As posted before, soring is an abusive torture done to horses by mutilating their hooves and legs resulting them to perform with an exaggerated gait. This mutilation is done by applying caustic chemicals, pressure shoes, and/or chains on the animal in the hoof or along tendons of the leg.
While the most common breed that endures soring is the Tennessee Walking Horse, Spotted Saddle Horses and Racking Horses, known for their even gait, are also affected. Since we know the breeds that are greatly affected by this condition, one would think that it would be easy to detect when soring has been done. Sometimes it is and sometimes it’s not:
According to US federal law, all Tennessee Walking Horses and Racking Horses that enter into exhibitions, shows, auctions, and sales must be inspected for soring prior to entering the ring, and any first place winner in a show or exhibition must again be inspected afterwards. The issue at hand is not the law- it’s how it is reinforced.
When inspecting a horse for soring, an inspector will palpate the front legs of the horse and see if it reacts to pain. Under the “scar rule”, horses born after October 1, 1975 also must show no evidence of missing hair, scars, or cuts. Even under suspicion of injury, the inspector reserves the right to examine horses on any show, exhibition, auction, or sale grounds, and in transport to these locations. Yet intimidation, harassment, and extortion from the participant encumber the inspectors from investigating the horses until they are in a designated inspection area. Doing so allots the trainers and associated personnel that may have harmed the horse plenty of time to conceal the soring prior to inspection. Harassment of inspectors isn’t the worse of it, though.
Prior to inspection, trainers often apply numbing agents to the horses’ legs so that they do not react to any pain. This is docile compared to the treatment that some trainers for horses force them to endure by creating “mock inspections” where they beat the horse with a whip, bat, or other blunt appliance if it reacts in pain to any handling in those areas. This psychologically teaches the horse to be more fearful of any pain induced from beating than from the pain induced from palpating the marred regions of the legs; thus the horse will endure the anguish of an inspection quietly.
Another horrendous trick often done is to attach alligator clips or other painful tools to sensitive areas of the horse directly prior to inspection so that the horse focuses on the new source of pain rather than the injury in the legs and hooves.
It is believed that all this torture results in the premature death of many Tennessee Walking Horses due to the high incidence of colic.
You probably are thinking, but if you said above this is illegal, how can this still be happening? Yes, indeed, the Horse Protection Act passed in the early 1970’s intended to ban this abuse, but due to insufficient funding and poor enforcement of the act, the USDA does not have enough officials being sent to these horse shows to properly inspect. In fact, this has caused for horse industry organizations to train and license their own inspectors, known as Designated Qualified Persons. Many of these Designated Qualified Persons are purposefully hired by Horse Industry Organizations because they will ensure that the status quo is reserved, allowing for soring to continue.
Outraged? So am I. If you are involved in this industry, learn about the organizations that promote the natural gait and benevolent management of Tennessee Walking Horses. By supporting the HSUS, we can build greater funds to enforce the Horse Portection Act.