Federal inspectors who monitored this year’s Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration for evidence of soring identified far more issues than their industry-appointed counterparts, figures show.
Inspecting personnel at the Celebration – the top event of the performance walking horse show circuit — identified a total of 261 violations of the Horse Protection Act, which was passed in 1970 to eliminate soring.
Soring involves the use of caustic chemicals and invasive shoeing practices to cause pain to the horses’ lower limbs to encourage the exaggerated, high stepping gait known as the Big Lick.
Federal inspectors identified 226 violations, figures released by the US Department of Agriculture show. By comparison, designated qualified persons (DQP), who are licensed to inspect horses for compliance with the Act, found only 35.
The federal inspectors disqualified 181 horses, while industry inspectors disqualified only 30.
In total, 196 horses in total were disqualified (14%), compared to 15.4% in 2014.
All but one of the 261 violation were in padded horses, with the other flat shod.
The Humane Society of the United States, which has lobbied for years to toughen the laws around soring, claimed the US Department of Agriculture’s protection activity report on the Celebration showed that violations of the Act were widespread, despite claims by the Big Lick segment of the Tennessee walking horse industry that soring was limited to a few bad actors.
The HSUS noted that federal inspectors found more than six times the number of violations at this year’s Celebration than did the industry-retained inspectors.
The vice-president of equine protection for the HSUS, Keith Dane, said: “The systematic and ingrained cruelty involved in the big lick continues unabated despite the industry’s persistent, false claims that it has cleaned up its act.”
Dane urged Congress to recognize the need to pass legislation that will toughen the Horse Protection Act.
In all, 1392 horse inspections were conducted during the Celebration.
The agency reported that 552 horses, or 28%, were scratched. It said 748 of 1944 initial entries were either scratched or disqualified, which represented 38%.
The figures do not include results of foreign substance testing conducted by the department, which have yet to be released. At the 2014 Celebration, 52 percent of horses tested were found positive for illegal foreign substances, and 67 percent in 2013.
The USDA’s Celebration protection activity report can be read here.