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.

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Trump removes Rule aimed at ending the inhumane practice of horse soring

Horse soring inspection. HSUS image.

WASHINGTON, DC — In a nightmare move for horse advocates Trump axed a Federal Rule aimed at ending the inhumane practice of horse soring. The Rule was removed just hours before it was to be published in the Federal Register.

On January 13, 2017 the 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 practice of soring is intended to produce a high stepping gait through the use of action devices, caustic chemicals, and other practices that cause horses to suffer, or reasonably be expected to suffer physical pain, distress, inflammation, or lameness while walking or moving.”

APHIS enforces the Horse Protection Act (HPA), a Federal law that makes it unlawful for any person to show, exhibit, sell, or transport sore horses, or to use any equipment, device, paraphernalia, or substance prohibited by USDA to prevent the soring of horse in such events.

“The final rule addresses recommendations made by the USDA’s Office of Inspector General following an audit of APHIS’ horse protection program, which found the existing industry-led inspection program to be inadequate for ensuring compliance with the HPA.  The rule also seeks to address the substantial noncompliance that continues to exist among Tennessee Walking Horses and racking horses and the relationship that continues to exist between the use of certain prohibited items and soring in horses, such as the use of permitted action devices alone or in conjunction with prohibited substances.”

A key provision to ending horse soring was stated in the Rule as follows:

“Beginning 30 days after the publication of the final rule, all action devices, except for certain boots, are prohibited on any Tennessee Walking Horse or racking horse at any horse show, exhibition, sale, or auction.  All pads and wedges are prohibited on any Tennessee Walking Horse or racking horse at any horse show, exhibition, sale, or auction on or after January 1, 2018, unless such horse has been prescribed and is receiving therapeutic, veterinary treatment using pads or wedges.  This delayed implementation allows ample time to both gradually reduce the size of pads to minimize any potential physiological stress to the horses and prepare horses to compete in other classes.”

Tuesday’s Horse reported that on Inauguration Day Trump signed a Memorandum Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies:

“The President has asked me to communicate to each of you his plan for managing the Federal regulatory process at the outset of his Administration. In order to ensure that the President’s appointees or designees have the opportunity to review any new or pending regulations, I ask on behalf of the President that you immediately take the following steps:

continuing in paragraph 2 with:

“With respect to regulations that have been sent to the OFR [Office of Federal Regulation] but not published in the Federal Register, immediately withdraw them from the OFR for review and approval as described in paragraph 1, subject to the exceptions described in paragraph 1. This withdrawal must be conducted consistent with OFR procedures.” [emphasis added].

Trump’s removal of the final Rule from the Federal Register signals the death of the aim of the USDA and APHIS to end the inhumane practice of horse soring.

RELATED

Sign Related Petition originated by CCABLAC »

Final horse soring rule could lead to legal action

Image from 2015 HSUS Horse Soring Investigation.

WASHINGTON, DC — On January 13, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced a final rule that strengthens the Horse Protection Act (HPA) and safeguards horses from the practice of soring.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the new amendments to the Horse Protection Act make two significant changes:

1. APHIS would assume responsibility for training, screening and licensing horse inspectors. Instead of allowing horse industry organizations to handle these responsibilities, inspectors would be veterinarians and veterinary technicians required to follow USDA rules and standards of conduct.

2. USDA-APHIS would ban the use of all action devices, pads, and foreign substances at horse shows, exhibitions, sales, and auctions. This would align HPA regulations with existing equestrian standards set forth by the U.S. Equestrian Federation.

These changes will “eliminate the unfair competitive advantage that sore horses have over horses that are not sore,” according to the USDA-APHIS website. The HPA, which is enforced by APHIS, makes it unlawful for any person to show, exhibit, sell or transport sore horses, or to use any equipment, device, paraphernalia or substance prohibited by the USDA specifically for the purpose of soring.

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.

Also under the final regulation is a ban on the use of chains and stacks in the training and exhibition of Tennessee Walking Horses and racking horses. The rule states that all action devices, except for certain boots, are prohibited on any Tennessee Walking Horse or racking horse at any horse show, exhibition, sale or auction. All pads and wedges are prohibited on any Tennessee Walking Horse or racking horse at any horse show, exhibition, sale, or auction on or after Jan. 1, 2018, unless such horse has been prescribed and is receiving therapeutic, veterinary treatment using pads or wedges.

In a letter addressed to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Janet Donlin, DVM, MBA, EVP and CEO of the AVMA, and David Foley, CAE, executive director of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), say they “appreciate USDA’s acknowledgement and adoption of many of our suggestions, including prohibitions on the use of action devices and nontherapeutic stacks or pads on Tennessee Walking Horses and racking horses.”

On Jan. 15, the president of the Foundation for the Advancement and Support of the Tennessee Walking Show Horse (FAST), Kasey C. Kesselring, PhD, said the organization’s legal team will challenge the new rule, according to TheHorse.com. Continue reading at VeterinaryNews.com »

Image Credit
HSUS

Related Video

The extensive pain and suffering these horses are put through to achieve something as ugly as this is unimaginable to humans. A human tortured like this would most likely go insane or commit suicide. It is not just for competition, it is for continuous months of training too.

“If it looks painful and ugly that’s because it is’, says BillyGoBoy who posted this video. It is also a federal crime. Yet it goes on because sick politicians take big money to keep it going. They should be thrown out of office and thrown into jail.

Feinstein Supports Ending Abusive Horse Soring

(AP Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Photo/Ann Heisenfelt, File)

PRESS RELEASE

Washington DC (July 25, 2016)—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today applauded a decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to strengthen enforcement of the Horse Protection Act and end inhumane practices known as soring, the use of painful devices or chemicals to force an unnatural gait. Senator Feinstein is an original cosponsor of the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act and wrote Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting the proposed rule change.

Senator Feinstein released the following statement:

“No horse should be subjected to the inhumane practice of soring. I’m pleased the USDA has taken the necessary steps to end this cruel practice used by many trainers to forcibly change a horse’s natural gait.

“A 2010 inspector general’s audit found that walking horse trainers and show promoters failed to properly protect horses from soring and in some cases were purposely undermining USDA’s horse inspection programs. The report also stated that approximately 50 percent of all violations were issued at shows inspected by federal veterinarians, despite the fact federal veterinarians were only at 6 percent of shows.

“Under the proposed rule change, the USDA would train, screen and license all horse inspectors. It would also ban the use of soring devices and chemicals at all events.

“The industry’s unwillingness to regulate itself has left too many horses vulnerable to abuse. I look forward to working with Secretary Vilsack to make sure this proposed rule is finalized and to ensure the department has the resources necessary to implement these important changes.”

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See Release at Sen. Feinstein’s Senate Website »

FEATURED IMAGE
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Washington Times. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt, File) .