Soring is most commonly used in Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds to cause an exaggerated step that is prized in the show ring. It involves inflicting pain in a horse’s legs or hooves to force the horse to perform an artificial, high-stepping gait known as the “big lick.” The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has documented these abuses in undercover investigations of the big lick segment of the industry in 2012 and 2015.
“We have long led the charge to end soring, conducting undercover investigations, raising public awareness, working to secure greater funding and more support for enhanced enforcement by USDA and now, working with House champions and coalition partners to secure this important milestone for horses,” said Kitty Block, HSUS president and CEO. “We’re going straight ahead to press for Senate passage of the PAST Act. These animals have suffered long enough.”
The PAST Act would end the system of industry self-policing that has been in place since a 1976 amendment to the Horse Protection Act allowed the industry to take on the bulk of enforcement. The bill would substitute a cadre of third-party independent inspectors trained, licensed, and assigned by USDA and accountable to the agency. It would ban devices integral to soring and strengthen penalties.
The PAST Act is endorsed by hundreds of leading groups and individuals in the horse industry and veterinary, law enforcement and animal protection communities, including the American Horse Council, U.S. Equestrian Federation, Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, the state veterinary organizations of all 50 states, key individuals in the Tennessee walking horse show world, National Sheriffs’ Association, Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and major newspapers in Kentucky and Tennessee (the states where soring is most prevalent).
The Senate companion bill, S. 1007, introduced in April by Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Mark Warner, D-Va., currently has 41 Senate cosponsors.