As a long-time reader but new poster, I certainly hope this doesn't annoy anyone. I understand that the primary purpose of this forum is to be able to exchange advice and facilitate knowledge-sharing amongst fellow horse people, but I still thought this might be something in which others on here besides myself might be interested.
There is a bill in Congress right now to ban the practice of soring (common in some show circuits).
From the ASPCA:
"It’s not legal, but on today’s Tennessee Walking Horse show circuit, trainers still engage in the cruel practice of “soring”—using chemicals and devices to cause extreme pain to horses’ legs and hooves to exaggerate their special gait. Trainers may also file down horses’ hooves to expose the nerves, then insert sharp objects into hooves to cause further suffering.
Desperate to escape the constant, intense burning and sharp pain, horses who suffer soring unnaturally fling their legs in the high-stepping “big lick” gait—a gait that unfortunately wins prizes at shows.
It gets even worse: In an effort to evade detection of this illegal cruelty, these trainers often condition horses to remain still during inspections by beating, torturing or burning them beforehand.
Our majestic Tennessee Walking Horses have long been cherished, both for their unique four-step gait and their willing and gentle dispositions. Unfortunately, these same traits have also made these horses vulnerable to extreme exploitation and abuse at the hands of unscrupulous trainers. This cruelty must end.
The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R. 1518, has been introduced in the U.S. House and would dramatically increase protections for these horses—we need your help to ensure it passes."
(I know that there are certainly TONS of Tennessee Walker owners that would never dream of hurting their horses, so by posting this, I am certainly not passing judgment on owners of the breed as a whole!)
Soring is an abhorrent practice but not something congress needs to trouble themselves with in my opinion. We don't do a very good job of enforcing the animal cruelty laws already on the books, seems to me that would be the logical next step.
I have to say that I'm in agreement with Laurie. There are rules re soring already in place and they are NOT enforced. There are many other topics I'd prefer Congress to discuss before this one. We need to regulate our own sport, regardless the discipline, now, while we still have the chance.
The "government" has been trying to stop soring in the gaited community, specifically TWH's for over 40 years. As usual they went about it the wrong way by going after trainers, owners and riders. The real problem is out there in the middle of the ring - the judge. The judges have perpetuated the big lick by how they place the competitors. Just like the judges who perpetuate problems one can find in all horse competitions of any discipline.
"Never do anything that you have to explain twice to the paramedics."
Courtesy my cousin Tim
The judge is just an individual and the act of judging is so subjective that "going after the judge" would never work. There is a rulebook for every discipline stating what shall be rewarded in the show ring. When this is changed and when exhibitors take the changes seriously, treatment of the horses will change.
The funny thing is, I agree with all of you. I think enacting (another) law to address soring would be a pyrrhic victory. It would satisfy some animal rights activists, and keep them quiet for a while, but not do much to actually prevent the practice. However, in the absence of a federal law what is to be done?? Should individual states get more active? Or, how do we, in the sport, do a better job of self-regulating?
In addressing this issue the Sore Lick community loves to note other equine communities' problems (peanut-rolling QHs or rollkured WBs, for example). To an extent the observation is valid because each of these other abuses is driven by what "the mob" thinks is "beautiful." As long as the "beauty" is sought the practices will continue. At its core, however, each practice is driven by the trainer/rider/owner accepting some pretty cruel practices to attain these "beauties."
The new Federal law is, in fact, a significant improvement over the current HPA in some important ways. There is one major failing, however, and that needs some explanation.
Under the current HPA it's an offense to exhibit, transport, sell, etc. a "sored horse." There are civil and criminal penalties involved. For the first 40+ years of the HPA there were no successful criminal prosecutions. A few were tried, all failed for one reason or another. The civil penalties were not effective in that it was not all that hard to evade them or their effects. That changed with the first, successful criminal prosecution in the Federal Court in Chattanooga last year. Some undercover video then surfaced and a State prosecution for animal cruelty is being had just outside Memphis. The Grand Jury there has just indicted the defendants. I don't know when the trial is set.
Enforcement under the current HPA is joint, with the USDA being primarily responsible. USDA vets. attend shows and inspect looking for evidence of soring. If found it goes to a USDA Administrative Law Judge for disposition. An accused is entitled to notice and hearing. Penalties are fines and suspension from showing, transporting, ect. for periods from one year to life.
