It’s Time to End Soring–Take Action Now on H.R. 6388, the Amendments to the HPA

On November 20th the AVMA and AAEP released a statement indicating our support of HR 6388, the Amendments to the Horse Protection Act (HPA). Expressions of support for the AVMA and AAEP decision from veterinarians and other stakeholders came in enthusiastically and quickly. And, on November 27 and 28, responses from the Walking Horse industry began to trickle in. One of those came from the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association (TWHBEA), the other via a letter to the presidents of the AVMA and AAEP from the Tennessee Walking Show Horse Organization (TWSHO). Not surprisingly, they were not supportive and their comments were as expected: “Only a few bad actors,” “Incidence of soring is less than 1%,” and “Chains and pads aren’t bad, it’s the people who abuse them.”

With respect to “a few bad actors,” we’d have an easier time believing that if we didn’t have evidence of a culture of abuse that has existed for more than four decades. When you have 37 of the 52 horses at the 2011 National Celebration testing positive for one or more anesthetic agents; convictions of trainers like Barney Davis and Jackie McConnell (now with a lifetime disqualification); a 9% HPA violation rate at the 2012 National Celebration (virtually no change from the 9.5% rate at the 2011 event); and violation detection rates that are consistently 5 to 10 times higher when USDA is present at shows to inspect, compared with shows where the industry self-polices; it becomes apparent that this is not “a few bad actors,” it’s a real industry problem.

As regards chains and pads, the industry says “there’s no science to suggest that chains and pads cause problems.” What the science (see also links at end of post) says is that raising the heels (placing a horse on pads and wedges) 8 degrees can cause the horse to stumble and tire easily. Additionally, horses placed on pads and wedges showed inflammation in the flexor tendon area of the pastern. Chains that weigh 6 ounces will start to cause hair loss without the use of chemical irritants. Chains heavier than 6 ounces used on horses that have been previously sored will cause open lesions within two weeks. We’re happy to say we did our homework and, yes, the science that’s available appears to support our position. However, the industry has (once again) missed the point of the AVMA’s and AAEP’s decision. The AVMA’s and AAEP’s primary concern is that chains and pads are used to exacerbate and/or hide soring. And they can do so irrespective of their size and/or weight. And, if you had any question about whether we’re really talking about 6-ounce chains and small “packages” (as suggested by the industry) our photos that were provided by an AAEP member should resolve them.To remove opportunity and incentive to sore, and to facilitate the inspection process under the HPA, the AVMA and AAEP agree with the authors of HR 6388 that self-policing, and chains and pads, have to go.

We mentioned that AVMA member and numerous stakeholder responses to the AVMA’s and AAEP’s action suggest great support for our decision. We urge you to take those expressions of support one step further by helping us shut down this culture of abuse. Contact your member of Congress and urge them to support HR 6388. Do it today—we’ll make it easy for you. Visit our website and Take Action!

The science:

Thermography in diagnosis of inflammatory processes in horses in response to various chemical and physical factors

Energetic and kinematic consequences of weighting the distal limb

63 thoughts on “It’s Time to End Soring–Take Action Now on H.R. 6388, the Amendments to the HPA

  1. Sore is not needed at all a pad should be limited to the thickness. One set of light chains are fine. 2 inch pad is okay. But look at that picture of brokin off hoof that horses was not cared for correctly. He had to high of a pad and he need to be reshoe but wasn’t. It looks like it was from a deseasted horse

  2. I own a Tennessee Walker and he’s not sored. This is my 2nd year with him. We have never used anything on him, but the pads. Yes, soring is wrong, but pads and chains are not soring. Now if you put chemicals on the legs with the chains, yes that’s soring. If you put objects in the pads, like golf ball, yes that’s soring. I ask you this, what about pleasure horses? The people who tie their heads up so high when they show they hold their head down? Or people who inject them with drugs? And lastly, what about the one’s who sew up a geldings foreskin so that it doesn’t hang from the drugs? You like to just pick one breed and see all the bad in it and not the people who do right. I think you should learn about this before you just look at it and say “Oh I know nothing of this and this is foreign to my eye, it must be bad!” If you’re going to look at bad points do it in all breeds. Every show I go to, we have NO ONE who sores their racking horse. We are all very close to each other and all disagree with it. Why don’t you look at other Tennessee Walking Horse owners besides J Mac and all the big time names. What about the small town owners and trainers who love the bonding between the rider and horse? I know you’re going to say I’m completely wrong, but I know I treat my horses right and you do not know me. So, don’t you dare try and say I hurt my horses when you obviously know nothing.

