AAEP stepping up to end horse soring

Mechanical Horse Soring
Mechanical soring methods include use of excessively heavy weighted chains and tacks deliberately placed under the shoe into the 'white line' or quick of the hoof. Chemical soring methods include the application of caustic compounds to the front legs to make it painful for the horse to put the full pressure of his weight on his front feet. It is the horse, who at the heart of it all, who keeps trying despite the agony, that creates the spectacle of the sored show horse.

We congratulate the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) on their dedication to improving the welfare of Tennessee Walking Horses.

Tennessee Walking Horses are often the victims of soring (the deliberate injury to a horse’s legs to achieve an exaggerated “big lick” gait) and other illegal practices. Many members of the Tennessee Walking Horse community have been operating in violation of the Horse Protection Act (HPA) of 1970 by continuing to practice soring techniques on their horses.

Midge Leitch, VMD, of Londonderry Equine Clinic in Pennsylvania, reporting to Erica Larson, News Editor of TheHorse.com, brings us up to date.

The AAEP Welfare Committee convened a task force to evaluate the problem in December, 2007, she noted, and by July, 2008 the group had drafted a white paper addressing the issues and recommending steps to bring an end to these inhumane practices.

As a direct result of the white paper, the USDA introduced thermography as a screening process for the detection of inflammation or irritation of the lower legs during pre-competition examinations. In 2009 the task force addressed the more recently utilized soring technique of pressure shoeing–a method that that makes a horse’s forefeet tender and results in the same exaggerated gait known as the “big lick.”

She added that the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), in its efforts to enforce the HPA by inspecting horses at competitions for any signs of soring or pressure shoeing, has most recently implemented a protocol that sets minimum uniform penalties for soring, using foreign substances on horses or failing to pass equipment and shoeing inspections.

“It is gratifying to see that both the USDA and elements of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry have been receptive to the recommendations of this task force,” Leitch said.


“Elements” is right. Horse soring is still all too common. However, with increased inspections, the development of new detection methods and enforcement, changes are being made in the right direction.

Pat Raia reporting for the Horse.com writes:

A Federal Grand Jury has indicted three Tennessee residents for alleged violations of the Horse Protection Act (HPA).

The indictment handed down earlier this month alleges that between 2002 and 2010, Spotted Saddle Horse trainer Barney Davis and two other individuals, Christen Altman and Jeffery Bradford, conspired to violate the HPA by soring horses and falsifying forms and other paperwork required to exhibit animals.

The indictment further alleges that Davis and Altman used others as nominee trainers to obtain trainers’ licenses and that the three falsified horse show entry forms and other documents claiming that Bradford and others were trainers of horses actually trained by Davis.


4 thoughts on “AAEP stepping up to end horse soring”

  1. Linda !!!! What a great commonsense solution !!!!! Judges need to give more credit for the beautiful natural traits all around, this would stop all the unnecessary maiming, each gaited horse has its own beautiful natural gait , some better then others but all beautiful in there own way, and should be judge accordingly………….. only for what nature has given them……………………… That would end all the unnatural fraudulent approaches………………to what should be a real win………….


  2. I believe part of the solution is to convince JUDGES at ALL horseshows to reward natural gaits, head carriage, tail set, and other attributes particular to that breed. When competitors see judges rewarding bad practices they tend to gravitate toward whatever’s winning … even if it’s inhumane or just plain stupid!

    Case in point: “Peanut Rolling” western horses. What horse travels with its head so low it can barely see what’s in front of it? Now that western judges have (slowly) begun to change their ways, heads are coming up to a more natural position. What happens in the show ring has a great influence on what happens to the horses.


  3. The Love Horse of my Life is a Black gorgeous Tennessee Walker, she has a beautiful natural gait, she is a pleasure just to watch………………. I am wowowow very surprise and happy to see that somebody is actually getting INDICTED for a crime convicted against a horse……………I have always thought the Walker was the most beautiful all around horse…..(but i love them all )))……. If only we could get the rest of the culprits who have no respect for horses !!!


  4. I appalled the AAEP for their actions but they can take it a little further and help OUTLAW “big lick” gait or Shod Performance , this is the RIGHT DIRECTION PERIOD. I am the owner of 2 championship breed Tennessee Walkers and I do not believe in the Big Lick gait. It is un-natural activity and just down right CRUEL not to mention TORTUROUS at it’s best! The BIG LICK gait places extreme pressures on the hoofs, joints and ligaments and is either life shorting or lowers the quality of life for the horse! The 2009 Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration Show had the largest number of cruelty violations on record – EVER!! So how the AAEP can say things are “moving in the right direction” is BEYOND me!

    Farrier Untied Association and the American Farrier Journal, UPWHA are all against the Big Lick gait. For five decades the controversial training and showing practices of the Big Lick gait has stunted the Tennessee Walking Horse breed’s acceptance and growth. As the artificial gait changed the direction of the breed, the true gaits, which originally made the breed popular, were almost lost.

    There is nothing more amazing to watch than a TW showing it’s NATURAL gait, it is a beautiful sight but even better is the feel of the ride. For someone like myself with a bad back, the TW’s natural gait is the sweetest ride you will find from a horse. The natural gait has even been proven to be very therapeutic for riders with injured backs and less destructive to healthy back and hips as well. TW are on average the most expensive horses for these reasons, they not called the Cadillac of horses for nothing. I was very lucky to get my 2 TW for pennies.

    This high stepping Big Lick gait crap needs to go! The injuries to these horses are not necessary, it is all done for SHOW MONEY, the horse gets nothing from it but pain. The natural gait competition is very competitive and very rewarding not only for the rider/owner but for the horse as well. A gait can be taught to any horse but this gait will never be as natural or as smooth as a TW’s gait, it is very unique!


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