Protect Tennessee Walking Horses

Kentucky horse soring

The effort that the Big Lick crowd will go to in order to keep torturing horses makes ones head spin. This opinion piece addresses the fact that these horse torturers no longer can win big cash prizes. Yet, there are still competitions they can go to win ribbons. Any competition that allows soring of horses should be shut down immediately. ~ HfH

From: The Courier-Journal
By: Edward S. Bonnie

Kentucky horse soringIn Kentucky, horses are part of our heritage. Champion thoroughbreds and show horses are born and raised in our state, and many more serve as faithful companions. As Kentuckians, we hold horses in very high esteem. In that spirit, Kentucky U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield has written and introduced the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R. 1518/S. 1406, which is an important bill to protect horses from abuse. I urge the entire Kentucky congressional delegation to join Rep. Whitfield by co-sponsoring this important piece of legislation to end the abuse of the majestic Tennessee Walking Horse.

There has been a half-century of documented abuse in a segment of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry. In order to force horses to perform the high-stepping gait called the “big lick,” trainers subject the animals to consistent, immense pain with a practice known as soring. Devotees of the big lick have shown an unrelenting willingness to break the law that forbids soring for no other reason than to win a blue ribbon. These are people who use inhumane training practices — including chemical abuse — to achieve unnatural and exaggerated gaits intended to thrill crowds. These people have turned one of America’s great pleasure horses into a national tragedy. These counterfeit horsemen do not love horses, but only love what can be wrung out of them.

As a horseman and an attorney, I prosecuted a soring case for the United States Equestrian Federation in the 1970s. I have seen what soring really is. Representatives of the Walking Horse industry withdrew from USEF membership rather than confront the problem.

I once hoped that the industry could be persuaded to reform itself. I am a Kentucky horse racing commissioner and serve on the Commission’s Rules Committee. In 2009, a decision was made to allow points for the Kentucky Breeders’ Incentive Fund to be given only at Walking Horse shows inspected by reputable programs. My hope was that stringent inspections would ensure fair competition; that people would have an incentive to stop soring and to start showing clean horses in order to be eligible for large cash prizes. It was only partially successful. Instead, “big lick” trainers simply bypassed the opportunity to win cash and avoided the shows with stringent inspections.

I have decided that meaningful change is not going to come from within the industry. Real change must come from without and the PAST Act is the pathway to that real change.

Political pressure from the Walking Horse industry has resulted in underfunding the Horse Protection Act of 1970 and has contributed to the failure of its objective.

The PAST Act, which amends the federal Horse Protection Act, is cosponsored by a majority of members (255 to date), representing most of the states in the Union and all political persuasions. The number of PAST co-sponsors shows a unanimity seldom seen in Congress these days and that sends a message. Congressman Whitfield is to be applauded for his leadership in making the case that abusive and illegal training practices of the big lick Walking Horse industry, as well as in portions of the Racking Horse and Spotted Saddle Horse breeds, must be stopped.

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  • Mary Anne Gardner

    This has gone on too long!! Horses have suffered so much for that BIG LICK !! Stay after these mean people set our horses free to walk normal!!!

    March 28, 2014
    • Dear Maryann, the Gait of a Tennessee Walking Horse is so magnificent by nature there is no need to change it,never a reason if you have never ridden one you must, he is the Cadillac of all rides, precision in motion !!!!

      March 28, 2014
  • Sue Carter

    This is not a Personal Property Right. This is systematic, Culturally-accepted animal abuse. Pass the PAST Act!

    March 28, 2014
  • Janet Schultz

    What exactly is the holdupo? Maybe the photo in this article needs to be sent to every politician in DC. They don’t believe us? And it is pure BS that naturally gaited show horses won’t win the big money. Against each other they will. Take the tortured horses away from their torturers, and the playing field is leveled once and for all. Take out any inspector, judge, show steward, stable manager , vet who does not prove zero tolerance and we are done with it. The only ones to profit will be the ones who actually care for the horses. It is SIMPLE.

    March 28, 2014
    • Janet Schultz

      And I see a photograph like that, with ages of injury to the leg and I scream inside my head – where are the animal control, the sheriff, that is animal cruelty and my senses have been offen do not want to know this is happening without recompense for the humans who did it and to bring comfrt to that poor horse. Who are these law enforcement charged to protect society? Where are they? They need to come forth and justithemselves.

      March 28, 2014
      • Robynne Catheron

        Janet, it makes me scream also. I simply can’t fathom the agony these horses go through on a daily basis. God forbid they try to defend themselves or fight back, or they’re beaten by disgusting monsters like Jackie McConnell.
        In answer to your question regarding the whereabouts of the sheriff and animal control, I firmly believe their hands are tied by their bosses. The local governments are deeply invested in these money-making machines, I dare say most of them are owners or part-owners of “Performance” horses. The revenue from the Big Lick shows in states like Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi is in the multi-millions.
        What I find ironic is that when talking about this topic with anyone from the padded horse industry is they never have an argument that makes sense. It’s like talking to someone with no brain. The words come out of their mouths, but they’re just random words. Angry, defensive words, but meaningless.

        March 29, 2014
        • Callie83


          People have been killed over these horses and the large sums of money they get from the shows. You are correct about the corrupt Law officials and the USDA does not have enough Inspectors to go and check on all of them. It is digusting.

          March 29, 2014
  • Callie83

    It is my feeling that first we have to Ban the shoes of any kind. This breed has historically been barefoot and they were used by Plantation Owners in the South to ride through the rows of crops.

    Their natural gaits are beautiful and if you ever have the chance to ride one you will never forget it. These horses are so gentle and that is to their detriment. One swift Cow Kick can send an abuser flying and possibly result in a concussion.

    Start with banning shoes of ANY kind.

    March 29, 2014