States work to end soring of walking horses
We absolutely agree that enough is enough! Soring needs to end NOW. There is no excuse for this heinous torture of horses. ~ HfH
From: The Oakland Press
By: Sharon Greene
It is pure evil, and there is no excuse for it; the practice of soring needs to stop.
Several horse breeds, including Tennessee Walkers, Racking Horses and Spotted Saddle Horses, have a naturally beautiful and smooth gait. In the 1960s, it became “fashionable” to exaggerate or accentuate the front elevation of the horse’s leg and hoof action using appliances like weighted bell boots and fetlock chains in addition to foreign objects inside the hoof stacks or pads (to create excruciating pain each time the horse’s hoof hits the ground, causing the horse to lift its legs higher) and caustic chemicals like diesel fuel or mustard oil that were applied as irritants to”cook” , or burn into the sensitive flesh of the pastern tissue all to enhance an artificial gait – a fancy foot-work — in the show ring
These torturous, cruel, abrasive, abusive and painful practices known as soring were more overt and prevalent within the Tennessee Walking Horse industry, the “Big Lick”.
But, enough is enough.
In 1970 Congress passed the USDA Horse Protection Act (HPA- PL91-540), a Federal law that went into effect with the intention of directly impacting the gaited breeds in an attempt to spare the horses from torture by their owners. It prohibits the showing, sale auction, exhibition or transport of sored horses. A strong statement, however soring secretly continues.
“We oppose the practice of soring and believe it is past time to put an end to it,” said Jean Ligon, vice president and chair of Michigan Horse Council’s Legislative Committee, a supporter of the Prevent All Soring Tactics or PAST ACT which is limited to regulating offending breeds to end the practice of soring.
“Self regulation has not worked and the Act was necessary to stop the practice of the few ‘bad apples’ who would not respond to other means. Responsible owners do not intentionally hurt their animals. Inhumane practices will end when the primary offenders are removed from the industry and not as a result of them changing their stripes,” said Ligon.
There is more to Tennessee Walking horses than performance in a show ring.
“I was introduced to the sport of Judged Trail Riding,” said Ellen VanSlyke, who lives on a 25 acre horse farm in Rose Township.
She is currently the secretary for the Walking Horse Association of Michigan Region I and past executive vice-president.
“WHAM has not offered a padded class in about 20 years. There just was no financial or ethical reason to maintain padded classes,” said VanSlyke.
VanSlyke owned and operated a successful Tennessee Walker breeding farm for more than 25 years. Many of her horses have received National Championships. She was aware that some unscrupulous horse owners learned many tricks to conceal the soring.
“In Michigan, we have aggressively worked to keep sored horses from even showing up at a show. But, where there is money to be made, people will cheat even if they have to sacrifice their horse,” she continued.
VanSlyke believes the grassroots movements of personal pleasure horse owners and those who have studied and educated themselves in natural horsemanship made the positive difference in the gaited horse industry.
“For private owners, their horses are like family. It enraged good owners to think that any of these gentle, tolerant and willing horses were being tortured,” said VanSlyke.
Although VanSlyke has never owned or showed padded horses and always found it to be offensive, she has personally seen the scarred and bleeding fetlocks.
“People who objected often had threats made to their homes and their families,” explained VanSlyke. “Barns were found burning. It was craziness and folks were afraid to speak out. If you spoke up you might get a ticket at the next show from the Designated Qualified Persons or inspectors. These were people in charge of hoof and leg inspections that were often the same people that were doing the soring on their own horses.”
It appears that the fox has been guarding the henhouse far too long.
VanSlyke, who is actively involved today in trail riding groups, sees the future and versatility of the gaited horse as gaining popularity in sporting endeavors including gymkhana, trail riding, driving, mounted orienteering, endurance and therapeutic riding programs.
Keith Dane, vice president of equine protection for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), agrees.
“Rather than comply with Federal law, the corrupt trainers would do everything in their power to cover-up the soring and evade detection,” said Dane.
He believes Big Lick is on its way out.
“The dark curtain has been pulled back. Statistics today are illuminating the tragedy of soring. Unfortunately, some show judges continue to reward the artificial ‘Big Lick’ gait that encourages participants to sore their horses and in turn allows the practice to continue, despite some facing criminal charges and found to be in violation of the Horse Protection Act (HPA).”
The Humane Society of the United States has taken a strong stand by asking Congress to pass the PAST Act that bans the use of devices that are involved in the soring process while penalizing those who perpetrate these acts.
Is there no shame? In May of 2012 an undercover video was released by the Humane Society of the United States of the well-known trainer, Jackie McConnell, using soring techniques. He plead guilty to 22 counts of violating Tennessee’s cruelty to animals statute and agreed to a one year house arrest followed by four years of supervised probation and a $25,000 fine. McConnell is prohibited from owning or training horses for 20 years. In Federal court, he plead guilty to violating the HPA and agreed to pay a $75,000 fine and serve three years of probation.