Final horse soring rule could lead to legal action

January 21, 2017

Some applaud USDAs final ruling on safeguards against soring. Organizations in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry threaten legal action.

On January 13, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced a final rule that strengthens the Horse Protection Act (HPA) and safeguards horses from the practice of soring.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the new amendments to the Horse Protection Act make two significant changes:

1. APHIS would assume responsibility for training, screening and licensing horse inspectors. Instead of allowing horse industry organizations to handle these responsibilities, inspectors would be veterinarians and veterinary technicians required to follow USDA rules and standards of conduct.

2. USDA-APHIS would ban the use of all action devices, pads, and foreign substances at horse shows, exhibitions, sales, and auctions. This would align HPA regulations with existing equestrian standards set forth by the U.S. Equestrian Federation. 

These changes will "eliminate the unfair competitive advantage that sore horses have over horses that are not sore," according to the USDA-APHIS website. The HPA, which is enforced by APHIS, 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 the USDA specifically for the purpose of soring.

Also under the final regulation is a ban on the use of chains and stacks in the training and exhibition of Tennessee walking horses and racking horses. The rule states that 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. All pads and wedges are prohibited on any Tennessee walking horse or racking horse at any horse show, exhibition, sale, or auction on or after Jan. 1, 2018, unless such horse has been prescribed and is receiving therapeutic, veterinary treatment using pads or wedges.

In a letter addressed to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Janet Donlin, DVM, MBA, EVP and CEO of the AVMA, and David Foley, CAE, executive director of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), say they "appreciate USDA's acknowledgement and adoption of many of our suggestions, including prohibitions on the use of action devices and nontherapeutic stacks or pads on Tennessee walking horses and racking horses."

"On behalf of the members of the AVMA and the AAEP, we are deeply grateful for your persistence and determination to protect the health, welfare and integrity of these horses," the letter reads.

However, some members of the Tennessee walking horse industry don't support the final rule change. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) told that he is "in favor of wiping out the contemptible and illegal practice of horse soring, not wiping out the century-old tradition of showing Tennessee walking horses as this rule could do."

On Jan. 15, the president of the Foundation for the Advancement and Support of the Tennessee Walking Show Horse (FAST), Kasey C. Kesselring, PhD, said the organization's legal team will challenge the new rule, according to

>>> Want to catch up? Here's our comprehensive coverage of soring.