    • “Why don’t you look at other Tennessee Walking Horse owners besides J Mac and all the big time names.” Actually, if we take a look at a lot of the other big trainers and owners in the TWH business, they have multiple HPA violations. Seems to me they’re just as guilty as “J Mac.”

    • No one is trying to point fingers at you LR. We could spend all day talking about good trainers/practices in all equine disciplines and bad trainers/practices in all equine disciplines. This article is about the KNOWN practice of abusive soring and a bill that could help put an end to it.

  3. As far as other breeds not being inspected by DQP, that is a false statement. I have been involved with mountain horses for about 20 years. All mountain horse shows of all 3 breeds use DQPs at every sanctioned show. These horses are to be keg shod only. Some horses break above level and some just above the fetlock with all variations in between. The horses that have a naturally higher gait can be trained well and ridden well to get that high front end lift. I’m not saying that some trainers don’t use chains or stretchies. I’m not naive, but it is not to get that horrible looking crouched walk either. They do it to get the front end lift.

    Pad, stacks and chains are NOT natural. The “big lick” is a man made gait. The horses don’t love it. Man does. They may seem unhappy without pads as one lady claimed because they have known nothing else since they were yearlings. I have seen enough walking horse classes and been in enough “big lick” barns to know these horses are NOT happy.

    And yes, I live in Central KY. I have been involved with ASB as well. I don’t care for what people do to them either, but I don’t think they are tortured and sored like the walking horses I have seen.

    Forget about the crouched down, unnatural walk and focus on training each individual horse to the best of it’s natural ability and potential!

    • Oh and I have a TWH and a SSH that are flat shod and barefoot and rack on the trail like nobody’s business!

  4. Thank you AVMA and AAEP for doing the right thing and taking a stong and unwaivering stand for equine welfare. The industry has been promising to clean itself up for 40 years and remains as cruel and corrupt as ever. It’s taken government inspectors and undercover videos to reveal what apologists have been winking at for years. A few leading trainers have been expelled, but only after truly horiffic videos of their abuse were finally made public. The abusers only got probation – even after being caught on tape clubbing horses in the face and legs. Anyone who believes they were anomalies and that no one knew what they were sending their horse to endure for the sake of a show ribbon and winners purse needs a reality check. Don’t believe it – see for yourself:

  5. Had a small, local demo from “Walkers” while in vet school mid-80’s. Most of my fellow (equine) classmates in attendance were pretty hostile. I tried to stop pretty open, having never been raised @ horses. After having spent all of my DVM career @ horses, I still won’t call myself an “Equine” Vet, but I have pretty good “horses sense”. Just spent past year working as a soundness examiner for nearby thoroughbred track. Every last trainer will state they would NEVER send a “sore” horse to the track. Having been in sports all my life, I can physically relate to all the arthritis changes that take place in these performance athletes. The fact that they can compensate “to soundess” generally is still beyond me, but eventually we have the catastrophic breakdowns! It took ALL season to figure out who that was true for. For most trainers it was, because everything about their personality showed their level of concern & compassion. With the physical alteration that goes with Walkers, I scientifically can NOT believe that fairly rapid conformational changes do not occur! — & not to the betterment of the horse.

  6. I will not do that kind of work, I have reported people in the past for soring horses and will do it, every time I see it. I do a lot of walkers, but will not pad them up or work for people that do that to there horses.

