New rule protecting walking horses wins praise

Shoes used to force Tennessee Walking horses to exaggerate their gait.
Shoes used to force Tennessee Walking horses to exaggerate their gait. © HSUS

The United States Equestrian Federation has earned the praise of the Humane Society of the United States for a new rule banning participants in its licensed competitions from using certain devices long associated with horse soring.

Soring involves the use of mechanical and chemical irritants on the lower legs of horses during training to encourage the higher gait, called the Big Lick, considered desirable in the walking horse industry.

The new rule bans the use of action devices and stacks for use on any member of the Tennessee walking horse, spotted saddle horse or racking horse breeds, in all classes at any federation-licensed competitions.

Under the rule, only humanely trained flat-shod horses in these breeds will be allowed to compete in non-recognized divisions at USEF competitions.

The Tennessee walking horse breed was formerly included as a recognized horse show division by the federation’s predecessor, the American Horse Shows Association, but was removed from its rule book in the 1980s in the wake of persistent abuses of walking show horses.

However, Big Lick horses have continued to be exhibited at federation-licensed shows in non-recognized divisions.
The Big Lick has been popular in the South, but is falling out of favor after investigations and law enforcement actions have revealed the abuses involved in some training methods.

Undercover video footage released by the humane society last year showed a nationally known Tennessee horse trainer and his accomplices chemically soring show horses and brutally beating or “stewarding” them to teach them not to react to pain during inspection — practices that have been illegal for decades under the federal Horse Protection Act and Tennessee state law.

“The Humane Society of the United States is continually impressed by the United States Equestrian Federation’s commitment to the promotion of humane horsemanship,” said Keith Dane, director of equine protection for the society.

“Spectators at USEF shows will be able to experience the natural grace and beauty of sound, flat-shod walking horses without supporting or being exposed to any of the abusive practices long-associated with the Big Lick.”

The society encouraged other horse-show venues to take similar steps in support of humane, responsible horsemanship and not provide a showcase for a horse show discipline commonly associated with these abusive, illegal training methods

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One thought on “New rule protecting walking horses wins praise

  • January 26, 2013 at 8:23 am

    Wonderful news for the horses !!!!! I hope that along with the definition of ‘flat- shod’, that barefoot horses will also be permitted to compete.


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