Take action to eliminate horse soring and “big lick” animal cruelty. Elizabeth Fite, reporting for the Times Free Presswrites:
The biggest competition for the Tennessee walking horse breed begins Wednesday in Shelbyville, Tennessee.
For some, the 11-day Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration — often called the Celebration — embodies the best of the breed and its traditions. For others, it’s tainted by the cruel practice of horse soring — when humans intentionally injure horses’ hooves or legs to make them step higher, creating an artificial gait known as the “big lick.”
Soring became illegal in 1970 and is not allowed at the Celebration. However, the current law doesn’t prohibit stacked shoes, chains or other “action devices,” and those will be used on horses at the Celebration in classes where the high-stepping “big lick” is still coveted.
Yes, horse soring and the “big lick” is still coveted by a minority of cruel people who continue to perpetuate horrific cruelties against the beautiful and gentle Tennessee Walking Horse. Together, let’s bring it to a final end.
SUPPORT THE PAST ACT OF 2019
There is a bill pending before Congress that will wipe out horse soring once and for all.
Contact your two U.S. Senators in Washington D.C. and urge them to cosponsor and make an unwavering commitment to the passage of S.1007, the bill against the cruel practice of horse soring for Tennessee Walking Horse competitions.
Clant Seay and the advocacy group Citizens Campaign Against “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty have peacefully protested outside the Celebration for the last four years.
Seay founded the group and regularly documents examples of “big lick” horse abuse on his blog, billygoboy.com, and Facebook page, which has more than 11,000 followers. One of his latest videos is of 2-year-old walking horses wearing weighted shoes and chains and displaying the “big lick” at a show on Aug. 3.
“Calling attention to illegal and abusive activity is every citizen’s responsibility. Animal cruelty is not a tradition just because it has been going on for more than 50 years,” Seay wrote in an email. “To say that this is a ‘tradition’ is just a propaganda technique. Nor is this an ‘industry’ any more than cockfighting or dog fighting is an industry.”
It has been called “The Deadliest Horse Race in the World”.
Each year in mid summer, a small town in Eastern Washington State, called Omak, proudly promotes an event named “The World Famous Suicide Race,” considered the marquee event at the four-day Omak Stampede rodeo.
Omak straddles the border of the Colville Reservation, home of almost every racer, horse owner, and trainer.
Town officials claim this event (created as a draw for the town’s annual rodeo) is a celebration of history and tradition. In reality, it’s murder on horses. The race seriously injures and kills horses.
Over a span of four days and nights, riders repeatedly run their horses off Suicide Hill with a 120-foot galloping start. At breakneck speed, the horses then meet the Okanogan River. Entry into the river is narrow, causing bottlenecks and horrendous multiple-horse spills. Horse and rider then face a treacherous and often panicked swim about the length of a football field to reach the other side. The final grueling sprint is a 500-foot uphill climb to the finish line.
Always the second weekend in August, each race awards five points to the first-place finisher, four to the second, and so on; the overall winner clinches the King of the Hill title on Sunday.
FIRST LEG — DOWNHILL DEATH DROP
Anyone who has ever watched a Western movie will have noticed that when a horse is asked by his rider to carry him down a steep decline, even in hot pursuit, how carefully the horse proceeds, measuring every step.
After a galloping start in the Omak Suicide Race, horses are whipped to make them “charge” down “Suicide Hill” an almost complete vertical drop of approximately 225 feet at a 62 degree angle, much like a steep staircase.
Studies carried out regarding equine vision show that because of the position of the horse’s eyes, which are set wide apart on either side of the head, there is blind spot directly in front of the forehead. Researchers believe that this “blind field” is the width of the horse.
This means when a horse is catapulted down a sharp decline such as “Suicide Hill” he cannot judge where to land his feet and will not realize where the ground is until it comes rushing up beneath him. Horses are also known to lose their footing and somersault head over heel down the hill.
Since he cannot see the horses ahead of him he may crash into them. Others trip over or collide with falling horses.
The numerous any injuries that occur in pile ups on Suicide Hill are the leading cause of death in the Omak Suicide Race. These include a broken leg, fractured knee, fractured pelvis, broken shoulder, and heart attacks from overexertion. It is also a mentally terrifying experience for the horse.
The above are not only expected in the Omak Suicide Race, but also heralded as part of the excitement.
SECOND LEG — THE SWIM
At the bottom of the downhill death dash, the horses who have survived the first leg are immediately faced with the rocky Okanogan River and a frenzied swim across it.
Horses who have already sustained injuries, panic or get caught up in the reins, and drown. Some horses land in the rocky waters sideways having lost their balance and direction, and in an attempt to right themselves so they can swim, wrench their necks and backs, sustaining further trauma.
Horses are not natural swimmers and tend to panic temporarily when they cannot immediately feel the ground beneath them.
When horses swim they will employ a trotting motion and “a breathing pattern characterized by brief inspiration and prolonged expiration.” The difficulty in breathing when swimming is probably due to the pressure applied to the chest and abdomen of the horse by the water and the fact that the horse does not have the rhythm of body and abdominal movements that serve to help the breathing process” when he is on land.