  7. I fear if the pad, chain and self policing are prohibited soring will go back to being rampant. I own TWHs that are barefoot, keg shod, Trail Pleasure shoe & rode by a 6 yr old most of the time, Park Pleasure (one horse with steel shoe and one with tungsten), one horse goes park pleasure half the year and park performance the other half, and a padded horse. All my horses are happy except right now in the off season I had my padded horses pads removed and he is absolutely ma,d not being able to work like he likes too. He hates not having his pads on. He loves what he was born to do. When the equine chiropractor comes to he barn he is amazed at how limber and flexible the padded horse is and rarely does he need adjusted. The trail pleasure horse ridden by a 48 pound 6 yr old needs a lot of adjustments regularly. I would welcome anyone to come see my padded horse to find out the truth for themselves how pads and chains do no harm. Other breeds use them (even without work grease) and they don’t have the issues we have in our breed. It is not the devices, it is the bad apples that are causing the abuse. Please go to a few BL barns and learn for yourself before you believe all this propaganda with pics from who knows how old and if they are actually real or staged. If you take the pads away please be humane enough to open the horse slaughters in the USA again for all these animals YOU will be sending there by taking away there job…. You will have that on you conscious if you take away the pads and chains along with the increase in soring you cause by making everything flat shod that don’t belong being flat shod.

    • It’s disingenuous to say that soring would get worse by taking about pads and chains. How little faith in people to do that right thing. But it seems to prove how corrupt the Big Lick walking horse industry is. If people have to sore a horse shod more normally to get the horse to do what they want, maybe these people should wake up and realize it’s not what the horse was meant to do. There are people all over the country getting a great smooth gait from their Walking Horses in keg shoes and barefoot by using classical training methods. Action is not necessary for the horse to gait correctly – it is only human beings who desire that action.

  8. How old is this picture??? You nuts can’t even get an updated photo!!!! those methods and pad styles have been gone for years!!! You need to post things you know not what you hear or think you know!!!!! I HAD HAIR IN THE 70’S AND 80’S BUT i DON’T NOW!!! because things change!!!!!

    • Martin, the picture on the top is a screenshot from the Jackie McConnell video that was taped in 2011. The picture on the bottom, if I’m not mistaken, was taken by the USDA in 2007 or 2008. If that’s not new enough for you, I don’t know what is. Your screaming on a public forum does nothing but confirm our suspicions.

      • come check my horses and i can take you to other barns with the same resuls, UNLESS you are afraid you’re wrong and for the record the photo with the cut off foot is from the 70’s and is nothin but a gory photo trying to scare people, only screaming on here is you anyway dont compare all of us to J. Mac cause I don’t compare all do gooders to you!!!!!!

    • Some things change. Some things don’t. The fact is that Walking Horses still carry much bigger pads than any other breed. Here’s a picture from 2008 for you. Of course, as long as people can Photoshop pictures, the “industry” will never accept photo evidence.

  9. if the good lord wanted horses to throw their feet that high he would let them do it naturally just like he let us have the pleasure of having the walking horse and it’s natural gaits. PLEASE PUT A STOP TO ALL THE OTHER CRUELTY THEY’RE DOING TO THESE ANIMALS.

    • I have a keg shod TWH that breaks over level owned her since she was 9 months old so I peronally know that she has NEVER benn sored in any fashion and she is a WC rackng horse so whats your answer to that??? shes all natural Oh I for got she is KEG SHOD!!!

      • And if your horse is a speed racker, the action of those horses seems to be higher just to compensate for the speed.

        • Pleasure rackingI have keg shod, heavy shod and padded chain horses and i know all of mine are sound with NO scares and have passed USDA everytime I show so I dont wanna hear the BULL!! My vet says he doesnt support 6388 and hasnt been asked if he does???? It singles out specific breeds and that is HARRASMENT! And if it passes I will continue to have padded horses for my own pleasure and dare anyone to try and stop me!!! They are my property and I will do what I want with them!!! Have a nice day;-)

          • Hi, Martin,

            I am not a horse vet and I am not familiar with the issue in debt but I occasionally testify in the local court on small animal abuse cases. So let me see if I can address this to you from a legal point of view.
            Recently I testified on a case where the owner was found guilty in violating the currently accepted norms of animal husbandry and animal abuse. The judge ordered the dogs confiscated and due to the resistance of the owner to previous court orders, she ended in jail for two years.
            If the resolution gets passed and exepted by USDA as a standard of animal welfare you may and up in the same predicament.

