More than 200 people packed a Murfreesboro, Tenn., hotel meeting room for a public hearing on proposed rules that are intended to combat soring, according to WTVF News in Nashville.

The attendees weighed in on proposed amendments to rules and enforcement of the Horse Protection Act (HPA) from the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The proposal would ban the use of all action devices, pads and foreign substances at horse shows, exhibitions, sales and auctions with respect to any “Tennessee Walking Horses, Racking Horses or related breed that performs with an accentuated gait that raises concerns about soring at any horse show, horse exhibition, horse sales or horse auction,” Tanya Espinosa, a public affairs specialist with APHIS told American Farriers Journal.

“It is animal cruelty, you cannot do it without the suffering and pain of horses,” WTVF quoted Clant Seay, who is with the group Citizens Campaign against “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty.

Jeffrey Howard, a member of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration thinks differently.

“The equipment, if utilized correctly,” he says, “absolutely provides no harm to the horse.”

Banning chains and pads would prevent the Tennessee Walking Horse from showcasing its gait at competitions, Howard says, and would destroy the Tennessee Walking Horse industry’s annual marquee event, the Celebration in Shelbyville.

“It does a lot of good things for a lot of people,” Howard says. “The Celebration itself gives a couple hundred thousand dollars a year in concession sales to civic clubs in Shelbyville.”

Seay counters that the devices are cruel, and the contributions aren’t worth it.

“There’s no justification for hurting animals for charitable purposes,” he says.

APHIS will conduct four more public hearings over the next 5 weeks:

• Wednesday, Aug. 10 in Lexington, Ky.

• Tuesday, Aug. 16 in Sacramento, Calif.

• Tuesday, Sept. 6 in Riverdale, Md.

• Wednesday, Sept. 15, a call-in virtual public meeting.