When the United States Department of Agriculture announced the proposed changes to the Horse Protection Act in July 2016, the general equine industry rejoiced. “Finally,” they thought, “a real effort to end soring.” After all, attempted legislation against soring died in the past by being stalled in the sausage mill of Washington, D.C. By being able to bypass the the legislative process, the USDA can enact these changes without interference from Congress.
However, many farriers looked at the proposed changes and recognized the broad implications the revisions could have beyond Walking Horses — intended or not. Loose, ambiguous language, particularly regarding pad usage, have raised eyebrows of these farriers who don’t shoe Tennessee Walking Horses.
“Don’t worry,” hold those who fail to see the misapplication the revised HPA could have. They believe the USDA will improve with clarification or trust the government to not misapply or overextend the act. Or there are those, including other farriers, who aren’t worried about the changes because they don’t fear being affected by these changes. They don’t train, ride, shoe, etc., those horses.
The government has held four hearing sessions on this issue. They’ve also called for public response on this matter. This past week, it was announced that this period would be extended until Oct. 26, 2016.
Along with this announcement, the USDA released a clarification to its changes :
Clarification: As part of our proposed rule, we proposed to retitle § 11.2 as “Prohibited actions, practices, devices, and substances” and to prohibit all action devices, pads, and substances applied to a horse’s limbs. Also prohibited is any practice involving a horse, and, as a result of such practice, such horse suffers, or can reasonably be expected to suffer, physical pain or distress, inflammation, or lameness when walking, trotting, or otherwise moving. These proposed changes were intended to successfully and significantly reduce the number of sored horses shown, exhibited, sold, and auctioned. In our proposed changes to § 11.2, we included provisions in proposed paragraph (a)(3) of that section stating that the use of any weight on horses up to 2 years old, except a keg or similar conventional horseshoe is prohibited, as is the use of a horseshoe on horses up to 2 years old that weighs more than 16 ounces. In keeping with the intent of our other proposed changes, we are considering changing proposed paragraph (a)(3) to read “The use of any weight on horses, except a keg or similar conventional horseshoe, is prohibited.” We will consider all comments we received on this provision throughout the comment period so that those who have already commented know we will continue to consider their views.
So those hopeful for some definitive clarification were left disappointed. The water not only will remain muddy, but the USDA dumped more silt into our line of view.
If you are one who has concerns over the proposed changes to the HPA, this “clarification” should encourage you to submit your opinion if you haven’t delivered it before. Farriers are the footcare experts, which the USDA sorely needs help with. Remember, this is the agency whose footcare expert wasn’t able to remove a padded package from a horse. And you are outnumbered by the non-experts on these comments. Not only are there those who are solely focused on soring, there are those who would accept misapplication of a revised HPA to do so. This is like the homeowner who burns down the house to get rid of ants in the pantry. You can submit your opinion here: http://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=APHIS-2011-0009-0001
Don’t let the opportunity pass. If the revised HPA is enacted with changes that you don’t agree with, don't be left with the regret that you could have done more.