Faith lost in walking horse industry – vet body boss

Painting on caustic substances to sensitise the skin on the horse's legs.
Footage from an undercover video revealing horse abuse in the walking horse show industry. Painting on caustic substances sensitises the skin on the horse’s legs.

Two key veterinary bodies in the United States have talked of their loss of faith in the walking horse industry over what they say is its unwillingness or unability to address the soring issue.

Soring involves the intentional use of chemical or mechanical irritants on the lower legs of walking horses to encourage the higher gait so desirable in the industry.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) issued a joint statement in support of changes to toughen the Horse Protection Act.

“Soring is an unconscionable abuse of horses that is used to produce a high-stepping gait — the ‘Big Lick’ — and gain an unfair competitive advantage in the show ring,” AVMA president Dr Doug Aspros said.

“For decades we’ve watched irresponsible individuals become more creative about finding ways to sore horses and circumvent the inspection process, and have lost faith in an industry that seems unwilling and/or unable to police itself,” he said.

He said both the AVMA and AAEP were committed to strengthening the US Department of Agriculture’s ability to enforce the Horse Protection Act and ending this abuse for good.

Aspros said both bodies strongly encouraged those who cared about the welfare of horses to contact their member of Congress and urge them to support the bill.

The proposed legisliation, designated HR 6388:

  • Makes the actual act of soring, or directing another person to cause a horse to become sore, illegal.
  • Requires the USDA (rather than the industry) to license, train, assign and oversee inspectors enforcing the Horse Protection Act.
  • Bans the use of action devices (eg, boot, collar, chain, roller, or other device that encircles or is placed upon the lower extremity of the leg of a horse) on any limb of Tennessee Walking Horses, Spotted Saddle horses, or Racking horses at horse shows, exhibitions, sales or auctions and bans weighted shoes, pads, wedges, hoof bands, or other devices that are not used for protective or therapeutic purposes.
  • Increases civil and criminal penalties for violations, and creates a penalty structure that requires horses to be disqualified for increasing periods of time based on the number of violations.
  • Allows for permanent disqualification from the show ring after three or more violations.

AAEP President Dr John Mitchell said: “The passage of HR 6388 will strengthen the Horse Protection Act and significantly increase the effort to end the abuse of the Tennessee Walking Horse.

“The AAEP encourages all veterinarians to contact their legislators to voice support for the bill and help end the cruel soring of these beautiful animals.”

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