Tennessee Walking Horses and Marsha Blackburn

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

INTRODUCTION

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

OPINION

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 »

Video

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.

# # #

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:

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• 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.

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House.gov

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.

Telephone

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.

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Check out our page to see which horse related bills we endorse and oppose. Thank you!

FEATURED IMAGE
Image from 2015 HSUS Horse Soring Investigation.

Support HR 1847 a bill closing loopholes in US anti horse soring law

Join The Horse Fund's Horse on the Hill.

WASHINGTON, DC — On January 13, 2017 the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced “a final rule that includes changes that will help to protect horses from the cruel and inhumane practice known as soring and eliminate the unfair competitive advantage that sore horses have over horses that are not sore.”

The Trump Administration removed the Rule just hours before it was to be published in the Federal Register.

On March 30, 2017, in response to this move, Rep. Ted S. Yoho [R-FL-3] , joined by 208 originating co-sponsors, introduced HR 1847 — called the PAST Act — “To amend the Horse Protection Act to designate additional unlawful acts under the Act, strengthen penalties for violations of the Act, improve Department of Agriculture enforcement of the Act, and for other purposes.”

HR 1847 is written to close the loopholes in the Horse Protection Act of 1970 that have enabled the cruelty of horse soring to persist.

Identical to the bill of the same name introduced two years ago, the PAST Act contains the reforms that are so urgently needed to crack down on soring – the intentional infliction of pain on the legs and hooves of Tennessee walking horses and related breeds to create the exaggerated gait known as the “big lick.”

HR 1847 will end the corrupt and failed system of industry self-policing and ban the devices used in, and integral to, the soring process.

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

TAKE ACTION

PopVox

POPVOX is our preferred method of contacting U.S. Legislators.

There are many reasons. Chief among them are that POPVOX is used by Congressional staff and lawmakers to see who supports bills, which means you are assured they have received your message and that your voice is counted.

You will also be able to see how well a bill is supported throughout the country, watch who is co-sponsoring it, view comments other constituents are making and more.

All it takes to become part of the PopVox community is to sign up with an active email address and password. Sign up or sign in to PopVox.com and make your voice heard in support of HR 1847.

Check out HR 1847 right now on POPVOX to see how it’s doing.

Congressional Offices Online and by Phone

You can also contact your U.S. Representative via House.gov. Find your U.S. Representative with your 4+ zip code and use their contact form to ask them to co-sponsor HR 1847.

If you know who your U.S. Representative is but you are unable to contact them by online form, 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.

Current Co-Sponsors

HR 1847 currently has 218 co-sponsors. See if your U.S. Representative has co-sponsored HR 1847 here.

If your U.S. Representative has already co-sponsored HR 1847 please let them know you also support it and thank them for co-sponsoring this bill and ask them to please use all their influence to get HR 1847 passed.

There are a total of 535 Members of Congress. 100 serve in the U.S. Senate and 435 serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Endorsing Organizations

The American Veterinary Association (AVMA)
The American Horse Council (AHC)
The Horse Fund

THANK YOU

Please take the time right now to go online and support HR 1847.

With opportunities like PopVox and House.gov you can help and support legislation beneficial to horses virtually anytime day or night. And speak out against the ones that are not.

Thank you for taking action and giving a strong voice to our horses.

HORSE SORING RESOURCES

• Fact Sheet »

FAQs »

• Images »

Federal legislators plan bills to restore USDA’s animal welfare records including soring

Sen. Ron Wyden (left) and Rep. Earl Blumenuer (right).

WASHINGTON, DC – Oregon’s Sen. Ron Wyden [D-OR] (above left) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer  [D-3-OR] (above right) plan to introduce bills to require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to restore records of animal welfare inspections, removed last month, to its web page.

The department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service database went dark shortly after the Trump Administration took office but a plan to end the transparency was under review toward the end of the Obama administration, USDA said last month in explaining the move.

More than 100 members of Congress have written to the department’s acting secretary or Trump demanding that the records of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service be restored. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which relies on the records to call attention to cases of animal cruelty, and five other animal rights groups have sued in federal district court in Washington to have the records database restored.

Records collected pursuant to the Horse Protection Act called attention to the illegal injury of high-stepping Tennessee Walking Horses called soring.

Wyden’s six-page bill, filed Thursday with five co-sponsors, instructs the secretary of agriculture to “maintain and promptly make available to the public in an online searchable database in machine-readable format on the website of the Department of Agriculture information relating to the administration of the Animal Welfare Act . . . and the Horse Protection Act.”

Blumenauer’s identical bill is expected to be introduced on Monday Continue reading »

SOURCE: The Statesman Journal, by Bartholomew D. Sullivan, March 2, 2017


ABOUT HORSE SORING AND TENNESSEE WALKING HORSES

Soring involves 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.

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

A particularly egregious form of soring, known as pressure shoeing, involves cutting a horse’s hoof almost to the quick and tightly nailing on a shoe, or standing a horse for hours with the sensitive part of his soles on a block or other raised object. This causes excruciating pressure and pain whenever the horse puts weight on the hoof.

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

Soring has been a common and widespread practice in the Tennessee walking horse show industry for decades. Today, judges continue to reward the artificial “Big Lick” gait, thus encouraging participants to sore their horses and allowing the cruel practice to persist. Source: HSUS.

THE HORSE FUND

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