“[It] should be noted that swimming also results in relatively high blood pressures compared with galloping and that some horses have experienced nose bleeding after bout(s) of swimming. As such, swimming is not recommended for horses with respiratory disease and it is also contraindicated in horses with back injuries.”
Because there is no support from the ground and there is little or no resistance from the water, the amount of energy required to move forward in the water is significantly greater than that required to move forward on land. It takes approximately four complete swimming strokes to cover the same distance as one galloping stride on land. Based on this approximately 500 yards is about equal to a one mile gallop.
As stated before, notwithstanding the physical dangers, the experience is mentally harrowing for the horse.
THIRD AND FINAL LEG — THE UPHILL SPRINT
Already terrified, exhausted and possibly injured, the horses face the third and final leg of the Omak Suicide Race which is a punishing and backbreaking uphill sprint.
When a horse’s gait quickens to a gallop, his breathing is linked to the rhythm of his hoof beats. During high-intensity exercise, this rhythmic breathing lowers oxygen intake, producing a buildup of lactic acid and carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration, causing fatigue and cramping, much like when a human athlete gets a “stitch.”
To bring the body back to normal, CO2 moves to the bloodstream and is expelled from the lungs. Lactic acid is neutralized in various organs, including muscles. With continuous overexertion, the recovery process is disturbed. In this situation, acid buildup, called acidosis, further reduces oxygen flow to the muscles, creating long-lasting fatigue — and [permanent] muscle damage.
The Omak Suicide Race takes place in four heats over four days.
Like humans, horses are imprinted with every experience they have encountered since birth. They are highly sensitive, instinctual animals, and much like us, think about not only what they have been through but also about what they may be about to endure.
Horses have sharper and broader hearing ranges than humans. Loud noises are painful to a horse’s ears. Their sense of smell is also acute. Horses sense or “smell” the fear in other horses, which further perpetuates their own.
Their sensitivity to sound and smells is why they become hard to handle when they are subjected to surroundings and activities they are unaccustomed to and receiving conflicting messages from their senses. The tumult of such an occasion as the Omak Suicide Race must be an assault on their senses that is debilitating and petrifying.
MARKETING GIMMICK OR TRADITION?
First run in 1935, the Suicide Race was the brainchild of Claire Pentz, publicity chairman for the Stampede, after failing to attract big crowds with boxing, trained zebras and stock car racing.
Stampede organizers currently contend that the Suicide Race has roots in Native American tradition and claim it is a customary rite-of-passage, but as you just read, an Anglo conceived the race as a publicity stunt.
The race wasn’t the only thing “created” by white man; the very invention of a Colville Tribes unit is recent.
The races that used to occur among Native tribes of the area were longer-distance, cross-country races on horses bred to thrive on the hard, rocky, desert terrain of Eastern Washington. This is not comparable to flinging a long-legged thoroughbred or quarter horse down a 62-degree slope in the dark of night.
A native rite-of-passage traditionally refers to a ritual or ceremony indicating the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Historically, Suicide Race rider’s ages range from 18 to well into the 30’s. Many have ridden in the race year after year seeking cash and popularity, not cultural fulfillment.
Animals 24-7 report that at least two horses died in the 2018 Omak Suicide race, bringing the known toll since 1983 to 25, “with many more suspected but undocumented”, and no record existing of injuries and deaths from the first “Suicide Race” in 1935 through 1982.
IT JUST WON’T STOP
PeTA has run letter-writing campaigns. HSUS has documented it but unable to accomplish anything past that. That was dangerous enough.
In 1993, the Northwest’s PAWS, or Progressive Animal Welfare Society, tried a more robust tactic, filing a lawsuit that alleged organizers harm horses for profit, but a Superior Court judge threw out the case. In 1996, a PAWS member sued the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office and the rodeo for roughing him up when he videotaped a horse being euthanized; the suit settled for $64,500.
From 2005 to 2009 The Horse Fund ran a campaign to end the Omak Suicide Race, initially focusing on its sponsors. When they went away, Omak got more. Our investigators were harassed, hotel rooms broken into and trashed. Mrs. Farrell received numerous death threats, all which were reported. Not a single law enforcement agency took it seriously — or took any action.
That was then. This is now. Social media has revolutionized advocacy. There have also been changes (for the better) in the law. We are prepared to take this on once again. And we will win — for the horses.
WHAT ABOUT TRADITION?
No caring society subjects another living being to such blatant cruelty and death in the name of culture or entertainment.
There comes a time when we as a people must move forward, and leave behind those acts and events unacceptable in a civilized society, regardless of how steeped in tradition. In this case the tradition so-called is manufactured tradition and means nothing to anyone at all.
Horses forced to take part in the Omak Stampede’s Suicide Race suffer enormous physical pain and suffering by way of broken bones, irreparable tendon damage from falls and collisions, and long-term muscle damage from overexertion. “Suicide horses” die from broken necks, strokes, heart attacks and gruesomely by drowning.
These horses do not participate willingly. It is not their intention to suffer. It is not their intention to die.
