Even with more pressure being applied and despite indicating they’re on board with soring reforms, the Tennessee Walking Horse industry continues to utilize this illegal and hurtful process.

As spelled out in the Horse Protection Act (HPA) of 1970, soring is the cruel and deliberate infliction of chemical or mechanical pain upon a horse’s hooves and limbs to create an unnatural, exaggerated, high-stepping gait for the show ring.

Keith Dane says decades of self-policing by people whose goal was to maintain the status quo in order to protect the trainer and owner hasn’t worked. The director of equine protection with The Humane Society of the United States says this has made a joke of enforcement while horses suffer in silence.

Inspection Concerns Continue

At this year’s Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, Tenn., the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) staff found soring still being used. Since the late-August event brings an estimated $38.5 million each year to the Shelbyville area, why the industry is concerned about eliminating the high-stepping gait that drew 65,000 attendees to this year’s 11-day event.

At this year’s Celebration, the USDA staffers found 166 soring violations among 1,849 horses. This 9% rejection rate is slightly lower than what occurred during the 2011 Celebration with 203 violations among 2,143 inspected horses.

Some Tennessee Walking Horse groups maintain the USDA is wrongly disqualifying sound horses because of soring concerns. The major argument takes place over the interpretation of the scarring rules.

Progress Still Being Made

In mid-September, a bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would amend the 1970 HP by closing loopholes and eliminating practices that have allowed soring to take place.

Yet while claiming reform, the industry recently sued the USDA to prevent implementation of a new rule to impose mandatory minimum penalties for soring violations.

As some folks point out, the industry has apparently been in denial for so long over the legality of soring that they have a difficult time distinguishing fact from fiction. And complaining about overzealous USDA disqualifications of horses over evidence of soring is not an action taken by an industry committed to reform.

For additional information, check out the 4-part award winning American Farriers Journal series on soring here.