            So, it is a free country as long as you obey the laws. Othewise be ready for legal trouble.

  10. Thank you to all of the dedicated veterinarians of the AAEP and AVMA for taking a stance against the vicious practice of soring.

  11. The tennesee walking horse industry’s argument that it’s ” a few bad actors” is ludicrous. The USDA and HPA database is updated weekly with new violations and suspensions. The “few bad actors”, statement makes no sense.

    • Spring training practices using chains and pads or anything else that is connected to the horse’s legs and/or hooves has got to be outlawed. These practices have been proven to be Inhumane to the horses. This type of training to get a horse to “Sore” has not decreased in the number of horses that are being trained this way according to statistics from shows in 2011 and 2012. The horses inspected in the National Shows during these years prove that we need this Bill passed as soon as possible to save any more horses from injury and pain. Please take action Now.

  12. Thank you again and again for supporting H.R. 6388. Also, thank you so much for posting the research and showing us that YES, stacks and chains are bad, whether people like it or not. Standing up as a veterinary community to protect the horse means so much. We hope that you will take the time to question veterinarians involved in this practice as well who are in high positions with the TWHBEA and other HIOs and sore horse organizations. These men and women who continue to support the Industry are only contributing to the lies and allowing the abuse to continue, even after taking an oath to protect animals.

  13. I agree pads and chains must go. Thank you for helping end the abuse. You standing up for the banning of pads and chains is immensely helpful and influencial. Good for you!!!

    • Just like guns don’t kill people , people do!!!! Pads and Chains DON’T sore horses PEOPLE do come check my padded horses for yourself, do you even know what to look for??

  14. If all this evidence exists that pads and chains are harmful (and I am not disputing that), why does HR 6388 only seek to protect the tenn walking horse? What about saddlebreds that show with pad and chain? Don’t those horses need to be protected too? After reading the bill, saw elimination of weighted shoe. Again, what about protecting other breeds of horses ie saddlebred or the hackney that has weighted shoes. Isn’t this an amendment to the HORSE protection act? Because it looks like it is only to protect one breed. It’s harmful to the tenn walking horse, but not to other breeds? The horse protection act should protect all horses, not just the breed that happens to be in the news.

    • The HPA as written makes soring against the law, which occurs most often in the Walking Horse, Racking Horse, and Spotted Saddle Horse breeds. Soring is not prevalent in the Saddlebred, Hackney, or other saddle seat worlds. The weighted shoes, chains, pads, wedges, etc. are used to disguise soring, and that’s what the AVMA is against.

      • How do we know that soring isn’t prevalent in other breeds…..they are not inspected like the tenn walking horse, so really how do we know. How do weighted shoes disguise soring?

        • Your argument is a clear attempt to focus the attention away from the problem. The AVMA has pointed out the irrefutable proof that Walking Horses, Racking Horses, and Spotted Saddle Horses are being abused on a regular basis. If you want to start a mission to make the HPA apply to all breeds of horses, feel free to do so. For now, we need to stop soring where it’s happening all the time, and that’s in the listed breeds.

          • No, not at all trying to focus the attention away from the problem. Just pointing out a bonifide argument to the bill that any basic legal could argue, and that could weaken the validity of the bill. I am all for 100% sound horses. But when other breeds are given a “pass”….the next aspect of the argument arises: is it the pads, chains and shoes….or the people using them? I am not sure I agree with attacking the entire tenn walking horse shows to address the problem. I think only 5% of tenn walking horses are padded and in that group….you have the few bad apples. Why not put serious laws with jail time for the offenders. The HPA has always made it illegal to sore a horse…problem has been the penalties/consequences have been a joke and THAT is the problem. Without serious penalties/consequences, the scum will get into the non padded tenn walkers (already have) and continue their ways. This bill isn’t going to stop soring, it’s only going to move it over to another area…and that totally disgusts me.

          • If you had read HR 6388, you’d see that the penalties have been made more serious. Clearly you’re only concerned with the pads and chains portion of it. If you want to have the USDA inspect other breeds or have other breeds added to the amendment, then contact the USDA and the sponsor and co-sponsors of the amendment to get your ideas in there. Do something rather than keep trying to point the finger elsewhere.

