USDA’s strengthened Horse Protection Act draws AVMA and AAEP support


Effective February 1, 2025, the new regulations are an effort by the federal agency to put an end to the practice of horse soring

Horse soring regulations

Photo courtesy of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

In an attempt to conserve horse well-being and discourage horse soring at Tennessee walking horse shows, the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recently announced that it will be putting forth stronger Horse Protection Act regulations.1 The action drew support from the organizations like the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP).2

The Horse Protection Act, a federal legislation, bars horses that have been subjected to soring from taking part in shows, exhibitions, sales, or auctions. Moreover, the Act prohibits the transportation of sored horses to or from any of these events.1

“For far too long, some within the Tennessee walking horse industry have sored and abused their horses, despite the industry’s inspection process and our own enforcement efforts,” Jenny Lester-Moffitt, undersecretary for USDA Marking and Regulatory Programs, said in a news release. “This abuse must stop. Eliminating this cruel practice will help protect horses competing in these shows and level the playing field for the industry. The independent inspection process should strengthen the competition at these shows and benefit the many owners and trainers who do right by their animals.”1

Soring practice uses chemicals, pressure, or devices, such as chains, on a horse’s limbs or hooves to induce severe pain that causes the horse to enact a faster gait. Some of the chemicals that are used for soring include agents like mustard oil, diesel fuel, and kerosene, which cause blisters and burning. Pressure shoeing has also been utilized—cutting a horse's hoof close to the quick and tightly nailing on a metal shoe or forcing the horse to stand on a raised object, such as a block, for hours with all the pressure being exerted on the sensitive part of their soles. Pressure shoeing causes extreme pressure and pain when a horse’s weight is placed on its’ hoof, according to the Humane Society of the United States.3 In addition to excruciating physical pain, soring also results in distress, inflammation, and/or lameness for these horses.1

According to the USDA, effective February 1, 2025, the strengthened Horse Protection Act regulations announced on April 29, 2024, will include1:

  • Eliminating industry self-regulation and the role of industry-backed Designated Qualified Persons as inspectors at horse shows, exhibitions, sales, and auctions. Only APHIS inspectors and independent non-APHIS-employed horse protection inspectors screened, trained, and authorized by APHIS will have inspection authority
  • Prohibiting any device, method, practice, or substance applied to a horse that can cause or is associated with soring
  • Prohibiting on Tennessee walking or racking horses all action devices and nontherapeutic pads, artificial toe extensions, and wedges, as well as all substances on the extremities above the hoof, including lubricants
  • Removing the scar rule from the regulations and replacing it with a more accurate description of visible dermatological changes indicative of soring
  • Amending recordkeeping and reporting requirements for management at covered events to better enforce the HPA

The practice of soring is most often seen in Tennessee walking horse shows that some equine owners and trainers execute to gain competitive racing competitions and give buyers fraudulent purchase prices at horse shows.1 In public statements, officials with the AVMA and the AAEP condemned the practice and applauded the action taken by APHIS.2

"Ending the cruel and inhumane act of horse soring is long overdue and the strengthened regulations announced by the USDA will help end this needless suffering of horses by providing more enforcement mechanisms to maintain horse welfare," Rena Carlson, DVM, AVMA president, said in a news release.2 "Culminating years of sustained advocacy by the AVMA and AAEP to end horse soring, we thank the USDA for recognizing this need for greater protection and look forward to working with them as this new rule is implemented."

"This is the beginning of a new era for horse health and welfare in the United States," Katherine (Katie) Garrett, DVM, DACVS, AAEP president, said in the same release. "The AAEP is grateful for the perseverance of the many individuals and organizations who tirelessly advocated for stronger protections."2


  1. USDA strengthens regulations to protect horses from soring abuse. News release. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. April 29, 2024. Accessed May 22, 2024.
  2. AVMA and AAEP praise strengthened regulations on horse soring. News release. American Veterinary Medical Association. May 16, 2024. Accessed May 22, 2024.
  3. What is horse soring? The Humane Society of the United States. Accessed May 22, 2024.
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