Since the introduction of the first Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act in 2013, the legislation has received remarkable support in both houses of Congress, only to die in committee. Yet, a rule change could finally bring a vote on a bill that aims to significantly change farriery of gaited horses such as Tennessee Walkers.

As the House of Representatives opened the 2019-20 session, Democrats swiftly introduced and enacted new rules that govern how business is conducted. Among the changes is a rule that allows a path to a vote for any legislation that maintains 290 cosponsors for a cumulative period of 25 legislative days. The 290 cosponsors represent a supermajority of two-thirds of all members of the House.

The new rule is significant to PAST Act supporters and opponents alike because amassing 290 sponsors in the House is attainable, as evidenced by the previous three pieces of legislation.

  • HR 1518 (113th Congress, 2013-14): 307 cosponsors.
  • HR 3268 (114th Congress, 2015-16): 272 cosponsors.
  • HR 1847 (115th Congress, 2017-18): 289 cosponsors.

It’s only 4 months into the 2019-20 session of the 116th Congress, and HR 693 is 60 cosponsors shy of the 290 threshold.

The latest version of the PAST Act was reintroduced Jan. 31, 2019, by Rep. Kurt Schrader, an Oregon Democrat, and Rep. Ted Yolo, a Florida Republican. Both Schrader and Yolo are veterinarians.

The bill aims to amend the Horse Protection Act (HPA), which prohibits sored horses from participating in shows, exhibitions, sales or auctions, by criminalizing soring and prohibiting several items that are used to artificially alter the horses’ gait or conceal evidence of soring.

Soring is the intentional application of substances or devices to horses’ limbs to inflict pain in order to achieve an exaggerated high-stepping gait in show rings. Although soring cases have decreased since the law went into effect in 1970, a 2010 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Inspector General found that the current system is inadequate and violations continue to be prevalent.

Specifically, both House and Senate (SB 1007) versions would substantially revamp the farriery of Tennessee Walking Horses, Spotted Saddle Horses and racking horses. They would prohibit the use of action devices, “weighted toe, pads, wedge, hoof band, or other device or material at a horse show, horse exhibition, or horse sale or auction that is placed on, inserted in, or attached to any limb of Tennessee Walking Horses, racking horses, Spotted Saddle Horses … to artificially alter the gait of such a horse; and is not strictly protective or therapeutic in nature.”

The legislation defines action device as “any boot, collar, chain, roller, or other devices that encircles or is placed upon the lower extremity of the leg of a horse in such a manner that it can rotate around the leg or slide up and down the leg, so as to cause friction; or strike the hoof, coronet band, fetlock joint, or pastern of the horse.” The legislation does not consider soft rubber or soft leather bell boots or quarter boots that are used to protect the foot as an action device.

Although the bills are aimed at owners and trainers, farriers who shoe Tennessee Walkers, Spotted Saddle Horses and racking horses could have their livelihood affected. It might not stop there, Greenville, Tenn., farrier Scottie Lamons told American Farriers Journal in the May/June 2018 issue.

“It’s going to affect a lot of us who shoe Walkers, racking horses and the Spotted Saddle Horses,” says Lamons, who has shod Tennessee Walkers for nearly 2 decades. “It’s going to throw five-gaited horses that rack, like Saddlebreds, into the picture, too. They’re eventually going to get to where they don’t want pads on any of these horses.”

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PAST Act Could Spur More Changes

Learn more about the philosophy and effects of the shoeing packages the farriers apply to Tennessee Walking Horses by reading “PAST Act Could Spur More Changes” in the May/June 2018 issue of American Farriers Journal.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) support the PAST Act’s bid to ban action devices and “performance packages,” also known as stacks or pads.

“Performance packages add weight to the horse’s foot, causing it to strike with more force and at an abnormal angle to the ground,” according to the shared policy of the AVMA and AAEP. “They also facilitate the concealment of items that apply pressure to the sole of the horse’s hoof. Pressure from these hidden items produces pain in the hoof so that the horse lifts its feet faster and higher in an exaggerated gait.”

Lamons acknowledges the history of the Walking Horse industry, but he says the industry has changed dramatically.

“I know the Tennessee Walking Horse has a bad image,” he says. “Probably 25 or 30 years ago, yeah, there were some people doing some stuff that they didn’t need to be doing. Now, the horses have to go through about five stages of inspections before they can even go. They’ve cleaned it up a lot over the last 20 to 25 years. These horses are treated very well.”

Although the new House rules could improve the chances of HB 693 being approved, there are still variables at play — the Senate and president to name two. Yet, it’s a step in that direction.