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For the first time in 20 years, the crime of soring is being prosecuted in the U.S. court system. As a result, four individuals have been convicted and four more indicted in regard to soring of Tennessee Walking Horses during the past 6 months.
The surveillance, indictments, criminal charges, convictions and horse rescue has resulted from an ongoing, extensive investigation into the walking horse industry by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials. These results once again confirm that soring, the high-stepping gait or “big lick” of the Tennessee Walking Horse, often comes at a painful price.
Although the Horse Protection Act (HPA) has been in place for more than 40 years, violators have seldom been prosecuted. While the majority of people who show and work with walking horses aren’t involved with soring, some wealthy owners of these competition horses over the years have used political action committee contributions and influence with members of Congress to challenge the USDA’s efforts at enforcement and to block increased HPA funding.
But bowing to equine industry and general public pressure, the USDA took steps in 2010 to upgrade the HPA enforcement. While the HPA had been funded with only $500,000 annually for most of the past four decades, congressional funding rose to $700,000 in 2011.
In 2011, the USDA documented 587 HPA violations while inspecting animals at less than 10% of an estimated 650 gaited horse events. At just one event, the 2011 National Trainers’ Show, USDA inspectors cited participants with 49 HPA…