The Humane Society of the United States Applauds Introduction of Federal Bill to End Rampant Abuse in Tennessee Walking Horse Competitions


The Humane Society of the United States commends Reps. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., with original co-sponsors Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Jim Moran, D-Va., for introducing H.R. 6388, the Horse Protection Act Amendments of 2012. This bill will significantly strengthen the Horse Protection Act, originally passed in 1970 to stop the cruel practice of "soring" - the deliberate infliction of pain to Tennessee walking horses' hooves and legs in order to produce a high-stepping gait and gain unfair competitive advantage at horse shows.

H.R. 6388 would end the failed system of industry self-policing, ban the use of certain devices associated with soring, strengthen penalties, and hold accountable all those involved in this cruel practice. Although the Horse Protection Act was signed into law more than 40 years ago, the systematic abuse of Tennessee walking horses continues unabated. Trainers have devised a gruesome array of techniques to make it painful for these majestic horses to step down, so they will lift their front legs extremely high in the prize-winning, unnatural gait known as "the Big Lick." H.R. 6388 is a necessary step to strengthen the U.S. Department of Agriculture's enforcement capabilities and end this torture for good.

"Until Congress strengthens the Horse Protection Act, we expect that unethical trainers and owners will continue their illegal ways and sore horses, in order to win blue ribbons and profits," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS, who attended this year's Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration. "This legislation will make the Horse Protection Act work better, and it will fortify the existing law and outlaw training methods and devices or implements used to injure horses in these shows."

"Far too often, those involved in showing the Tennessee Walking Horse have turned a blind eye to abusive trainers, or when they do take action, the penalties are so minor, it does nothing to prevent these barbaric acts," Rep. Whitfield said. "This amendment does not cost the federal government any additional money and is essential in helping to put an end to the practice of soring Tennessee Walking Horses by abusive trainers."

"In Tennessee, soring horses is illegal and unacceptable," said Rep. Cohen. "Those responsible for abusing these horses should be punished severely and banned from the sport. How we treat animals is a direct reflection of our character, both as individuals and a nation. There is no ribbon, no prize nor championship worth the price of one's humanity."

In 2010, the U.S.D.A. Office of Inspector General conducted an audit of the Horse Protection Act enforcement program and found that trainers in the industry often engage in soring and then go to great lengths to evade detection rather than comply with federal law and train horses using humane methods. The Inspector General's audit also called attention to serious conflicts of interest in the system that allows inspectors to be chosen by horse industry organizations. H.R. 6388 draws upon the Inspector General's recommendations.

Most significantly, the bill aims to abolish the corrupt self-policing practices currently allowed. It requires U.S.D.A., instead of the industry organizations, to assign licensed inspectors when they are requested by show management. This reform should yield improved consistency and rigor in the inspections and penalties. Despite claims of a 98 percent compliance rate at the 2011 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, U.S.D.A.'s own inspectors found that 100 percent of horses randomly chosen there tested positive for prohibited foreign substances applied to their pasterns.

The HSUS' undercover investigation of well-known trainer Jackie McConnell revealed that trainers can continue to sore horses and enter them into shows undetected, as McConnell did while serving a five-year federal disqualification. The investigation drew national attention and led to public outrage over the practice of soring. McConnell has since pleaded guilty to a felony conviction for charges related to conspiracy to violate the Horse Protection Act, and three of his associates pleaded guilty to related charges.

Earlier this year, former Tennessee Walking Horse trainer Barney Davis was convicted in federal court for violating the Horse Protection Act. According to Davis, "every trainer sored horses, I mean, every trainer sored horses. I mean, you have to. That's the bottom line...Without the soring, without some kind of soring, the horse, they're not going to do the Big Lick."

