Walking-horse industry not ending abuse
We see violation after violation at Big Lick shows… yet nothing is done. Self regulation of the Walking Horse industry will only achieve more horses being abused. ~ HfH
By: Teesa Bippen
Soring is illegal. Soring is the deliberate infliction of pain upon a horse’s front legs and hooves to achieve an exaggerated gait in the show ring. Unfortunately, you wouldn’t know soring is illegal because the system is broken.
The Horse Protection Act (HPA), as written and amended in the 1970s to eliminate soring, is no match for the many clever soring and concealment methods now in play to achieve a big lick gait in the Tennessee walking horse world.
How do we know this? The HPA violation database holds over 12,500 violations. The board of directors of the Walking Horse Trainers Association, collectively, holds 160 violations — the leaders of the industry. There is serious defiance of law when the U.S. Department of Agriculture swabbing results at the walking horse’s largest 2013 show (The Celebration) comes back with a 67 percent rate of prohibited foreign substances on swabbed pasterns.
In just the past few years, the USDA has issued nearly 1,500 letters of warning to violators which carry no penalties. Sadly, some of those letters list over 10 violations on several horses on various dates so no one knows the full magnitude of soring abuse. So why does Jim Cortner of the Performance Show Horse Association say abuse has steadily been eliminated?
Although both flat-shod and big-lick performance horses are sored, the vast majority of sored horses are big-lick horses — those wearing stacks and chains. When 81 percent of all USDA-written HPA violations in 2013 were written on big lick performance horses, the problem is easier to identify and eliminate — which is precisely what the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) would accomplish.
PAST disallows stacks and chains in the show ring, and thus, the sored, big lick performance horse. All other show divisions of the Tennessee walking horse are untouched. The bill also increases penalties for soring violations.
For 15 years, Friends of Sound Horses has searched for solutions to end soring. FOSH reviewed technology, research and studies; collected data and built databases; consulted with rural crime experts; held three national conferences; analyzed penalty systems; communicated and met with the USDA countless times, and has concluded that the PAST Act is the only hope for the walking horse to escape never-ending abuse.
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.