Since we issued our call to support the USDA’s proposed changes to the Horse Protection Act, we’ve been receiving some comments from our membership and others concerned about a specific phrase within the proposed rule. According to the rumors going around, people fear that the proposed changes will prohibit specific actions, practices, devices and substances (such as pads) used when training and showing breeds such as Morgans, Saddlebreds, and Arabians.
There are also rumors going around that fly sprays, coat conditioners, or even saddles and bridles could be considered “foreign substances” that would be banned.
What’s missing from the messages being spread is the context that comes from reviewing the entire text of the proposed rule, which states “related breed that performs with an accentuated gait that raises concerns about soring at any horse show, horse exhibition, horse sale, or horse auction.” What this suggests is that if you’re not soring your horses, the USDA is not going to come after you when you’re training, riding or showing them.
The USDA has provided the needed context for this proposed rule in section 11.2 paragraph (a), which is pasted below. We’ve highlighted the relevant phrases in bold, underlined text.
Prohibited actions, practices, devices, and substances.
(a) Specific prohibitions. No device, method, practice, or substance shall be used with respect to any horse at any horse show, horse exhibition, or horse sale or auction if such use causes or can reasonably be expected to cause such horse to be sore. The use of the following devices, equipment, or practices is specifically prohibited with respect to any Tennessee Walking Horse, Racking Horse, or related breed that performs with an accentuated gait that raises concerns about soring at any horse show, horse exhibition, horse sale, or horse auction:
No matter what breed you show, exhibit, or sell/auction, the use of any action, practice, device or substance that can reasonably be expected to cause a horse to be sore is prohibited. The regulation is not about breed; it’s about ending the cruel practice of soring. There is a large, and growing, number of walking horse owners who don’t sore their horses and who ride, train and show them in their natural gaits. They despise being lumped in with the soring crowd and need your support to return the breed to its natural beauty.
Let’s work together to end soring. It damages the reputation of a great breed and has led the other gaited horse breeds to distance themselves as much as possible from the walking horse industry. Comment in support of the USDA’s proposed changes. If you believe the language of the proposed regulation needs to be improved, please make constructive suggestions to the USDA so that the regulation may be refined to protect non-harmful or beneficial practices while preventing soring. Don’t let more walking horses suffer by throwing roadblocks that prevent adoption of the proposed regulation or by helping those who sore create more loopholes within the regulations that allow them to continue their cruel practices.