Guest blog post from Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Government Relations.
"Every walking horse that enters into a show is sored. They've got to be sored to walk. There ain't no good way to put it, but that's how it is.”
These were the words of Barney Davis at his sentencing hearing in a Chattanooga, Tennessee, federal court on February 27 after being found guilty of soring horses. Last night our friends at the Humane Society of the United States released horrific undercover footage showing horses being whipped, kicked, shocked in the face, burned with caustic chemicals, and violently cracked across the head and legs with heavy wooden sticks. These are just a few of the barbaric training methods used in the walking horse industry.
What Is Soring?
Soring is a training technique that is even worse than it sounds. Painful chemicals and other devices are used to cause such agony to a horse’s front limbs that any contact with the ground makes the horse quickly jerk up his or her leg. Soring is done to elicit “the big lick,” a high-stepping gait prized and rewarded at horse shows. And it gets worse. To hide their cruelty, trainers also do what they euphemistically call “stewarding”—beating and inflicting even greater pain to the horses so they don’t react poorly during inspection. This brutality, as captured in HSUS’ footage, masks the fact that trainers are soring the animals. It sounds impossible that this practice continues, even when showing sore horses is banned by the Horse Protection Act (HPA). This practice is violent and abusive—and we will not tolerate it.
What Is the USDA Doing about It?
Last year, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors had the resources to attend just 62 of approximately 700 walking horse shows nationwide. In addition, although the USDA promised in March to release rules that would take an important step toward enforcing the ban of these unethical and cruel practices, they have failed to do so.
While the USDA drags its feet, the 2012 walking horse season is well under way. It’s time to finally take the power out of the hands of criminals! Contact your legislators today and urge them to speak out against soring and demand improvements to the 40-year-old Horse Protection Act.
Join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade to use your voice to help these under-protected animals.