Tennessee Walking Horses and Marsha Blackburn

Image from 2015 HSUS Horse Soring Investigation.
Chemical “soring”. Image from 2015 HSUS horse soring investigation.


For those of you who know little about the political history of horse soring, this is an excellent piece. For those of you who have good knowledge of it, this is still highly informative. Brilliantly written.

What is horse soring?

Soring is the intentional infliction of pain to a horse’s legs or hooves in order to force the horse to perform an artificial, exaggerated gait. Caustic chemicals—blistering agents like mustard oil, diesel fuel and kerosene—are applied to the horse’s limbs, causing extreme pain and suffering. Chains are also applied to exacerbate the pain. Numerous nails are sometimes driven into the hooves.

Horse soring radiograph. USDA image.
Horse soring x-ray. Some 49 nails were used to hold the pads together on this Tennessee Walking Horse. USDA image.

Via The Chattanoogan, October 10, 2018


Last month the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration crowned its World Grand Champion is Shelbyville.

The show is unusual because it has inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture – a rarity for any horse show in the United States. The reason: for 50 years, some trainers and owners in the industry have abused Tennessee Walking horses in order to cheat and give them a leg up on their competition.

The legendary Howard Baker (R-TN), helped shepherd to passage the Horse Protection Act in 1970 to crack down on these trainers injuring horses to cause them so much pain that they step higher after putting their tender feet on the ground — it’s like walking barefoot on hot asphalt.

The old-timers in the breed have said that Steve Hill, a well-known top trainer in the industry, utilized some chemical agents for the purpose of healing on Talk of the Town, the 1951, 1952 and 1953 World Grand Champion that was considered “unbeatable” by those competing against him.

None of the other horses performed quite like Talk of the Town, and trainers couldn’t compete so more and more trainers began practicing this egregious abuse by utilizing mustard oil to burn the skin around the horses’ ankles, and in some circumstances even placed barbwire around the ankle to create the reaction that later became known as the “big lick.”

The Act was well intended, and the result of some compromises that marked the first federal law designed specifically to help the iconic American equines we all revere. But the law is in need of a serious upgrade, because trainers have figured a way around the proscriptions in the law.

In an ideal circumstance the Act should have eliminated to use of stacked shoes or pads, and action devices now known as ankle chains, but it didn’t, and those devices are still highly utilized in 2018.

But there is reason for optimism. Veterinarian U.S. Reps. Ted Yoho (R-FL) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR), along with U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), and Mark Warner (D-TN) have introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation known as the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act, H.R. 1847/ S. 2957 that would close the loopholes in the Horse Protection Act by eliminating the large stacked shoes and ankle chains, increasing the penalties, and eliminating the industry’s failed self-policing system by replacing it with licensed USDA contract inspectors, all at no cost to the taxpayer.

This is the third Congress in six years that this legislation has been introduced, and now has over 300 Members of the House and Senate as cosponsors.

But it hasn’t moved. Why? Because the scofflaws’ political protectors, such as U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), have gone to great lengths to block the bill and are watching out for their campaign contributors in the industry rather than working to encourage protection of the horses.

For many years, political pressure from my fellow Republicans in Tennessee and Kentucky backed down the federal government, preventing the USDA from enforcing the Act that Senator Baker and Senator Joseph Tydings (D-MD) worked so diligently to pass.

Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn's campaign announced that ads would hit the airwaves on April 27 in "all" major and small markets across Tennessee and run for a total of 14 weeks. Blackburn is running to succeed retiring Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who is stepping down after two terms. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s campaign announced that ads would hit the airwaves on April 27 in “all” major and small markets across Tennessee and run for a total of 14 weeks. Blackburn is running to succeed retiring Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who is stepping down after two terms. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

It all boils down to money. Dozens of violators of the Act continue to fill Blackburn and others’ campaign coffers with money made on the backs of injured horses. It seems Blackburn cares much more about snatching Senator Bob Corker’s seat, than supporting the will of the American people, her constituents, and the best interest of the voiceless animals that are so rampantly abused in the state.

I know firsthand what great lengths the pro-soring will go to in order to protect their habit, as a former Tennessean, past president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association, eight-time world champion and lifelong supporter of the breed. When the PAST was first introduced in 2013, Blackburn, introduced a phony reform bill that would only codify the industry’s self-policing program that the USDA’s own Inspector General deemed corrupt.

Even the University of Tennessee recognizes that the big lick pain-based gait is something the public will no longer tolerate – they disallowed the exhibition of the World Grand Champion at the UT homecoming game, a long-standing tradition in the state, until several years ago. I hope that on Nov. 6 Tennesseans will step up and take action against soring by sending Marsha Blackburn back home to Tennessee.

