Don’t be fooled: new Senate bill will not improve welfare of America’s walking horses

Since the introduction of the Horse Protection Amendments Act (S. 1161) on April 30, there are now two competing anti-soring bills in the Senate. On closer review, however, only one of the bills strikes at the heart of the soring issue.Shutterstock103488437HorseEyeBridle300x200

Soring is the egregious act of deliberately causing pain to exaggerate the leg motion of high-gaited horses, such as Tennessee Walking Horses. The chest-high stride achieved by soring is known in the industry as the “big lick.” Typically, chemical agents are applied to the horses’ pastern, and bracelet-like chains or rollers (action devices) are attached around this same area of the leg. The chains or rollers rub against the skin, exacerbating the pain caused by the caustic chemical agents, causing the high kick that is promoted by the walking horse industry.

In 1970, Congress passed the Horse Protection Act, which prohibited horses that are sored from participating in shows, sales, exhibitions or auctions, and banned drivers from transporting horses that have been subject to this abusive technique. Now, 45 years later, soring continues to be a problem.

At the 2014 National Celebration, the biggest walking horse competition, 20.4 percent of participants were found in violation of the Horse Protection Act, more than triple the 2013 rate of 6 percent. Nearly 170 horses were disqualified, while 651 of the 1,560 initial entries (or roughly 42 percent) were either “scratched” (decided not to participate) or disqualified.

In Congress, there are two bills that are aimed at stopping soring once and for all, but only the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act (S. 1121) will take the necessary steps to end this inhumane practice. This bill truly gets at the heart of the problem by placing the training, oversight, licensing and assigning of all show inspectors into the hands of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as opposed to the current system of self-regulation. It will also eliminate the use of action devices and performance packages, and most importantly, make the actual act of soring illegal.

Pass_PastActThe Horse Protection Amendments Act, on the other hand, is simply a Trojan horse and would keep enforcement of the original Horse Protection Act in the hands of the walking horse show industry, essentially allowing the fox to guard the henhouse. S. 1161 will not eliminate the use of action devices and performance packages, which cause pain and damage to the horse’s hoof; exacerbate the pain of chemical irritants applied to the legs; facilitate concealment of other objects that produce pain; and cause the horse’s hoof to strike the ground at an abnormal angle and with excessive force. Most importantly, S. 1161 leaves the current prohibitions on the sale, auction and exhibition of sored horses in place, but does not make it illegal to sore a horse.

Last Congress we came very close to passing the PAST Act into law with 368 legislators in support of this important bill. Let’s not let the bill suffer the same fate in the 114th Congress.

YOU can make a difference for America’s walking horses by joining us in our efforts to SUPPORT the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act and OPPOSE the Horse Protection Amendments Act. Sign our action alert here and let’s put an end to the cruel practice of soring!

14 thoughts on “Don’t be fooled: new Senate bill will not improve welfare of America’s walking horses

  1. People who make the claims that this article has anything to do with paid lobbyists have some agenda against seeing the PAST act go through. The list of supporters of the PAST act is astounding. All the reputable equine organizations are behind this bill, so to say it is all coming from the HSUS is incorrect. The AAEP, American Horse council and hundreds of others want the PAST act to become law – not the opposing bill where the stacks, chains, etc will still be allowed.

  2. As a horse owner, I take offense to a small animal veterinarian attempting to set standards for livestock. There’s a reason we don’t have cattle producers telling advising cat and dog owners. It just doesn’t make sense.
    As a PAID lobbyist on this issue, Dr Lutschaunig has even less credibility.

    • Paragraph one refers all violations into the category of “soring” which is not correct. Many other violations are lumped into this “soring” category such as the presence of scars on the feet of TWH. Notably the Contender Farms(no. 13-11052, 2-19-2015) ruling that the USDA has improperly interpreted scar rule violations is one case in point.Currently, damages are being sought from the USDA for their misinterpretations of the scar rule. So, the triple numbers’ increase is in fact not accurate.

      Paragraph five talks about the “two bills” as if the PAST act is the nobler of the two. Whereas, in reality, those who are knowledgeable about the PAST act realize this act is a HSUS sponsored bill. And, those knowledgeable about HSUS recognize the HSUS agenda would eliminate all farm animals including horses(Humane Watch, 2015). Or, you can ask farmers and carriage horse industries about the HSUS agenda.

      In addition, this article perpetuates the Alexander, McConnell and Paul act as leaving this matter in the hands of TWH which is again not accurate. Instead, their amendment bill would advocate one horse industry organization which would use independent(outside of the TWH industry) veterinarians who would use scientific methods and their knowledge of horses to insure the welfare of the TWH not the elimination of the TWH.