The bill adds a prohibition on "action devices," typically metal chains that are strapped to the lower portion of the horse's front legs. The chains rub against and strike the tissue that has been sensitized by caustic chemicals, so the horse lifts his front legs high off the ground in reaction to the pain. H.R. 6388 also outlaws "stacks" and pads, known as performance packages, which 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 pressure and pain and obtain the desired gait. These devices have been widely condemned by veterinary groups, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Equine Practitioners and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association.

H.R. 6388 also explicitly prohibits the actual soring of a horse for the purpose of showing or selling the horse, as well as the act of directing another to sore a horse for these purposes.

The bill strengthens penalties to establish a more meaningful deterrent. The current Horse Protection Act's misdemeanor criminal penalties would be raised to felony-level, providing up to three years' jail time for each violation, and potential fines would be doubled. A third violation could trigger permanent disqualification from participating in any horse show, exhibition, sale or auction. A recent analysis of the violation history of the top 20 trainers in the industry's Riders Cup "high point program" found that every trainer on that list in the past two years was cited for soring violations, with a total 164 violations among them. Only seven percent actually served suspension penalties - and of those, all but a handful were for a mere two-week period. Many of the trainers and judges participating in the Celebration also have records of soring violations.


Categories: | Breyer_News | Collector_Club_News


moonhorse Says:
12/12/2017 at 4:38 pm


I agree with CindyJo on this it makes me so sad to watch these poor animals get poneshed for money and nobody cares about what theygo throue the just go their to see how prety they are. I am So happy they are going to try to put a stop to this horablenes.

BreyerLover2222 Says:
12/15/2016 at 2:12 pm

Thank you for being so active for horses, Humane Society!!! I just cannot believe that some people would be so cruel and mean to these beautiful horses!!!!!

k2mc Says:
11/07/2012 at 2:01 pm


I had posted a link on my Facebook when I first saw this abuse becoming more widely known. Many of my Friends there raise, train and show Walkers, and I knew they would be interested in the facts surrounding this case. Also, we are all happy to see a bill that can address the problem and make even more people aware of the issue.
Fortunate for those lovely horses and good for the people who love them!

jesskay Says:
10/15/2012 at 9:22 am


Glad something is being done. I have seen this done before and was sick about it. I have read in books where they say they do this naturally, but when I saw a real horse treated this exact way I realized it's not natural, not all of it anyway. They were working the poor horse with chains around his front legs. Not only that I saw one that had the pads on his front hooves to make him stand higher in the front, which I read was also natural. Glad someone is doing something. I do agree not all the animals right's people know what is going on. My mother has been hounded in the past by some of them because she raises chickens. So does my uncle. He has an egg farm. The chickens are free to come and go in and out of the nests and have tons of room. Not the way the animal rights people say. Right now the poultry industry can't get any corn because of a shortage and the chickens are without it. But, I see trucks of it going to deer hunters.

Wolfie Says:
10/08/2012 at 6:28 pm

and another step forward

In my home state of NY, there's also a push to change animal neglect and cruelty crimes from a misdemeanor to a felony. Here's hoping!

The WyoBlonde Says:
10/06/2012 at 11:17 am

GOOD!! While I don't really support any animal rights groups - I think they are over the top and half the time don't really know what the animals need (though a lot of the time they do have good intentions), after all they aren't the ones running the ranches and farms usually - I am very glad to hear that people are stepping up to end the abuse of these beautiful animals. No animal deserves to be treated this way, no matter how many blue ribbons or $$ they make for it.

CaponePuppeh Says:
10/05/2012 at 11:22 am

While I am glad they're doing something about it, I will never support them or PETA. The animals care is NOT a priority to either group, they're hidden agendas have recently come to light, at least IN PETAs case. Give wisely guys!

adlloyd Says:
10/05/2012 at 4:34 am

Unfortunately Brings Back Memories

I remember back in 1959, when I received my very first Breyer model (a black and white pinto Western horse, which I still have), Sports Illustrated ran a series of articles crusading against the soring of Tennessee Walking Horses. It saddens me to see that after so many years the practice continues, but I am glad that serious action is being taken against it! I remember writing a story back then about a walking horse who was abused and was rescued by a kind owner who was able to win ribbons on the horse without the soring. (Perhaps naive, but children like to dream that things can get better!) And the only Breyer mold I have ever totally disliked and refuse to collect is the original Tennessee Walker mold because to me it represents that torture. I love the new mold, Bluegrass Bandit, because she seems to show us what Walkers were originally intended to be---supremely beautiful and comfortable riding horses!

