Inspectors at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration found a total of 219 violations of the Horse Protection Act among the 1075 horses examined, figures just released show.
The 40-year-old legislation is designed to protect walking horses from soring – the illegal practice of using chemical or mechanical irritants on the lower legs to encourage the high-stepping “Big Lick” gait.
Preliminary results from inspections at the show in Shelbyville, Tennessee, which ran late in August, have yet to include the results of testing for chemical irritants.
The summary from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows that 1075 horses were inspected, with 219 violations found (20.4 percent). This compares to a rate of 6 percent in 2013, 9 percent in 2012 and 9.5 percent in 2011.
The figures show that the USDA found 199 violations and industry-retained inspectors found 20.
Only one violation was found on a flatshod horse; all other violations were for padded horses.
In total, 166 horses were disqualified – 15.4 percent of the horses inspected. The USDA said the difference between the number of violations identified and the number of disqualifications resulted because multiple violations were on occasion found on individual horses.
Of the 485 horses scratched from the event, 450 (about 93 percent) were in the padded classes.
The figures show that 651 of the 1560 initial entries were either scratched or disqualified, representing 42 percent of all entries.
Horse welfare advocates believe the Horse Protection Act does not go far enough in protecting walking horses from soring. They have been lobbying for Congress to pass the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act.
It would amend existing federal law to toughen measures around soring and end the industry’s self-policing system, ban the use of devices implicated in soring, and strengthen penalties.
The PAST Act is widely supported but there are growing fears it may not get to the floor of the House and Senate for a vote before they adjourn for the midterm elections.