After working for nearly half a century to protect Tennessee walking horses and other American equines, former U.S. Sen. Joseph Tydings, D-Md., earned special recognition from The Humane Society of the United States as the 2016 Humane Horseman of the Year. The award is presented just days after the U.S. Department of Agriculture finalized a long-sought rule to strengthen protections for Tennessee walking horses.
The HSUS selected Tydings for the award primarily because of his dedication to protecting horses from the horrific practice of soring, the intentional infliction of pain to a horse's limbs to produce an exaggerated, artificial gait known as the “big lick.” When soring horses, trainers apply caustic chemicals to the skin of horses’ legs and place chains around the sensitized area to exacerbate the pain. Some trainers also attach heavy, stacked shoes to the horses’ hooves and often jam sharp or hard objects into the tender soles.
Marty Irby, senior director of equine protection for The HSUS, said: “Senator Tydings is a true hero, passionate horseman and dedicated public servant who has spent close to five decades working to save Tennessee walking horses and related breeds from the plague of soring. From the beginning of his time in the Senate to today, he has never backed down from the effort to end the cruelty so many horses continue to endure. We are humbled to recognize him for his unwavering commitment, and honored to know Sen. Tydings—one of the greatest horsemen of our time.”
Tydings served in the last horse cavalry unit of the U.S. Army in World War II, served seven years in the Maryland House of Delegates from Harford County, served three years as United States Attorney for the District of Maryland after being appointed by President John F. Kennedy, and also served six years in the United States Senate representing Maryland.
After learning about the vile nature of soring, Tydings introduced the Horse Protection Act to ban the practice. The legislation, co-authored and introduced with the late Sen. Howard Baker, R-Tenn., was enacted and signed into law in 1970, but due to certain weaknesses in enforcement and a later amendment, soring has continued unabated in a segment of the Tennessee walking horse industry. Tydings supported the new USDA rule to strengthen the agency’s regulations under the Horse Protection Act by ending a failed industry self-policing scheme and banning the use of devices integral to soring. Tydings also continues to support the passage of the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, federal legislation that would permanently codify these changes into law, increase penalties for soring and make the underlying act of soring illegal.