If the bill becomes law, it would ban large stacked shoes and ankle chains used on horses, heighten penalties for violations and expand the Department of Agriculture’s enforcement of the Horse Protection Act.
Soring is the unethical and illegal practice of deliberately inflicting pain to exaggerate the leg action of gaited horses (such as Tennessee Walking Horses, Spotted Saddle Horses and Racking Horses) to gain an unfair advantage in the show ring.
The Tennessean reports, “Yoho said he recently had a lengthy conversation with prominent representative of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry. Yoho said the representative told him the pads aren’t proportionally any heavier than the watch the congressman wears on his wrist.”
“That’s probably true,” Yoho said during the conference. “But there’s a big difference . . . . I choose to wear this watch. That horse doesn’t have an option, and when people do these things to the horses to win a blue ribbon, I think it’s unconscionable. So you’re either for animal abuse or you’re against it.”
Before we move on, let’s talk a bit about “stacks” and how much they can weigh.
The Horse Fund states:
The use of pads and stacks fall into the category of what’s called mechanical soring. “Stacks” up to 5 inches high and filled with a variety of substances for added weight, are attached to the front hooves, causing the horse to stand perpetually in an elevated, unnatural position. This type of shoeing causes chronic, constant pain. Heavy plantation shoes weighing up to 5 lbs. are also used.
During USDA inspection “stacks” or stacked pads have been found to weigh anything from 5 to 10 lbs held in place by chains or metal clamps.
Here’s what the AVMA and AAEP say about it:
Performance packages (also called stacks or pads), made of plastic, leather, wood, rubber and combinations of these materials, are attached below the sole of the horse’s natural hoof and have a metal band that runs around the hoof wall to maintain them in place. Performance packages add weight to the horse’s foot, causing it to strike with more force and at an abnormal angle to the ground. They also facilitate the concealment of items that apply pressure to the sole of the horse’s hoof. Pressure from these hidden items produces pain in the hoof so that the horse lifts its feet faster and higher in an exaggerated gait.
Because the inhumane practice of soring Tennessee Walking Horses has continued 40 years after passage of the Horse Protection Act, and because the industry has been unable to make substantial progress in eliminating this abusive practice, the AVMA and the AAEP believe a ban on action devices and performance packages is necessary to protect the health and welfare of the horse.
The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), the national governing body for equestrian sport in the United States, disallows action devices in the show ring for all recognized national breed affiliates.
Senate Bill 1007
This legislation must still win Senate approval, where it faces an uphill battle. U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn have sponsored competing legislation.
While we are so very grateful to the lawmakers who have spearheaded this bill and accomplished this winning vote in the House, the biggest thank you of all must go to the tireless and unflagging Clant Seay of Concerned Citizens Against Big Lick Animal Cruelty (CCABLAC), the hard fighting hero of the sored horse.
We leave you with a video taken by Mr. Seay, just in case you have never witnessed what a sored horse looks like in the show ring. It is heinous and abusive, and anything but beautiful. It is criminal.
2016 “Big Lick” World Grand Champion “Honors” Canter – Asheville NC
Help us keep “boots on the ground” in Washington DC lobbying on behalf of the Senate version of this bill plus the horse slaughter and horse racing bills. It is critical we keep a presence on The Hill. There is so very much at stake. A donation, any amount, with be enormously helpful. Thank you!
Spain is not a country any of us at The Horse Fund would spend vacation time or money on.
Spain retains a core savagery that is unsettling and disgraceful. Spaniards revel in holding on to their gory, barbaric and outdated customs and festivals, many of which involve the horrific treatment of animals. Horses are too often one of those animals.
RAPA DAS BESTAS
“Every year, wild horses are captured in the hills of Spain and then taken to a farmyard where they are branded and their horsehair cut during a traditional festival known as ‘Rapa das Bestas’ or The Capture of the Beasts, ” reports The Straits Times, from which we corralled the following series of images.
As disgusting as this is, is it any worse than what “we” do to horses in the U.S., Canada or Mexico? The Rapa Das Bestas lasts for a period of 4 days, once a year every year. It’s hard to look at the images of this festival, but can we say we treat our horses much better, especially our own wild horses?
No one in the U.S. government in particular seems to take into consideration how mentally as well as physically cruel the Bureau of Land Management roundups of “America’s” wild horses are — destroying their bands, tearing them away from the only habitat they have ever known, cramming them into claustrophobic transport, then forcing them to live unnaturally in captivity, never to have a hint of or enjoy their precious freedoms again.
As you wild horse lovers know, this is the only the beginning of the sorrow American Mustangs must endure, thousands of which at one point or another will be taken away and brutally slaughtered to satisfy the tastes of overseas diners.
Speaking of horse meat, do Spaniards slaughter horses?
Horse meat is not generally eaten in Spain, except in the north, but the country exports horses both as live animals and as slaughtered meat for the French and Italian markets.
We thought maybe, just maybe, the Rapa Das Bestas horses might have gotten way with some horrific manhandling and a hair cut, but it doesn’t look that way.
British actor and comedian Ricky Gervais tweeted how disgusting Rapa das bestas is. One replied to him: “Never wanted to see someone’s teeth kicked in so bad in my life.”