Bill to End Horse “Soring” Draws Lobbying, War of Words


Open, Monica Vendituoli on July 29, 2013

Keith Dane, HSUS, shows horse soring tools

Keith Dane, HSUS, shows horse soring tools used by the trainers

A bill introduced in April to end the practice that gives Tennessee walking horses their distinctive gait brought the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to the Capitol last week to give a presentation on horse “soring.”

Anything with a name like that seems unlikely to be a happy experience, right? As it turns out, some walking horses don’t come by their high-stepping naturally or with the usual kind of training. Sometimes, it’s the result of kerosene, mustard oil and other irritants, as well as heavy boots, chains and collars, applied to the horses’ hooves and lower legs.

The Prevent All Soring Tactics Act (H.R. 1518, or the PAST Act), sponsored by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), aims to do away with soring. Lobbyists on both sides of the issue have saddled up.

“If [the general public] knew the way these horses are being treated…  the irritants that are being used just to get them to accentuate their lifting of their leg — the ‘Big Lick’ as they call it — I think they would be quite appalled by it,” Whitfield said in an interview withCRP.

Soring is already against the law — the Horse Protection Act (HPA), passed in 1970, bans horses that have experienced soring from shows and sales. However, currently the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has the resources to police just 10 percent of the nation’s 500-plus annual walking horse shows.

The PAST Act would increase enforcement as well as penalties for violators.

Many of the horse, veterinary, and animal rights organizations that endorse the bill have lobbied on it this year. The AVMA spent $310,000 and the American Horse Council spent less than $5,000 on lobbying through June 30, with the anti-soring bill among their agenda items.

The Humane Society of the U.S. and the Humane Society Legislative Fund, a separate lobbying affiliate of the Humane Society, spent $30,000 combined lobbying in the second quarter of the year, listing the proposal as one of the bills they’re concerned about.

The Humane Society and others oppose the fact that horse industry organizations, which are tasked with enforcing HPA because USDA doesn’t have sufficient resources to do so, use inspectors who are often owners or trainers, presenting a potential conflict of interest.

Those in the walking horse industry say they want to eliminate soring, but fear the walking horse economy will face the real penalty if this law is enacted.

“The Humane Society saddled up with USDA and they have been bullying horse owners,” said Mindy Patterson, president of theCavalry Group, an animal owner rights group that lobbied against the bill in the first quarter, in an interview with CRP.


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AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
  • mary holler

    I HATE THE BIG LICK and I am appalled by the means to how they achieve it REALLY people it’s not worth a crapy ribbion or trophy to inflict such pain on a horses who’s willing to lay down it’s life for you at any given moment quit picking on the weak animals I love my horse and would not take kindly if someone hurt him !

    July 30, 2013
  • smokeysdad

    Gosh…imagine that…a Republican in favor of the animals for a change unlike Jack Kingston R-GA, Steve King R-IA, Mike Lee R-Utah, and Senator Roy Blunt of MO.

    Kingston and Blunt were instrumental in lifting of the slaughter ban in 2011.

    This type of behavior has to stop. We need stiffer laws and more severe penalties for the abusers.

    Public hanging comes to mind!

    July 30, 2013
  • mary Gardner

    This is so sad, these horses should never have to go through this kind of treatment! Anyone doing this to horses should be sored and put in a ring!!! Lets see if they can do THE BIG LICK!!!This should be outlawed with jail time!!!

    July 30, 2013
  • maggi rankin

    Im 63 and remember as a teen seeing this at our local shows, one horse fell down even. Laws were passed in 1970 and its still going on? And really, blame the damned judges of the shows! No true horse person could do this to their horses for any reason, much less a ribbon. and the big lick sucks, its so totally unnatural and man made-exaggerated. I am ashamed of the TW owners who do this. lets put some giant buckets on their feet, full of irritants and chase them around a ring with a cattle prod. How can I learn to be an inspector?

    July 31, 2013