USDA Updates Horse Protection Act to End Soring of Tennessee Walking Horses

Posted by Allie Layos

This new rule may finally help end the practice of soring Tennessee Walking Horses.

On January 14, the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal And Plant Health Inspection Service announced a rule change meant to help protect show horses, such as Tennessee Walking Horses, against the inhumane practice known as soring.

Soring is the practice of intentionally hurting the horse in order to make the horse's gait more pronounced and exaggerated. Some competitors have been known to strap pads soaked in chemicals in order for the horse to feel burning sensations, which make them pick up their legs faster. While strapping pads on the horses' hooves isn't always inhumane, since the pads can be used in certain therapeutic instances, it is the cruel practice of soring that the USDA is looking to prevent.

The APHIS enforces the Horse Protection Act, which makes it unlawful for any person to show, exhibit, sell, or transport sore horses, or to use any equipment, device, paraphernalia, or substance prohibited by USDA, to prevent the soring of horses in such events.

The final rule includes recommendations made by the USDA's Office of Inspector General, and addresses the noncompliance that still exists among Tennessee Walking Horses and other true racking or gaited breeds.

walking horse

Under the modified rule:

  • APHIS will license, train, and oversee independent, third party inspectors, known as Horse Protection Inspectors (HPIs), and establish the licensing eligibility requirements to reduce conflicts of interest.
  • To allow sufficient time to train and license HPIs and ensure an adequate number before the start of the 2018 show season, current Designated Qualified Person licenses will remain valid until January 1, 2018, at which point management of horse shows, exhibitions, sales, and auctions that elect to use inspection services, must appoint and retain a HPI to inspect horses.
  • Beginning 30 days after the publication of the final rule, all action devices, except for certain boots, are prohibited on any Tennessee Walking Horse or racking horse at any horse show, exhibition, sale, or auction. Pads and wedges are prohibited on any Tennessee Walking Horse or racking horse at any horse show, exhibition, sale, or auction on or after January 1, 2018, unless the horse is receiving therapeutic treatment from a vet.
  • Beginning January 1, 2018, management of HPA-covered events must submit certain information records to APHIS, provide HPIs with access, space, and facilities to conduct inspections, and have a farrier present to assist HPIs at horse shows, exhibitions, sales, and auctions that allow Tennessee Walking Horses or racking horses to participate in therapeutic pads and wedges if more than 150 horses are entered, and have a farrier on call if 150 or fewer horses are entered.

This final rule will be published in the Federal Register soon, but you can read the entire rule here.

What do you think about these new rules? Let us know in the comments below. 

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USDA Updates Horse Protection Act to End Soring of Tennessee Walking Horses