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First Posted: Mar 20, 2008
Jun 8, 2012

What Is Soring?

This article appeared in the Animal Welfare Information Center Newsletter, Volume 8, Number 2, Summer 1997.

According to the USDA, "The application of any chemical or mechanical agent applied to the lower leg or hoof of any horse that causes pain, or, can be expected to cause pain, for the purpose of 'enhancing' the horse's gait for show purposes is strictly prohibited under The Horse Protection Act, as amended (15 U.S.C. SS 1821 - 1831)." The soring of horses is both illegal and painful. There are a variety of ways to sore a horse.

How Is Soring Done?
  • Apply caustic chemicals to horse's pasterns and wrap in plastic wrap. This blisters or cooks the horse's flesh. Mustard oil, or allyl isothicocyanate, is used along with other caustic agents such as crotonal or croton oil, properly known as crotonaldehyde, Salicylic Acid or 2-hydroxy-benzoic acid causes skin irritation, and fairly new on the soring scene.
  • Inject caustic chemicals and drugs into the horse's pasterns.
  • Pressure Shoeing - Use a pad when shoeing the horse but put a foreign object between shoe and pad to cause horse pain.
  • Cut hoof wall and sole down to the quick where it starts to bleed and then apply a shoe. This causes the horse pain.
  • Chains, "action devices," worn around the pasterns can range from the mildly annoying to the extremely painful.
  • Road foundering
  • Stewarding is the use of topical anesthetics containing Lidocaine and Benzocaine.
Why A Horse Is Sored?

Soring is unacceptable. There is NEVER a reason to sore a horse. It is cruel! The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) will offer a reward of $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any violator of Tennessee's horse soring law, which prohibits the deliberate infliction of pain to horses' feet and legs to produce an artificially high-stepping gait. Advertisements announcing the reward will appear throughout middle Tennessee. The reason that soring is done is to enhance the gait (high-stepping). The horse steps with more action and his step is animated and lively. You will hear the word "big lick" and "padded" used in the Tennessee Walking Horse Shows and circles. However, now all Gaited breeds are in danger of being sored.

Horse Protection Act

APHIS Animal Care Update
The Horse Protection Act

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) enforces the Horse Protection Act (HPA) through its Animal Care unit. The HPA is a Federal law that prohibits horses subjected to a process called soring from participating in exhibitions, sales, shows, or auctions. The Act also prohibits persons from transporting sored horses to compete in shows.

Soring, a painful practice used to accentuate a horse's gait--is accomplished by irritating the forelegs through the injection or application of chemicals or mechanical irritants. When it walks, a sored horse responds by quickly lifting its front legs to relieve the pain. Sored horses sometimes develop permanent scars.

In the 1950s, owners and trainers wanting to improve their horses' chances to win at shows used soring. Because sored horses gained a competitive edge, the practice became popular and widespread in the 1960's. Public outcry over the inhumane practice led to the passage of the Horse Protection Act in 1970 and its amendment in 1976. The HPA ensures that the horses will not be subjected to the cruel practice of soring and that responsible horse owners and trainers will not suffer unfair competition from those who sore their horses.

Although the HPA covers all horse breeds, Tennessee Walking horses and other high-stepping breeds are the most frequent victims of soring. Responsibility for preventing sored horses rests with owners, trainers, riders, sellers, and managers of the show or sale. Most horse-industry organizations and associations strictly prohibit members from soring their animals.

Designated Qualified Persons:: To facilitate enforcement of the HPA, APHIS has established the Designated Qualified Person (DQP) program. DQP's are trained and licensed by a USDA-certified horse industry organization or association to detect sored horses. DQP's are APHIS-accredited veterinarians with equine experience, or they are farriers, horse trainers, or other knowledgeable equestrians. DQP's are hired by the managing directors or administrators of a show or sale to ensure that sored horses are not allowed in the ring.

DQP's are responsible for barring from shows horses that do not meet Federal regulations under the HPA. Without DQP's, show management assumes full legal responsibility for disqualifying sored horses before awarding prizes and before customers view horses at sales or auctiEons.

Monitoring DQP's and enforcing the HPA: Horse organizations can revoke the license of DQP's if their inspections do not meet HPA standards. The APHIS inspection team is not present at every show but conducts unannounced inspections. APHIS can use information supplied by private citizens to prosecute violators.

The APHIS inspection team includes Animal Care veterinarians and Regulatory Enforcement investigators. The veterinarians observe horses during a show and can examine any horse for signs of soring or violation of the regulations.

Signs of Soring: APHIS inspection team members look for abnormal sensitivity or insensitivity in horses they suspect of being sored. The horses may exhibit swelling, tenderness, abrasions, bleeding, or oozing of blood or serum. APHIS pays particular attention to the area of the coronet &emdash; band the area above the hoof &emdash; to the front and rear pasterns, and to the bulb of the heel &emdash; favorite places for chemical soring. They also look for training aids that are too heavy and hard. Heavy, rigid devices banging on the pastern during repeated workouts can sore sensitive horses.

Penalties: Criminal or civil charges can be brought against violators. If convicted, violators can spend up to 2 years in prison, receive penalties of up to $5,000, and be disqualified for 1 or more years from the right to show, exhibit, or sell horses through auction sales. Trainers can be disqualified for life. Industry and certified organizations impose their own sanctions in addition to Federal proceedings.

Update: The USDA has new inspection rules. Gaited horse shows will fall under the HPA or Horse Protection Act. USDA licensed inspectors are required to be present and examine horses for signs of soring. Horses found to have been sored will be dismissed from participating in the show. Digital imaging can be used to make the determination.

For More Information:

USDA HPA Information
Soring Tennessee Walker Horses
Tennessee Walking Horse, Tennessee Walker, 'Walker, TWH Breed Gaited

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