. Jaycie Perkins says:

    This is totally barbaric. It is akin to bull fighting, blood sports and trapping in its level of cruelty. How can you call yourself an animal lover and force a horse to suffer so badly.
    I implore everyone in America, who truly does love animals to fight to the end until this disgusting training and showing of unnatural, torturous and ugly movement is stopped.
    People who do this kind of think a sick and sadistic. We on the outside world despise you.

  9. Meg Farnden says:

    I am not an American but I am an animal lover and watching this is so gruesome. Those horses are in incredible pain, what sort of society can inflict this cruelty upon these patient creatures? Cruelty issues aside, it looks so ridiculous please please right thinking people stop this now.

  10. Patricia Hollingshead says:


  11. Patricia Hollingshead says:

    So gross ,So unfathomably cruel .These “ people” should be ‘removed’ punished ,Spectators just as evil ,
    What cruelty goes on to these beautiful creatures is unimaginable .How can this be happening .

  12. Patricia Lynn says:

    I have read of the appalling cruelty inflicted by the “trainers” of these beautiful creatures and having watched footage of “Celebration” cannot begin to understand how anyone can justify paying to watch this absurd barbaric practice. The sight of terrified horses being perched on by overweight morons is not pretty or entertaining. Even the music they play at these events makes my flesh crawl. These guys should be made to run in stilettos, preferably with nails in them, carrying a heavy backpack.
    Some of these horses are 2 years old, at that age they should be playing and being allowed to grow.

  13. CJ says:

    This fight is taking way too long. Big lick is a small, isolated faction in the horse world. I’ve never met an equestrian of any discipline in my 28 years with horses who doesn’t think big lick is cruelty and should be illegal. How do the perpetrators live with themselves? They know what they are doing to these beautiful, kind horses from the short term pain and abuse for ribbons to the long term lameness and psychological issues. Anyone who sees the undercover training clips would recognize the tactics as abuse. Why would senators such as Blackburn protect animal abuse?

  14. Jerry Satriano says:

    This has to stop 🛑
    Is the almighty dollar more
    Important them cruel and inhumane treatment of these poor Horses let’s 🛑
    Think what your doing people
    Stop 🛑🛑🛑 It!!!!

Share a Comment

The HSUS encourages open discussion, and we invite you to share your opinion on our issues. By participating on this page, you are agreeing to our commenting policy.
Please enter your name and email address below before commenting. Your email address will not be published.