With the “Big Lick” segment of the Tennessee walking horse industry showing no willingness to root out the abuse festering in its ranks, the Obama Administration has signaled readiness to take further measures to crack down on the cruel practice of “soring.” Late last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sent a proposed rule to update its existing Horse Protection Act (HPA) regulations to the Office of Management and Budget for White House clearance (a key step before a proposed rule is released for public comment).
For some time now, The HSUS has urged the USDA to take action to end all soring practices. In February 2015, The HSUS filed a rulemaking petition with the USDA to promulgate a rule to ban the “stacks” and chains that are an integral part of the soring process in the Tennessee walking, spotted saddle, and racking horse breeds; put an end to the failed system of industry self-policing; and crack down on violations by extending disqualification periods for both the offender and the sored horse. At this stage of the review process, the text of the USDA’s proposed rule is not yet public. But to be effective, the proposed rule should include all of these commonsense, long-awaited reforms.
It’s been a federal crime since 1970 to show horses who have been sored – subjected to the intentional infliction of pain on their legs and hooves to force them to step higher to gain a competitive edge in the show ring. But cruel, unscrupulous trainers exploit regulatory loopholes, and the corrupt industry self-regulation system allows the perpetuation of what amounts to organized crime, all for the sake of show ribbons.