The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association (TWHBEA) president has voted to support controversial legislation which would expand the Horse Protection Act (HPA) to forbid the use of action devices and increase penalties for anyone convicted of soring horses.

Soring is the deliberate injury to a horse’s feet and legs to achieve a high-stepping gait. Passed in 1970, the HPA forbids the practice, places the USDA in charge of enforcement, and establishes penalties for violators. The law’s penalty protocol became controversial when some equine welfare advocates claimed that sentencing in a recent high-profile soring case was too lenient. In response, U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield (Ky.) and U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (Tenn.) introduced HR 6388. That bill would have amended the HPA by stiffening soring penalties, but it died in committee.

Subsequently, on April 11, 2013, Whitfield introduced HR 1518, the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act, into the U.S. House of Representatives, which remains in the House’s Committee on Energy and Commerce. If passed, HR 1518 would increase penalties for HPA violators and forbid trainers from using action devices, including metal chains and stacks and pads (known as performance packages).

On May 25, Tracy Boyd, TWHBEA executive committee president, voted to support HR 1518; six other executive committee members also voted in support of the bill. Even so, the full TWHBEA board of directors decli