Today the Humane Society of the United States honored Carl Bledsoe as its Humane Horseman of the Year at the Horse World Expo in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The annual award honors individuals who demonstrate an outstanding commitment to protecting America’s equines. 

Bledsoe’s journey in the horse industry has been a remarkable tale of transformation and courage. As a second-generation trainer in the Tennessee walking horse industry, he overcame a background steeped in the cruel tradition of horse “soring” to become a leading advocate for ethical and humane horse training. His evolution from an active participant in soring to a vocal opponent of the practice stands as a testament to his bravery and respect for equine welfare, setting him apart as a deserving recipient of this award.

Horse soring is an undeniably cruel practice in which trainers slather the limbs of show horses with caustic chemicals, then wrap them with plastic to “cook” the chemicals into the horses’ flesh. In training and competitions, trainers force the horses to wear heavy, binding, high-heel-like shoes, and metal chains that knock repeatedly against their sored ankles to produce a pain-based, artificial high-stepping gait prized in some competitions. Some trainers even cut the hooves down to expose the live tissue and jam hard or sharp objects into the sensitive areas of the hooves to make the pain more excruciating with every step. For their entire show lives, these gentle horses suffer from abject cruelty—all for a cheap blue ribbon.

Despite the personal and financial challenges he faced in renouncing soring, Bledsoe emerged as a successful trainer and clinician, proving that it’s possible to make a good living working with Tennessee walking horses without relying on cruelty.  Advocating for education, understanding, compassion and empathy for horses, Bledsoe prioritizes kindness and harm-free treatment, demonstrating his deep commitment to equine welfare. As the best-known Tennessee walking horse trainer to have made such a complete and impactful transition, he now uses his voice and status to advocate for meaningful, lasting reform, including the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act (H.R. 3090). When passed and signed into law, the legislation will finally bring an end to soring. 

“Carl Bledsoe stands as a symbol of change and compassion in the equine industry,” said Keith Dane, senior director of equine protection at the Humane Society of the United States. “Renouncing harmful practices, he has established himself as a successful trainer and clinician, advocating for sound, ethical treatment of Tennessee walking horses and other gaited breeds. Carl now serves as a role model for ethical conduct in the horse world. His commitment to the well-being of horses proves that success can be achieved with integrity and respect for equine welfare.”   

The Humane Society of the United States is proud to recognize Carl Bledsoe's contribution to the field of humane horsemanship. His work not only betters the lives of horses but also elevates the standards of care and compassion in the equine community. 

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