Some members of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry are promising to legally challenge the recent USDA rule that bans the use of action devices and pads or stacks in Walking Horse training and exhibition.

On Jan. 13, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) published a rule specifically prohibiting the use of action devices, including chains weighing more than 6 ounces, on Tennessee Walking Horses and Racking Horses at horse shows, exhibitions, sales, and auctions. It also forbids the use of boots, other than soft rubber or leather bell boots and quarter boots used as protective devices, and associated lubricants. The rule also prohibits the use of “pads and wedges on Tennessee Walking Horses and Racking Horses at horse shows, exhibitions, sales, and auctions, except for therapeutic pads and wedges.”

In July 2016, the Foundation for the Advancement and Support of the Tennessee Walking Show Horse (FAST) posted on a letter on its website indicating the group had established a “legal fund to accept donations made to aid in the defense of the show horse from potential rulemaking submitted by the USDA that would be detrimental to the show horse.”

On Jan. 15, FAST President Kasey C. Kesselring, PhD, said in a written statement that the organization’s legal team has begun preparing a response to the new USDA rule, and that the industry has raised $500,000 to mount the legal challenge.

“Our team of legal professionals are doing amazing work to position the industry to successfully seek a legal remedy to preserve the show horse for future generations of Tennessee Walking Horse enthusiasts,” Kesselring’s statement said. “We have been preparing for this moment; there is no longer any wait and see, no further conjecture or assumptions; the case before us is now clear.”

Kesselring’s statement said the group’s legal team is “optimistic” about the strength of the case.

No one from the USDA APHIS was available for comment.