The United States Department of Agriculture is accepting public comments for Horse Protection Regulations while it is under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

“Comments are requested regarding; whether the collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information will have practical utility; the accuracy of the agency’s estimate of burden including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used; ways to enhance the quality, utility and clarity of the information to be collected; and ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology,” according to the comment request.

Those wishing to comment may do so by visiting the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs comment section. Comments that are submitted by Dec. 21, 2022, will be considered.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service lists the following information necessary to enforce the Horse Protection Act (HPA).

  • Access to and Inspection of Event Management Records.
  • Request for Certification of Designated Qualified Persons (DQP) Program and detailed outline of the program, including Standards of Conduct and Procedures for enforcing the standards.
  • List of DQPs and notification to USDA of changes to the list and any warnings or revocations issued to any DQP.
  • Horse Industry Organization (HIO) Report of Violations and Recordkeeping.
  • Certified DQP Program Written Warning to DQP of Unsatisfactory Performance.
  • Certified DQP Program Cancellation of DQP License after Warning.
  • Request by DQP to USDA to appeal license cancellation.
  • Appeal of revocation and DQP Access to Records (previously titled Appeal of Revocation).
  • Written notification to USDA and certified DQP programs by event management of unsatisfactory DQP performance.
  • Records of events containing Tennessee Walking Horses or racking horses maintained by management.
  • Providing contact information for recordkeeper.
  • Inspection of HIO records.
  • Management report to USDA of any regulated event involving Tennessee Walking Horses and racking horses.
  • Management report to USDA of any regulated event not involving Tennessee Walking Horses or racking horses.
  • Required information in rulebooks and rulebook submission.
  • Appeals and reports.
  • Certified DQP Program Quarterly Reports on Disciplinary Action and Recordkeeping (previously titled Certified DQP Program Quarterly Reports on Disciplinary Actions).

The comment period is part of the USDA’s plan to amend the HPA in a bid to eliminate horse soring. It is not known how the USDA will amend the HPA. A previous attempt in 2016 intended to outlaw several farriery devices, equipment, appliances and practices on “any horse at any horse show, exhibition, sale, or auction.” These included pads that elevate or change the angle of the hooves more than 1 inch at the heel, artificial extension of toe length, weights and metal hoof bands, among others. It also prohibited shoeing, trimming or paring the frog or sole in a manner that causes suffering, pain, distress, inflammation or lameness during movement.

While the rule was never published, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) withdrew the rule stating that it intends to include 2021 research by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) that’s contained in A Review of Methods for Detecting Soreness in Horses. The NAS says the information in the report helps determine whether horses have been subjected to soring practices. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders Foundation, USDA and APHIS sponsored the report.

APHIS defines soring as “the application of any chemical (e.g. mustard oil or diesel fuel), mechanical agent (e.g. overweight chains), or practice (e.g. trimming a hoof to expose the sensitive tissue) inflicted upon any limb of a horse, that can cause or be expected to cause the horse to suffer physical pain or distress when moving.” The practice produces a high-stepping gait that’s favored in the Tennessee Walker show horse world.