There is also a "private" enforcement scheme. where USDA trains and licenses DQP (Designated, Qualified Persons)* to conduct inspections looking for evidence of soring. A DQP does not have to be a vet. An HIO (Horse Industry Organization) petitions to become a sponsor. If accepted, USDA vets train the DQPs. The inspection protocol is set out in Regulations issued by the USDA. If a DQP issues a "ticket" it goes to the HIO for hearing and disposition. Suspension and fines are the penalties.
DQPs are hired by show management the way judges, stewards, etc. are hired.
This "private" scheme was developed for reasons of economy. The HPA has a rather low dollar limit on funds available for enforcement. To broaden the reach of the Act the private scheme was developed. This is actually quite common (and to some, troubling) in Federal practice.
If a show manager does not engage a DQP and USDA shows up and finds sored horses show management faces significant civil penalties.
That's the process currently in place.
The new law would place much more enforcement within the USDA and severely limit, or even end, the DQP program. It also makes the act of soring a Federal crime.
There are two problems, here. First, by putting all the enforcement authority back into USDA you run square into the problems of funding. For example, the current sequester may or may not influence USDA enforcement actions by limiting the number of shows they can attend. It can impact the litigation of such cases by the Justice Department. Maintaining a more robust private enforcement program would keep the HPA broadly applied.
Second, to prove a criminal act the Government must prove each and every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Under current law if you can show a horse was sored you can prosecute the rider because they got on the sored horse and rode it. But if you make the act of soring a crime how will you show who put the chemicals/devices on the legs? Unless you've got a confession from a disgruntled employee (or the like) how will you do it? Under Federal law the use undercover surveillance is governed by the Federal Rules of Evidence. They tend to be very strict (in spite of what you see on cop shows). At the end of the day, strengthening the prohibitions on sale, exhibition, etc. are more practical than trying to get into somebody's barn with a hidden camera.
This is a terribly emotion issue for many and many of those folks allow their emotions to run off with their reason. They become so desperate to "punish" the sorers that they lose sight of the normal restrictions on governmental activities and ignore Constitutional, administrative, and good sense limits on governmental authority. Some of the provision of this new statute do that.
Sorry for the "novel" but being a 20+ year veteran of the "soring wars" has left some "old wounds"!!!
Thank you for posting. You are brave, but obviously new here. Steel yourself for the onslaught of pro-soring opinions and defenses of the industry which promotes soring; it's going to get ugly. I can assure you that your thread will not remain on the topic of the cruelty of soring, but will very quickly get waylaid to criticisms of you, of the Fran Jurga Hoof blog, the HSUS, and the ASPCA. You can rest assured that PETA, Obama, the Right to Put Stacks on My Horse, and Yeah But Other People Do Cruel Things Too, will be prominent as well.
I am sure you are right that no one on CoTH has actually come out and said, "I am for Soring." There have been a lot of thoughtful discussions on the topic as well, and I believe most of the horse people who read and comment on this forum find the practice of Soring to be abhorrent. But this is a public and anonymous forum and some posters have given me the conviction that they do support it, and that they may well be part of the "asshats actually doing the soring." Am I the only one who sees this?
Yes, there are many facets to the issues, but if those posting
-support the status quo in an industry which has perpetuated Soring for decades,
-and if they are loudly resistant to any changes in the industry while insisting that the industry can police itself,
-and if they decry any interference and blame whichever organization that brings the abuse to light while spinning the whole topic to be a Conspiracy,
-and if they are apologists for the guy who gets caught red-handed;
-and when they explain that certain practices around Soring, such as mechanical Soring, are really okay if done the way they do it,
-and they argue that the caustic substances they use are really not FOR Soring, just for other purposes, benign and caring health purposes -- but they have the side effect of creating big action in the horse --
well, in my opinion that is support of soring. If it walks like a duck...
Sometimes I avoid these topics because they can get ugly as they go on. I feel like I'm reading a metaphor for past history of Jim Crow laws, which were argued to not be about racism but about States' rights. So I get creeped out reading that it's not about Soring, it's about the TWH organizations' rights.