Tennessee Walking Horses are known for their high-stepping “Big Lick” gait, which comes at a painful price. Abusive trainers “sore” their horses to achieve a competitive edge in the show ring, deliberately inflicting pain using caustic chemicals and devices to injure the animals’ front legs and hooves to force them to perform this artificially high-stepping gait.
The Horse Protection Act (HPA) of 1970 was passed to end this abuse, but weak regulations have undermined the law’s effectiveness. The HSUS’ 2015 undercover investigation at a top walking horse training barn (ThorSport Farm) and the USDA’s 2015 inspection results — in which 87.5 percent of horses randomly selected from entrants in the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration tested positive for prohibited substances — prove soring is still rampant.
Fortunately, following an HSUS rule-making petition and appeals from more than 175 Members of Congress, the USDA has proposed tightening its regulations to crack down on this epidemic of abuse.