The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association applaud and join the call by two of the nation’s largest veterinary groups for a ban on the use of action devices and performance packages in the training and showing of Tennessee Walking Horses. These implements have long been associated with the cruel practice of “soring,” which is the intentional infliction of pain to horses’ legs to force them to perform the exaggerated show ring gait known as the “Big Lick.” Despite the practice being outlawed since the passage of the federal Horse Protection Act in 1970, many industry participants have continued to resist enforcement and schemed to evade detection.

“We applaud the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Equine Practitioners for taking a firm stance against these unnatural devices that are used as part of the abusive and illegal practice of soring to inflict pain on horses —all for the sake of a blue ribbon,” said Michael Markarian, chief program and policy officer for the HSUS. “Congress should pass legislation to ban these devices, bringing us one step closer to eradicating this cruelty for good.”

“The inhumane practice of soring has been going unpunished for far too long,” said HSVMA veterinarian Susan Krebsbach, D.V.M. “We join our veterinary colleagues and equine advocates nationwide in calling for an enforceable ban on these cruel devices.”

The most common form of soring is performed by applying caustic chemicals to the pasterns (ankles) of show horses, making the area extremely sensitive. "Action devices" - typically metal chains - are then strapped to the horse's legs when ridden. The chains strike the sensitive tissue, so the horse lifts his front legs high off the ground in reaction to the pain. Performance packages, known as “stacks,” are nailed to the horse’s hoof to add weight and height —forcing the horse to lift his feet higher and strike the ground harder, at an abnormal angle. The stacks are also often used to conceal sharp or hard objects that have been inserted into the soft tissue of the horses’ hooves to increase pain and obtain the desired gait.

There is abundant evidence that soring is still practiced among the top ranks in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry. Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture took a much-needed step to strengthen Horse Protection Act enforcement by finalizing a rule requiring agency-certified horse industry organizations to impose uniform mandatory minimum penalties on violators of the act. To fully protect horses as Congress originally intended, legislation is needed to outlaw action devices and performance packages, increase civil and criminal penalties, and eliminate industry self-regulation.

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