F. Bates Says:
10/04/2012 at 11:50 pm

Do Not Trust HSUS

HSUS should commend Rep. Whitfield because his wife is a HSUS paid Attorney!

HR 6388 does Nothing to stop soring, the only thing it stops is Showing! Which will effectively destroy 90% of the Breed. The Walking industry is the "gateway" for HSUS to eliminate OTHER breeds, disciplines and events.
HSUS cares Nothing about horses or other animals, Only their Vegan Agenda.

Quotes from: Wayne Parcelle, President & CEO of HSUS

One generation and out. We have No problem with the Extinction of domestic animals. They are the creations of human selective breeding.

We are going to use the ballot box and democratic process to Stop ALL hunting in the US. We will take it species by species until all hunting is stopped in CA. Then we will take it State by State.
Quoted in an interview published in FULL CRY magazine 10/90

My Goal is the Abolition of ALL animal Agriculture.
John "J.P." Goodwin *HSUS grassroots coordinator*
If this industry goes down...Guess who's Next!!!

sant Says:
10/04/2012 at 10:52 pm

Its a very good thing that they passed this bill, I board my horses at a place that has both a horse rescue and a gaited horses barn (my horses are both rescues from the rescue there) and luckily, those gaited horses are treated very well, they're also great to watch.

sant Says:
10/04/2012 at 10:49 pm

My paint mare jogs (even though I usually don't ride western) and she's never had anything used on her to train her to do it, and its actually a pretty smooth gait, but her extended trot is SO bouncy.

NVrebel Says:
10/04/2012 at 3:12 pm

I'm glad they are doing this to help the gaited horses but what about what some trainers do to make their western pleasure horses carry their heads at such a low position for showing and making them do a shuffle instead of a nice jog trot. peanut rolling is just not natural or natural looking and it surely can't be comfortable to ride,especially at a "jog"! I'd be scared if the horse stumbled I'd go right over that lowered head and land in front of them. why do these judges award these un natural looking and moving horses??

Brownsugar Says:
10/04/2012 at 12:25 pm


finally! Hurray!

windwalker175 Says:
10/04/2012 at 9:48 am

The same treatment these trainers do to their horses should be done to them as just punishment. What they do to these beautiful animals should be metted out to them because obviously they refuse to be enlightened and educated against what they are doing. Let them try to walk with chains on their ankles and chemical sores on the bottoms of their feet and see how good it feels. Animal abusers just disgust and sicken me.

bravo models Says:
10/04/2012 at 9:38 am

Always a Step Behind

Until there are uniform and severe penalties for soring there will never be an end to this practice. You can get the big lick from a sound horse, I have shown them. I got out of showing walking horses because its a good ole boys network. The same people who make a living training are also judges, and these guys are buying and selling and making a living off of each other. Maybe a lifetime ban from the agriculture industry. My method for the cheaters would be to make them stand on hot coals with bare feet then make them go for a barefoot walk on a rocky beach. There is so much more to say....

I loved the power behind my big lick horses, and always have happy memories of my showing days, but I'm happy to enjoy my natural (and flat shod) pleasure walkers. The saying used to be "Ride the Glide", and you can find me riding the trails with a smile on my face.

CindyJo Says:
10/04/2012 at 8:18 am


It has always hurt my feelings so bad to know what these gorgeous animals were put thru. I can't even believe in this day and age that anyone would even sponser a show knowing this kind of training is still being done. No horse should have to suffer that kind of pain at the hand of a human.

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