Skip to Content

USDA Finally Ends Inhumane Technique of Horse Soring at Tennessee Walking Horse Shows

Horse soring to end
Horse soring to end in February 2025. Source: YouTube, Channel: Horse Plus Humane Society

In May 2024, The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) took a significant step to end the cruel practice of horse soring at Tennessee walking horse shows. This move marks the most substantial upgrade to the Horse Protection Act (HPA) since its inception in 1970. The new regulations are set to take effect on February 1, 2025. Horse soring is a technique of inflicting pain on horse’s legs applying chemicals or chains to create the high stepping gait known as “The Big Lick.”

Comprehensive Upgrades to the Horse Protection Act

Horse show
A horse doing a Big Lick. Source: YouTube, Channel: Horse Plus Humane Society

The revised regulations represent the most comprehensive upgrade to the HPA in over five decades. They aim to eliminate the corrupt and ineffective self-policing system previously managed by horse industry organizations. These changes are expected to enhance the ability of inspectors to detect and prevent abuse more effectively.

Ending Self-Policing by Horse Industry Organizations

injured horse
Injured horse during an inspection. Source: YouTube, Channel: Horse Plus Humane Society

A critical aspect of the new regulations is the termination of the self-policing system by horse industry organizations. This change is pivotal in ensuring that inspections are unbiased and thorough, thus better protecting horses from abuse.

Prohibition of Pain-Inflicting Devices

Big Lick step
Horse doing the Big Lick. Source: YouTube, Channel: Horse Plus Humane Society

The new rules prohibit the use of pain-inflicting devices associated with soring, such as chains and caustic chemicals. These devices have been used to create an exaggerated high-stepping gait known as the “Big Lick,” which is highly prized in competitions but causes significant suffering to the horses. The Big Lick is nothing but a horse struggling to walk in pain.

Watch A “Big Lick” Video Here

Enhanced Detection of Abuse

Horse inspection
Horse Inspection in progress. Source: YouTube, Channel: Horse Plus Humane Society

Inspectors will now have improved capabilities to detect evidence of abuse. This includes better training and the use of more advanced detection methods to identify signs of soring, ensuring that horses are protected from these brutal practices.

Historical Context of the Horse Protection Act

Horse show
A Big Lick horse show. Source: YouTube, Channel: Horse Plus Humane Society

The Horse Protection Act was signed into law in 1970 to protect Tennessee walking horses and other gaited breeds from soring. Despite this, the practice has continued, highlighting the need for stronger enforcement and more effective regulations.

Advocacy and Opposition

USDA horse inspection
USDA horse inspection. Source: YouTube, Channel: Horse Plus Humane Society

Organizations like the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) have long advocated for better enforcement of the HPA. Despite significant opposition from industry interests and some lawmakers, these groups have tirelessly worked to close gaps in HPA enforcement and promote meaningful reforms.

Chemicals used in Soring

chemicals
Chemicals used. Source: YouTube, Channel: Horse Plus Humane Society

Horse soring involves the use of chemical or mechanical irritants to create pain in a horse’s legs or hooves, causing the horse to lift its legs higher than usual. This exaggerated gait is particularly sought after in certain show horse competitions, especially among Tennessee Walking Horses.

Techniques

chains on horse hoove
Metal ball chain on horse’s hooves. Source: YouTube, Channel: Horse Plus Humane Society

Common soring techniques include the application of caustic chemicals like mustard oil, kerosene, or diesel fuel to the horse’s pasterns and legs, wrapping the legs with plastic to increase the effect, and using chains or weighted shoes to exacerbate the pain. Watch how a horse hobbles to walk at a “Big Lick” show in Columbia (TN).

Detection and Enforcement

horse in show
A horse struggles to walk. Source: YouTube, Channel: Horse Plus Humane Society

Inspectors use various methods to detect soring, including physical examinations, observing the horse’s movement, and using tools like thermography and gas chromatography to identify chemical soring agents. Despite these efforts, enforcement can be challenging, and soring continues in some circles.

First ever footage of Soring revealed by Inspectors

horse inspection
Horse inspection in progress. Source: YouTube, Channel: Horse Plus Humane Society

In September 2016, The Humane Society of the United States posted a first ever video on their YouTube channel. The 2013 video obtained from inspection reports showed a USDA inspector inspecting injuries on a horse. The horse was in so much pain, it kept pulling away as the inspector held its legs.

Watch Video of Soring Detection

Legislative Efforts and Challenges

horse in training
Horse training. Source: YouTube, Channel: Horse Plus Humane Society

Efforts to pass the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act began in 2007. The bill has garnered strong bipartisan support and endorsements from numerous veterinary and equine organizations. Although it passed the House of Representatives twice, it has faced challenges in the Senate.

Impact of the National Academies Report

horse Big Lick step
A Big Lick is a horse’s reaction to pain. Source: YouTube, Channel: Horse Plus Humane Society

In 2021, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) released a report recommending that the USDA discontinue its reliance on industry inspectors. The report urged the USDA to depend on veterinarians for inspections, a recommendation that has been incorporated into the new regulations.

Incorporating PAST Act Reforms

Horse being treated
Horse being treated. Source: YouTube, Channel: Horse Plus Humane Society

The new USDA rule includes many reforms from the PAST Act, reflecting science-based recommendations from NASEM. These reforms aim to eliminate industry self-regulation at various events and place compliance monitoring in the hands of APHIS inspectors and APHIS-trained independent inspectors.

Future Implications for Horse Welfare

Horse in show
A horse show in progress. Source: YouTube, Channel: Horse Plus Humane Society

The implementation of these new regulations marks a significant shift in the enforcement of the Horse Protection Act. By eliminating self-policing and prohibiting painful devices, the USDA aims to ensure the welfare of Tennessee walking horses and other gaited breeds.

Conclusion

Horses in a Tennessee show
Horse soring to end in February 2025. Source: YouTube, Channel: Horse Plus Humane Society

The USDA’s final rule to end horse soring is a landmark moment in the protection of these gentle animals. With the new regulations set to take effect in February 2025, there is hope for a future where horses are free from the pain and suffering associated with soring practices.

Watch the Video of USDA Soring Inspection

Join our Forum for free today!

Animal Forum
Click Here
Grizzly Bear Spotted Feet From Alaskan Campsite Top 10 States With The Most Cougar Top 10 States With The Most Moose Top 10 States With The Most Coyote Top 10 States With The Most Elk