This Cruel and Inhumane Equine Practice Must Be Stopped!

Horse Protection

Story at-a-glance -

  • There are two federal bills in the works aimed at protecting the health and welfare of America’s horses, and the American Veterinary Medical Association is asking for our help to get them passed.
  • H.R. 1518/S. 1406 is the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, which will effectively ban the practice of soring (intentionally hurting a walking horse to change his gait). Not only will the bill make soring illegal, it will also clear the way for federal regulators to take the steps necessary to identify and punish violators.
  • H.R. 4440/S. 1459 is The Horse Transportation Safety Act. The bill will make it illegal to transport horses on the nation’s highways in double-decker trailers that do not provide enough space for the animals to safely and comfortably stand and maintain their balance.
  • You can make your voice heard by emailing or calling your congressional representatives and asking them to pass these bills.

By Dr. Becker

Horses are an integral part of our history, having played a pivotal role in the economy and character of the United States. These days, horses are kept primarily for pleasure or show, and it is our responsibility to insure they’re protected from harm.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is asking for our help in supporting two federal bills aimed at safeguarding the health and welfare of America’s horses.

H.R. 1518/S. 1406 – The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act

Soring is the practice of deliberately hurting a walking horse to change his gait. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, APHIS describes it this way in the Horse Protection Act:

“Soring is a cruel and abusive practice used to accentuate a horse’s gait. It is accomplished by irritating or blistering a horse’s forelegs with chemical irritants (such as mustard oil) or mechanical devices.

Walking horses are known for possessing a naturally high gait, but in order to be more successful in competitions their natural gait will often be exaggerated. The exaggerated gait can be achieved through proper training and a considerable time commitment, but some horse exhibitors, owners and trainers use improper and inhumane training methods to shortcut the process.”

There are many methods of soring, including:

  • Applying caustic chemicals like diesel fuel and kerosene on the horse's pasterns, wrapping the legs in plastic, then adding leg wraps over the plastic so the acid burns into the animal's flesh.
  • Injecting harmful chemicals or drugs into the pasterns.
  • “Pressure shoeing,” which involves putting an object like a screw, a bolt, or even one half of a golf ball against the soles of a horse's front hooves, then shoeing the animal. An alternate method involves cutting the hoof wall and sole down to the quick, then shoeing over the raw surface.

As a sore horse puts weight on a front leg he feels intense pain, and he pulls his foot up quickly, giving the effect of extraordinary lift in the front. Once he realizes both front feet are hurting, he tries to shift his weight to the rear. The resulting unnatural gait is known as the “praying mantis crawl.”

Not only does soring cause tremendous physical pain, but also often irreversible mental damage to the horse. And the reason for soring? Human entertainment. Show ribbons. Better breeding fees. This incredibly cruel practice needs to stop.

According to the AVMA, the PAST Act will take important steps to ban the practice of soring. Not only will it make the act illegal, it will also revamp the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s oversight and enforcement capabilities to allow federal regulators to take the steps necessary to identify and punish violators. Along with the AVMA, supporters of H.R. 1518/S. 1406 include the American Association of Equine Practitioners, all state veterinary medical associations, and many horse industry and animal protection organizations.

For more details on the bill, visit AVMA.org. You can make your voice heard by emailing or calling your congressional representatives and asking them to pass this bill.

H.R. 4440/S. 1459 – The Horse Transportation Safety Act

Horses are often transported on U.S. highways in double-decker trailers that do not provide enough space for the animals to safely and comfortably stand and maintain their balance throughout the trip. This practice results in preventable injuries.

According to the AVMA, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has found that there is a significant body of evidence that shows many more horses are injured in transit in double-deck trailers than in single-deck trailers.

Research shows that a horse needs a minimum of seven to eight feet in height to fully raise his head while traveling. Current interstate highway regulations require a minimum vertical clearance under overhead structures of 16 feet/rural and 14 feet/urban. No trailer with two or more levels and added clearance for the tires can meet those minimum requirements while staying within maximum height limits.

The goal of H.R. 4440/S. 1459 is to ban the use of double-decker trailers for horse use to insure horses are given ample headroom in transport vehicles so that they can travel safely and humanely.

For more details on the bill, visit AVMA.org. You can make your voice heard by emailing or calling your congressional representatives and asking them to pass this bill.

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