Marty Irby
Executive Director at Animal Wellness Action in Washington, D.C. and a past president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association

Vote Blackburn Out of DC

Tennesseans, remember Marsha Blackburn and her hideous track record of allying herself for money with the henious horse soring crowd when you go to the voting booth.

This country and the country’s horses deserve to be rid of her.

Related Reading

Tuesday’s Horse

Veterinarians oppose Blackburn Bill »

Soring bill advocates blame Blackburn, McConnell for lack of action »

Roy Exum: Blackburn draws fury for supporting horse soring »

The Horse Fund

Horse Soring Fact Sheet »

Horse Soring FAQs »

Horse Soring Images »

Billy Go Boy

Billy Go Boy website »

Billy Go Boy on Facebook »


What does horse soring cruelty look like? Like this.

Big Lick” Animal Cruelty – 2 Year Old Tennessee Walking Horses – Asheville, NC – Oct. 6, 2018

See Also

Soring the PAST Act USDA Booklet (pdf, 60 pp) »

Vote. Blackburn. Out.

# # #

Take action against Big Lick Animal Cruelty

The 75th Walking Horse Celebration in Shelbyville, Tennessee on August 29, 2013.

HORSE SORING — Calling all advocates against horse soring. Please help sored horses by joining a protest, signing a Petition against it and contacting federal legislators to endorse the PAST (Prevent All Soring Tactics) Act which will close the loopholes in the current law exploited by “Big Lickers”.

What is Horse Soring?

Horse soring is a painful practice used to accentuate a horse’s gait in competitions for big prizes. This is accomplished by irritating the feet and forelegs through mechanical irritants or the injection or application of chemicals.

• Chemical Soring

Chemical soring involves using agents such as mustard oil, diesel fuel, kerosene, salicylic acid, crotonal or croton oil, collodion, and others, on the pasterns, bulbs of heel, or coronary band of the horses.

The resultant burning or blistering causes the horse to snatch up his front legs, accentuating his gait.

These chemicals are harmful, toxic and sometimes carcinogenic. Trainers must use a brush and wear gloves when applying them. The area may then be wrapped in plastic while the chemicals are absorbed.

Image from 2015 HSUS Horse Soring Investigation.
Image from 2015 HSUS Horse Soring Investigation.

• Mechanical Soring

Mechanical soring can be just as painful chemical soring. Stacks up to 5″ 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.

Known as “action devices,” chains worn around the pasterns can range from the mildly annoying to the extremely painful. Alone, the six-ounce chains accepted in the show ring may not harm the horse, but horses sored with heavy chains or chemicals prior to the show date can suffer intense pain in the ring as the lighter chains repeatedly bang against the sore area.

Tennessee Walking Horse with stacks and chains, part and parcel of Big Lick animal cruelty.
Tennessee Walking Horse with stacks and chains, part and parcel of Big Lick animal cruelty. Photographer unknown.
Horse soring radiograph. USDA image.
Horse soring x-ray. Some 49 nails were used to hold the pads together on this Tennessee Walking Horse. USDA image.

New Methods

The above are the most common examples. However, over the years more types of soring designed to be harder to detect have been invented. So the treachery and cruelty surrounding these beautiful and gentle animals continues and all to win big prizes in brutal and ugly competitions.

Horse Soring in Action


If you are willing to protest horse soring at an upcoming event, please text Clant Seay at 662-380-3367 for further information such as locations and meet up times. Contact him right away. There may be one near you soon. Bring your friends. T-shirts for everyone!

Petition and Support the PAST Act

• Go here to sign the Petition »

• Go here to learn how you can support the PAST Act, H.R. 1847 »

The Big Lick performed at the 75th Walking Horse Celebration in Shelbyville, Tennessee on August 29, 2013. HSUS image.

Panama City Beach “Big Lick” horse show manager threatens advocate telling him “You are a dead man.”

"Big Lick" protesters at Frank Brown Park, Panama City Beach, Florida in 2016. Source: BillyGoBoy.com.

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. – On Wednesday, April 26, 2017, the Panama City “Big Lick” Horse Show Manager Mr. Todd Fisher assaulted a CCABLAC (Citizens Against “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty) equine welfare advocate Clant M. Seay at the Frank Brown Park by telling him “You are a dead man”. Watch it here.

Mr. Seay is an animal welfare advocate with CCABLAC and publisher of the www.BillyGoBoy.com website.

A month ago, CCABLAC presented over 100,000 signature Petition to the White House in Washington, D.C., asking President Donald J. Trump to approve a Federal Regulation which would remove the “Pads and Chains” and abolish “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty.

