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September 10, 2009

The HSUS Applauds Kentucky Horse Racing Commission for Strengthening Horse Protection Act Inspections

Also Calls on State to Stiffen Soring Penalties; Inspectors Find More than 80 Violations on Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration Opening Day

The Humane Society of the United States

The Humane Society of the United States commends the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission for acknowledging the need for better enforcement of the Horse Protection Act and mandating Tuesday that Tennessee Walking Horses be checked by reputable inspectors for evidence of cruel soring practices at any state show that offers monies from its Breeders Incentive Fund.

"Kentucky has just taken a big stride in protecting Tennessee Walking Horses," said Keith Dane, The HSUS' director of equine protection. "Horse cruelty inspections at all Walking Horse shows offering Fund monies have now been placed into the hands of credible organizations that will help keep sore horses out of show rings in the commonwealth. We now call on the legislature to add stiff penalties for the cruel practice of 'soring' to the Kentucky cruelty code."

The HSUS wrote a letter of recommendation to the head of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission rules committee in support of the decision.

Unfortunately, the number of documented violations of the act is on the rise in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry: Just this weekend, at the 2009 Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration, industry sources indicated that more than 80 violations were documented by industry inspectors and USDA officials on just the first night of the 11-day show. Following the placing of the prestigious World Grand Championship class, USDA officials inspected and cited all three of the horses who took home the top awards for violations. USDA officials have yet to release the final number of citations at this year's event. Over the course of the 2008 event, inspectors recorded 187 Horse Protection Act violations, and in 2007, 127 violations were cited.

The Horse Protection Act was passed in 1970, delegating authority to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to inspect horses at shows and other venues for signs of soring. While the Horse Protection Act was intended to eliminate soring, inadequate funding and spotty enforcement of the law has allowed widespread soring to continue.

Facts:

  • Soring is the intentional infliction of pain through the use of chemicals, action devices and other pain-inducing applications to the foot of the horse, which artificially induce the animal to react with a high-stepping gait and achieve a competitive advantage in the show ring. Soring is still practiced today, in part due to inadequate funding of USDA's efforts to regulate it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Tennessee Walking Horses, known for their smooth gait and gentle disposition, commonly suffer from the practice of soring. Other gaited breeds, such as Racking Horses and Spotted Saddle Horses, also suffer from soring.

 For more information on the Tennessee Walking Horse and soring, click here.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org. 

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