Today on Texas Vet News I am going to talk about the practice of soring in horses. Many of you may not be familiar with the term soring, but it involves the unethical and illegal act of deliberately inflicting pain to exaggerate the leg motion of horses. This chest-high leg motion is rewarded in the show ring and usually is performed on Tennessee walking horses but has been used on other breeds. The soring is performed by irritating or blistering the horse’s forelegs with chemical irritants or painful mechanical devises. Some of the chemicals used are kerosene, diesel, Gojo hand cleaner and mustard oil. These chemicals produce scars so after the soring, owners and trainers apply a stripping agent to burn off scar tissue to remove the soring scars, another painful practice. A mechanical means of causing pain is excessively trimming the foot down to sensitive tissue or applying an object under the sole to cause hoof pain. Some trainers apply metal bands above the hoof and over-tighten them as well as other methods to cause pain.
In addition to being inhumane, soring is a violation of federal law as the Horse Protection Act of 1970 made it illegal; it is punishable by fine and imprisonment. The U.S Department of Agriculture is in charge of enforcing the law but soring still occurs because many judges still select these horses as winners and big money is at stake at these horse shows. Unfortunately, the USDA has little money to attend all of these shows. Maybe the animal rights activists should spend their time stopping this type of real animal abuse rather than trying to stop equine slaughter, which in many cases actually prevents horses from suffering.
A bill called HR1518 was introduced in June, 2013, into the U.S. House of Representatives that would amend the Horse Protection Act of 1970 by imposing stiffer penalties on anyone who sores a horse. Soring is defined as the deliberate injury to the horse’s feet and legs to cause them to have a high and exaggerated gait. There are lots of different devices trainers use to cause horses to change their gait, including metal chains as well as performance packages that add weight and height to the horse’s feet. In some cases, The Horse magazine reports sharp or hard objects can be concealed in pads and cause pain and result in the horse stepping higher. Some believe the bill is needed to prevent abuse of the horses while the CEO of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, Michael Inman, says he is committed to the welfare of the horse but is disappointed in the proposed ban on pads. Mr. Inman also indicates weighted shoes, plastic pads, and 6-ounce action devices have been shown to be non-harmful. Current penalties for soring a horse include maximum fines up to $3,000 dollars, imprisonment up to one year or both. The new bill, if it becomes law, would increase the maximum fine up to $5,000, imprisonment up to 3 years, or both. The bill also would increase penalties for those who disobey disqualification orders and would also require the USDA to assign a licensed inspector if the Tennessee Walking Horse Show management indicates its intent to hire one. The option of hiring a licensed inspector remains voluntary under the proposed bill. Again, the bill has been assigned to the House’s Committee on Energy and Finance.