More than 40 years ago, Congress passed the Horse Protection Act with the intent of ending “soring,” one of the most egregious forms of equine cruelty. But loopholes in the law and chronic underfunding have hindered U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections and enforcement, allowing the practice to persist on the Tennessee walking horse show circuit on a widespread basis.
Horses are sored to force them to perform an exaggerated, high-stepping, pain-based gait known as the “Big Lick,” prized by some on the walking horse show circuit. Trainers apply caustic chemicals to the animals’ ankles and cover them with plastic wrap to “cook” the chemicals into the horses’ sensitive skin. Fitted with heavy, stacked shoes, the horses stand in stalls with their legs wrapped for several days. During training, metal chains are placed around the horses’ ankles, further irritating the injured areas and making each step so excruciating that the animals step higher in an effort to escape the pain.
We are fighting to end this abuse by lobbying for upgrades to the Horse Protection Act and its regulations. We assist law enforcement with soring investigations, support shows and organizations that feature sound, natural walking horses and raise awareness about soring among the media and public.