Clant Seay and CCABLAC advocates in Washington, D.C. March 29, 2017.
Clant Seay and CCABLAC advocates in Washington, D.C. March 29, 2017.

Prior to Mr. Seay being assaulted by Mr. Todd Fisher, Mr. Seay was confronted by Horse Show organizer Ms. Martha Blackmon Milligan, a politically connected Bay County, Florida attorney whose Law Office is located in Panama City, Florida.

Mr. Fisher has a history of violence with road rage allegations against him in Bay County, Florida, and a Warrant was issued for his arrest in Hinds County, Mississippi  for attempting to assault Mr. Seay for videoing a “Big Lick” Horse Show in 2015.

• Read more at source »  • View video »

What is horse soring?

Horse soring is a painful practice used to accentuate a horse’s gait to win big prizes, such as Tennessee Walking Horse competitions. This is accomplished by irritating the hooves and forelegs through the injection or application of chemical or mechanical irritants. Learn more at The Horse Fund »


Also from Clant Seay and CCABLAC:

Watch 2016 “Big Lick” World Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horse ‘Honors’ attempt to “canter”. Merriam Webster defines a “Canter” as “a 3-beat gait resembling but smoother and slower than the gallop.” What you are seeing here from ‘Honors’ is anything but smooth. Some might have the opinion that it looks “painful and ugly”. Please note the severity of the bit shanks, the size of the platform stack shoes and the chain on the front feet. — Clant Seay

Please support H.R. 1847, the PAST Act. Call or go online today. Learn more and act now »

“Big Lick” protesters at Frank Brown Park, Panama City Beach, Florida, last year, 2016. Source: BillyGoBoy.com.

Help us get 2/3rds of the House to co-sponsor the PAST Act

Image from 2015 HSUS Horse Soring Investigation.

WASHINGTON, DC — Help us get 2/3rds of the U.S. House of Representatives to co-sponsor H.R. 1847, the PAST Act (Prevent All Soring Tactics).  We only need 80 more co-sponsors to do it.

The PAST Act is written to help close the loopholes in the Horse Protection Act outlawing horse soring.

Horse Soring

Horse soring is the use of chemicals, pressure or devices to cause pain to the front feet and legs of horses when they touch the ground. This results in the horses picking up their front feet higher and faster than they would do naturally.

Horse soring is an abusive and prohibited practice, illegal in the U.S.  It is closely associated with a unique high-stepping action of the front legs called “big lick” movement in show ring Tennessee Walking Horses.

Practitioners of soring do so because they believe that the pain associated with this practice exaggerates the “big lick” to a greater degree and gives them a competitive edge over horses that are not treated in this manner.

Other breeds that have a history of horse soring abuses include the Racking Horse and the Spotted Saddle Horse.

Reintroduction of the PAST Act

The PAST Act  — H.R. 1847 — was introduced by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL-3) with 208 originating co-sponsors. At the time of this writing, H.R. 1847 has 220 co-sponsors. [1] Let’s take it to 300. Together we can do this.

The reintroduction of the PAST Act became necessary when an equal provision awaiting publication in the Federal Register was axed in its early days by the Trump Administration at the behest it has been suggested of Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. [2]

The Federal Registry entry contained new rules to close enforcement loopholes in the Horse Protection Act.

The new rules, which call for the removal of action devices and the ungainly pads on the front hooves, were approved on the last day of Barack Obama’s administration but had the support of 224 Senators and members of Congress, as well as over 100,000 public comments. [3]

Take Action

Please do one of the following.

First, find out if your Representative in Washington D.C. has co-sponsored H.R. 1847, then take one of the following actions:


• If they have, please endorse the bill and in the endorsement comments section thank your Representatives for co-sponsoring H.R. 1847 and ask them to use their influence to take it all the way to becoming law.

• If they have yet to co-sponsor H.R. 1847, endorse the bill and tell them in the comments section why it is important to you, but most of all for the horses.


If you are not a POPVOX member find your U.S. Representative with your 4+ zip code and use their contact form to ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 1847.


If you know who your U.S. Representative and prefer to telephone, the Clerk of the House maintains addresses and phone numbers of all House members and Committees. Call (202) 225-3121 for the U.S. House switchboard operator.

Be sure to give them your name and address so they can identify you as a constituent. They may not ask! If you want a reply from your Representative you must ask for it. It is not automatic.

No form letters

Do not use automated systems with formulated messages. Your message is unlikely to be seen or counted. Batches of these things are often counted as one.

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Image from 2015 HSUS Horse Soring Investigation.