Exaggerated gait of Tennessee Walker gotten through the abusive practices of horse soring.

Fight to end horse soring is everyone’s duty

Written by former SENATOR JOE TYDINGS

Citizens must take stand against cruelty to horses

Forty-three years ago, while serving in the U.S. Senate, I introduced the Horse Protection Act to stop the cruel and intentional soring of the magnificent Tennessee Walking Horses.

Unfortunately, although the Horse Protection Act was enacted into law in 1970, far too many owners and trainers continue to illegally inflict excruciating pain on their horses to modify their natural gait and win prizes in the show ring.

Exaggerated gait of Tennessee Walker gotten through the abusive practices of horse soring.
Exaggerated gait of Tennessee Walker gotten through the abusive practices of horse soring.

“Soring” is the process of deliberately causing extreme pain to the legs and hooves of Tennessee Walking Horses and other gaited horses to enhance the unnatural, exaggerated high-stepping gaits, including the “Big Lick,” that are rewarded by judges in certain shows.

On Feb. 27, in an unprecedented action to enforce the law, a U.S. district judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee sentenced four defendants, including trainer Barney Davis, on federal charges of violating the Horse Protection Act. Davis, who received a sentence of more than a year in prison, testified to how Walking Horse trainers used wooden blocks, metal chains, bolts, acid, kerosene and other caustic chemicals to tenderize and wound the legs and hooves of the horses. The horses then wear chains that hit their tenderized legs with each step, forcing a high-stepping gait.

Trainers and farriers also use power grinders to grind the bottom of the horse’s foot down to the bloody quick, and insert foreign objects, such as screws, to mechanically make it painful each time the horse takes a step. This causes the horse to snatch his foot off the ground in reaction to the pain. Tragically, this pain-driven unnatural movement is rewarded in these shows. Davis testified that “every Walking Horse that enters into a show ring is sored. … They’ve got to be sored to walk. There ain’t no good way to put it, but that’s how it is.”

Soring is savage and wanton. These beautiful horses live 24/7 in agonizing pain during their entire show career and can suffer permanent damage.

Also last week, the U.S. district court indicted another prominent and winning trainer, Jackie McConnell, and three associates on 52 counts, including multiple felonies of conspiracy to violate the Horse Protection Act and substantive Horse Protection Act violations. These types of indictments and prosecutions are long overdue, and I applaud the impressive U.S. attorneys in the Eastern District who have courageously worked to end this abuse. I hope that these developments serve as a deterrent for wealthy owners and their hired trainers who seem to believe that it is their cultural right to ignore the law and continue this abusive practice.

Unfortunately, this vicious practice is still all too common in the Walking Horse industry, particularly in Kentucky and Tennessee. The U.S. Department of Agriculture attends only about 10 percent of these shows because of budget constraints, so the full impact of soring can only be estimated. In many shows, if a USDA veterinarian arrives to inspect the horses, trainers load their horses on a trailer and leave. I am encouraged by recent efforts of the USDA to step up inspections at shows, quantitatively and qualitatively, and to implement a minimum-penalty protocol for those found in violation of the Horse Protection Act.

But the federal government can only do so much. The most effective way to eliminate soring is for citizens to stand up to and speak out against this atrocious practice. This may take the form of educating others about the cruel effects of soring; refusing to sponsor, compete in or attend the types of horse shows that encourage sored horses to compete; boycotting companies that sponsor these types of shows; contacting local media about the practice; reaching out to members of Congress; or even reporting known abuses to national humane groups, U.S. attorneys or the USDA.

Joe Tydings is a former Democratic U.S. senator from Maryland and practices law in Washington.

Source: The Tennessean

7 thoughts on “Fight to end horse soring is everyone’s duty”

  1. I think the punishment for doing this to a horse should be truly severe and put the trainer out of business for good. I also think all the people around them, who do nothing but stand by and let these jerks abuse the horses should be ashamed. And lastly, why did the judges allow the person in the picture compete? It is very shameful for anyone to be connected with such a practice and really awful to watch. Why anyone would think this would look attractive, I don’t know. Reminds me of foot binding in China and the way those poor women walked when they were crippled. Perverse.


    1. Irene,

      These folks from TN are not of this World. They have a ‘backwoods’ mentality and they will literally kill you if you mess with them. Our Gvt cannot agree on anything so soring of horses means nothing. I am targeting my comment towards the people whom perpetrate these heinous crimes against the horses. Have you ever seen a horse ridden in a ‘Park’ saddle? That saddle is so far behind the withers the horses’ kidneys are feeling the full impact of the rider. That too is cruel. That too was developed in the South as well as ‘Racking’ horses. The list never ends.



  2. The horse in the photo is pouring sweat, and if you look at it’s eyes it is terrified. And when these crooks are done with it I have a good idea it was crippled and ended up slaughtered. A year in jail is to good for this cruelty, they need 10 to 20 years in the pen. I agree these crooks need to be blocked from ever owning or training a horse again.


  3. The TWH ‘Industry’ is really dangerous. People have been killed and so have horses. These people have ‘DQP’s or ‘Designated Qualified Persons’ who are supposed to monitor and report the violations of the 1971 Act. The DQP’s are ALL in on it. You can’t let the fox guard the hen house as the saying goes.



  4. People who pay to attend these shows also are part of the issue. If people refused to support this then the industry would end, or have to accept a more natural gait. Where there is big money involved there is cruelty, simple as that.


  5. People who are found guilty of soring should also be prohibited from ever owning, training, and showing horses in the future.


  6. Where is the law, who is responsible for letting them continue the soring, this is 42 years later.This is a very long time, the punishement must be very soft.


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