          • Of course the problem is with the people using pads and chains – the people are charged with the crime after all. While you say only 5% of TWH are padded, there are probably more shows for that type of horse, especially in the south. And at those shows, the majority of classes are for padded horses. They make up much more than 5% of show TWH. The bill does increase the penalties, by the way. And again, if soring is so pervasive that people will just take it someplace else, then the real answer is for the leaders of the industry to stop it. Oh yeah, many of them also have violations. If this breed had national leadership, I have no doubt things would change, but folks in Tennessee have a stranglehold on the breed. They want national and international recognition (and money) but no input from stakeholders outside of their circle.

      • What world do you live in Andrea?? I have seen ASB’s with pads and wedges on all 4 FEET! and seen them in the warm up areana at shows with chains ALL ALL 4FEET!!! AND THEY DONT HAVE TO BE INSPECTED?? So are they sore??? IF THE PADS AND CHAINS SORE THEM???? Whats good for the TWH should be good for everyone! And if theASB’s arent sore and its ok then whats your point???

        • I don’t have to answer to you, even though I do live in an area where ASB shows are prominent. I’m sorry that you don’t understand the facts. Overall, the AVMA and the AAEP have recognized that pads and chains are tools used to sore or to hide soring on Tennessee Walking Horses, Racking Horses, and Spotted Saddle Horses. That is where we need to see change made. This industry has never and will not police itself, and therefore the privilege of using pads and chains needs to end. If that’s not acceptable to you then please feel free to contact the USDA and ask them to start inspecting other breeds. I’m sure they would appreciate hearing your ideas.

          • so you are saying that other breeds dont become sore from pads and chains??? I would change vets if i were you because I would think that if it makes one breed sore it makes em all sore just goes to show again you have know idea!!!LMAO!!!

          • Soring doesn’t only occur with chains and pads (as I’m sure you’re well aware), you gotta add the caustic agents to get the crawl and flail the Big Lick people want. It’s a whole big mess and stopping it has to end somewhere. The pads and chains are well beyond what is acceptable for any reason, even without the soring due to chemicals so let’s start there…

        • Besides all of this, you did not name your vet when I asked for his/her name, so there is no reason why I should give you any information in general. Again, I hope you will take the time to approach the USDA with ideas on inspecting other breeds if you want that done.

          • Again… You CANNOT sore a trotting horse due to the mechanics of gait- they just get head-bobbing LAME. So soring IS NOT done on breeds such as ASBs and Hackney Ponies. Even a 5-gaited ASB has to show at the trot so soring for the Rack can’t happen. It’s the soring of GAITED horses that is the issue, because despite their high action, ASBs and Hackney are NOT easy gaited, four beat horses, thus not subjected to soring.

          • I will leave with something to think about, you are right you dont owe me any answer jjust like its none of your business nor anyone elses as to the choice of shoe I haveon my horses just like its none of my business how you shoe yours, i agree soring and abusing these horses is wrong but the shoeing doesnt sore or abuse them the fools doing it to them is the problem, I have keg, heavy and padded horses they are not sored or abused, they are probably in better shape than your horses and they compete and place well on a reguar basis that being said answer one question for me? What gives you the right to dictate to me or anyone else how to shoe our horses??? This is a free country and as long asI and I repeat I am not abussing them then its none of your concern, so lets hear it what gives you that right??? Thank You

          • Interesting question, Martin, since obviously no one has actually been successful in dictating that people stop padding up horses. Apparently, freedom is alive and well in the U.S. But since it is a free country, people also have to right to express their opinions about what people should or shouldn’t do. I’m sure you can think of many other examples of things people are and are not allowed to do because of other people’s opinions (and I’m not talking about criminal activities).

    • To my knowledge, no other breed is shown with chains. They may use them in training, but not the show ring. And the amendment does cover more than one breed (as Andrea noted).

      • Walking, racking and spotted are all aspects of the tenn walker. The horse is in the show ring for what, a few minutes? Would seem that training at home with chains is where most of the work is done. How is the short time in the show ring so much worse than training in chains with other breeds? And these other breeds are not inspected, so are we really certain the other breeds are not sore? Chains, pads, weighted shoes on a tenn walking horse is no different than chains, pads, weighted shoes on any other horse. If the intent is to protect the HORSE, then all horses should be included in this.

