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.

# # #

Protest Big Lick Animal Cruelty at the Tennessee State Fair

Proud American exercising their constitutional rights to protest “Big Lick” animal cruelty. Image © BillyGoBoy.com.

Updated 9/13/2016 @ 2:58 pm

“Big Lickers” plan to exhibit recently crowned 2016 World Grand Champion – Honors – at the Tennessee State Fair.

Please join the Citizens Campaign Against Big Lick Animal Cruelty and fellow horse lovers in protesting “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty.


What: CCABLAC PROTEST – “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty
When: Friday, September 16, 2016, 4:00 pm to 6 pm
Where: Tennessee State Fair, 500 Wedgwood Ave, Nashville, TN
Who: YOU and Friends

Clant Seay, who is organizing the Protest, says:

“Let’s not let them get away with bringing the “Big Lick” World Grand Champion “Honors” to the State Fair this Friday in Nashville especially after our protest resulted in the lowest Celebration attendance in 46 years.”

Contact Clant Seay at cmseaylaw@aol.com. Free t-shirts to wear at the protest.


“Honors”, the newly crowned “Big Lick” animal cruelty hero is a horse connected to a history of soring. How could he be anything else? There is nothing natural about the “Big Lick”. It cannot be gotten through anything other means which also happen to be illegal. Forget being suspended from participating in a show. Why are these people not arrested on the spot when soring is detected?

See Newly Crowned World Grand Champion Honors Owner Keith McSwain Salmmed by USDA in Complaint Filed in Washington »

Horse Soring — Protest Big Lick horse cruelty at Celebration today and tomorrow

Image from 2015 HSUS Horse Soring Investigation.

Clant Seay relates the following:

Tonight is HUGE.

The attendance at this year’s Big Lick animal cruelty showcase — The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration — is way down.

I talked to a person parking the cars who has worked there for years, and i asked her WHY.

Her exact quote: “It’s going down quick. It’s because of the soring and the Protesters.”

It is imperative that everyone show up tonight.

Please text me ASAP [see end of post] and let me know you are coming. Please text me WHEN you get on the road.

For those who would like, please meet at 4:00 p.m. in Murfreesboro to go to Shelbyville. Please be at the Tractor Supply Parking Lot next to Sam’s Club at 136 John Rice Road. It’s right off the Highway 96 Exit on the west side of I-24.

In my opinion we have gotten inside their heads by protesting, and it is having a huge effect.

They are vulnerable. We simply must have a good showing tonight.

Please make this possible.

I have T shirts for anyone you bring with you.

Email Clant at cmseaylaw@aol.com to get his phone number and let him know you will be there.

Hundreds turn out for walking horse forum in Murfreesboro

Image from 2015 HSUS Horse Soring Investigation.

MARY REEVES reporting for the Daily News Journal points out two significant changes to the Horse Protection Act that may actually rid this country of the barbaric practice of horse soring, an abusive practice used to accomplish the abnormal gait called “Big Lick” in competition.

1. The USDA would train, license and screen all horse inspectors.

2. And the USDA would prohibit the use of all action devices, pads and foreign substances that may be used to sore horses.

Reeves describes the meeting at Murfreesboro:

“Representatives from the Department of Agriculture were on hand in Murfreesboro on Tuesday morning to host a forum about proposed regulation changes that would effectively end the Tennessee walking horse performance horse classes.

“It was standing room only in the conference room at the Embassy Suites where the forum was held. Besides the hundreds of people packed into the room, there were dozens more crowded around the doorway, trying to hear the proceedings. There were speakers who supported the proposed amendments to the Horse Protection Act that would ban the use of pads, action devices such as chains, or any foreign substances rubbed on the horses’ legs, and many more speakers who opposed them.

“The latest regulations are another chapter in what has been a long and contentious story, beginning with the advent of the padded performance horse. Trainers began using pads, or weights, between the hoof and the shoe to give the horse an exaggerated version of its natural gait.

“Mustard, chemicals and other foreign substances were rubbed on to do the same. Pins were poked into the tender flesh above the hoof, or BBs placed between the shoe and hoof — all designed to make the horse sore and increase the speed and height of its step, creating the “Big Lick” or “Paddock performance” horse.”

A transcript of the speeches will be available at the USDA APHIS website, as well as a more detailed explanation of the proposed regulations.

The website is at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalwelfare/horse-protection-amendments.




• Horse Soring Fact Sheet

• Horse Soring FAQs

• Horse Soring Images