Dear Congress, Thanks For Stepping in to Protect Horses
Pressure must be maintained on our Congress to get the PAST Act enacted into law. For too long horses have had to endure painful “training” practices for our entertainment.
Many of our supporters have asked us to pass along any information on petitions for causes to help horses – especially with the PAST Act. Here is definitely a worthy petition. Let us thank our Congress ahead of time for standing up to protect horses. Make them understand that to represent *you*, they need to pass the PAST Act. The link to the petition is at the bottom of the article. ~ HfH
By: Ted Schwertman
The technique in question is all about causing horses to suffer pain to achieve an unnaturally high stepping gait otherwise known as the “Big Lick.” The greater the pain, the higher the step.
Soring typically involves putting caustic substances on the sensitive skin around their hooves, which makes them quickly lift their legs to avoid the pain. To add to that, chains can also be used to cause more pain when they rub on the burned areas.
Pads, or stacks, may also be used on the front hooves to raise a horse’s forehand to add even more animation, but this causes unbalanced feet, among other problems, while pads can also be used to hide objects to cause more agony. After all of that, some are trained not to react to having their legs touched so they can get past inspections at shows.
Even though soring of all breeds has been banned for decades under the Horse Protection Act, (HPA) which was passed in 1970, it’s still a widespread problem for Tennessee walking horses.
Some like to pretend it’s just a few unethical trainers that continue to do this and give everyone a bad name, but many experts in the industry contend that there’s no chance any Big Lick horse hasn’t suffered from this abuse at some point.
ABC News’ airing of an undercover investigation conducted by the Humane Society of the United States in 2012 and the subsequent prosecution of top trainer Jackie McConnell, who pleaded guilty to 22 counts of animal cruelty, helped bring more attention to the ongoing abuse within the industry.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is supposed to regulate the HPA, but even though USDA inspectors are used, they can’t cover everything, and the system it set up to help essentially allows the industry to self-regulate. The law also doesn’t stop what happens at home, it only prohibits showing, transporting or selling horses who have been sored.
In 2006, the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, the top competition for walking horses, was cancelled after the USDA inspected and disqualified so many horses due to soring from the grand championship class that it couldn’t be held. At the 2012 Celebration, 145 horses out of 190 tested positive for foreign substances, while the event in 2013 was also plagued with problems, including the elimination of a popular champion and failed inspections for horses who were owned by the former president of the Performance Show Horse Association.
Last year Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., introduced the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act in an effort to protect Tennessee Walkers, racking horses and spotted saddle horses from soring. Its companion bill, SB 1406, was introduced by Senator Kelly Ayotte. The PAST Act would ensure all inspectors at shows and sales are licensed by the USDA, which would get rid of inspectors with conflicting interests, and would strengthen federal penalties for violators.
More importantly, the PAST Act would ban the action devices and performance packages used to sore horses, including chains, stacks and pads, which many believe need to be banned to stop soring.
Even with widespread support from members of Congress, equine professionals and endorsements from dozens of organizations including the American Horse Council, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Equine Practitioners, some are still fighting to stop it.
People who are clearly okay with the continued culture of cruelty in this industry have found friends in Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Sen. Lamar Alexander, who have both introduced conflicting legislation that will continue to allow self-regulation and would also allow for the continued use of devices used to sore horses.
“Any legislation that does not ban stacks and chains; does not eliminate the failed self-policing inspection system; does not increase criminal penalties to provide a truly effective deterrent; and does not strengthen the USDA’s ability to enforce the Horse Protection Act, will not work,” said Whitfield.
Habitat for Horses is always on the lookout for a few great people at our ranches. The work is unique, the animals are special and we want folks who both know and understand the special connection our animals need.