      Also, this article fails to mention the ethical investigation of Whitfield and his HSUS lobbyist wife in their improper use of their influence and ties with HSUS in their introduction and support of the HSUS-linked PAST act advocated by this article.

      • First of all, the scar rule is intended to find evidence of soring, so it is certainly a valid inspection. Second, only members of Congress can officially sponsor a bill, and the HSUS is only one of many organizations that support the PAST act. Finally, the organization proposed by S. 1161 calls for members to come primarily from Tennessee and Kentucky, which both have large numbers of both padded horse supporters and violations of the HPA. Although it is not technically proposed as an industry organization, who do you think will really be running it?

      • Please provide a valid reference, concerning horses specifically (a link, if possible), to support the claim that “….the HSUS agenda would eliminate all farm animals including horses (Humane Watch, 2015).” I could not find anything in Humane Watch this year that substantiates this claim regarding horses. Thank you in advance for your attention to this.

  3. First, please disclose that the AVMA was a paid lobbyist for the prior Past Act, as was Dr. Miller.

    Second, you should go see a TWH show first hand, as opposed to buying into everything HSUS claims. would be a good place to start. Make plans to attend, watch inspections, talk with members of the VAC.

    Third, look at the number of cases prosecuted and conviction rate for hard numbers, factual numbers. Bear in mind that allegations of soring are made where participants are disqualified but never prosecuted due to lack of evidence that prove soring.

    As a veterinarian group, you should lobby for enforcement as to all breeds – it is the Horse Protection Act – to ensure the welfare of America’s horses.

  4. I totally support the PAST ACT S.1121 , I encourage all Americans that have a heart to do the same. Our horses need our help. They don’t have a VOICE or a CHOICE! Something need to happen to protect these horses.

  5. Thank you AVMA for your continued support of the PAST Act 1121 now in the Senate. Your stance on this horrific matter of soring speaks volumes to the lay person(s) that do not understand the tragedies that take place everyday in the Tennessee Walking Horse, Spotted Saddle Horse and Racking Horse world. Please continue to expose these criminals and animal abusers for what they are!

  6. Thank you, AVMA, for taking a public stand for the protection of Tennessee Walking Horses, who have suffered escalating abuse for over 50 years. I was elated when the HPA was passed in 1970, believing it was the end of soring; and again in 1976 when it was amended, believing that we would finally see the end of soring. Instead, walking horse “trainers” have won the “cat and mouse” game of disguising their brutal methods, and the horses have been the losers. As a lifelong horse lover, owner, and rider, I have seen nothing that rivals the abuse endured by these good-natured horses. It is time to put an end to the “Big Lick,” which can only be produced through pain and suffering.

  7. I am exceedingly pleased the AVMA takes a position against the continuing Tennessee Walking Horse abuses involved in the training of big lick horses. I strongly support the PAST Act, s1121, as well as all the veterinarians who understand their purpose is not only to invest their skills into the health of animals, but also to insure the least amount of harm is done to animals as they deliver their services.

  8. I oppose S.1121 because if self regulation is good enough for veterinarians carried out via state boards then who are we to lobby the Federal government to regulate another industry. I think we need federal standards and regulation of the veterinary profession to protect our animals from the substandard acts of veterinarians like Dr Pol, because state based self-regulation of our profession works so very well as we have seen in his case. Also a federal regulation of practice would make it much easier for DVMs to move to other states where the jobs are available and avoid economic protectionism by state veterinary boards through licensing. We should ask if what regulatory scheme we want to impose on others, we would want to have placed on our shoulders using the policing powers of the federal government.

    • Robert Nix – the big lick Tennessee Walking Horse industry has tried to be “self regulated” since 1970, but the regulators were HPA violators themselves, so you have the fox guarding the hen house. I support S. 1121 because it is the only bill that will stop this extremely abusive, horrifyingly awful abuse to horses. It is every bit as reprehensible as dog fighting.

    • Robert Nix, you seem to be talking out of both sides of your mouth. You demand federal regulations for veterinarians, based on the alleged malpractice of a single individual, yet oppose federal regulations for the Walking Horse industry even though scores (hundreds?) of individuals – trainers and owners – are on record as HPA violators; i.e., they have blatantly practised the systematic abuse of the Tennessee Walking Horse (and related breeds) for decades. Your remarks impose a strain on the reader – are you trying to be sarcastic, in which case you fail? Or is your thinking too fuzzy for you to see how self-contradictory your little polemic is?