        • I don’t disagree with on that, but sometimes you have to pick your battles. I’m passionate about walking horses and fox trotters because those are the breeds I grew up with.

          • The pads and shoes are immensely different on TWHs. For starters, there are no upper weight limits on what the packages can weigh so you are talking in the 5-15lb range flailing around on the end of each of those front hooves, depending on the division the horse is shown in. The so-called “flat shod” horses shoes are often made of tungsten which is where the 15lb weight comes from. The large packages on the Big Lick horses weigh about 5lbs each on average, but they also bring the horse up on permanent “high heels”

    • You can’t sore a trotting horse and get the desired gaits. A trotting horse shows signs of lameness such as a nodding head (which is a breed/gait trait in the TWH) which is a dead give away and not desired.

      The lameness head nod in a TWH is taken as the desired breed trait, and encourages the impression that the horse is moving in the breed’s desired gait. In actuality, the padded horses are moving in a stepping pace rather than the running walk which *is* the desired gait.

      In other gaited breeds, shoes are limited either to either no shoes (Peruvians cannot be shod for shows), no pads (Paso Fino), keg shoes only (Mountain Horses), and/or otherwise have very specific lengths and limits to their shoes, unlike the TWH and derivative breeds.

  15. Keep up the good work, AMVA and AAEP. For decades, so-called trainers have hidden from sight while torturing and abusing these wonderful horses. The jig is up and the world now knows what has been going on. The actions of the big lick culture smack of desperation. They know they have been outed and their sadistic world is crumbling. Keep the pressure on; the good shall prevail. Thank you AMVA and AAEP.

  16. I have seen the curtains to hide the “fixing” at the celebration and other shows. The rolls and rolls of plastic wrap….the chemicals. This is NOT a FEW bad apples and for those that are saying it is and has been are in my humble opinion too embarrassed to speak the truth. The best thing TWBEA could do is get behind the horse and end the support of the pads and action devices period. I hear that they are for the protection of the horse but actions speak louder than words. ANYONE that allows their horse to be abused (and it IS abuse) in this manner and turns their head is just as guilty as the person who wiped the chemicals into the tissues himself….then wrapped it to cook. The horse, the breed, the industry as a whole would be MUCH better off without those folks. This horse is the best out there and it WILL prevail!!!!

  17. They are not trainers… they are the slime of the earth. I pray these beautiful horses get the help they so desperately need and deserve. The judges, “trainers”, owners, grooms, farriers, veterinarians… What exactly are they thinking? How do they justify this? What makes them THINK this is acceptable?

  18. The various associations involved with the Big Lick style walking horse is unwilling to make any changes – having the AVMA behind this bill is crucial.

  19. Thank you so much for speaking out against this barbaric practice and for throwing your considerable weight behind HP 6388. These trainers have no intention of reforming, as evidenced by the alarming number of violations found in spite of their reassurances. These beautiful horses have suffered for decades and it’s time for the civilized communities and organizations to bring it to an end. I have already contacted my Congressman, and will do so again. It is unfathomable to me that anyone who has any decency and compassion at all would not support this.

  20. Please keep up the work to end soring. I own and show flat-shod tennessee walking horses and it makes me sick to think what trainers are doing to these horses in the name of a ribbon and bragging rights. I train using dressage and hard work, no short cuts. My horses are happy, healthy and winning in the show ring. This abuse has got to stop, there’s no reason for it other than lazy trainers looking to take short cuts. The TWH is a beautiful moving animal without artificial animation. The industry needs to continue improving the breeding for quality flat-shod horses and eliminate heavy shoes, pads and chains forever! Get rid of the devices that are crippling these horse and let good training and natural movement shine!

  21. Thank you for continuing to put pressure on this “industry” and explaining your position. The people in charge of this breed have demonstrated an unwillingness to consider any change to benefit the horse and the average walking horse owner. Judging from early videos of heritage Walking Horses, today’s trainers of Big Lick walking horses hardly deserve the title of “trainer.”