A new USDA rule banning pads, chains, and other action devices sometimes used in Tennessee Walking and Racking Horse training and exhibition is among a litany of new regulations put on hold pending review by the Trump administration and its newly appointed department secretaries.
The new rule, which was approved Jan. 13, prohibits 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. The final rule also forbids the use of boots other than soft rubber or leather bell boots and quarter boots used as protective devices and associated lubricants. It 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.”
The ban on action devices is scheduled to take effect in February. All other provisions of the new rule were slated to take effect on Jan. 1, 2018.
However, the rule was among several regulations frozen by President Donald Trump’s Jan. 20 executive order.
In a written statement APHIS said the agency issued interim operating guidelines on Jan. 23 “outlining procedures to ensure the new policy team has an opportunity to review policy-related statements, legislation, budgets, and regulations prior to issuance.”
“This includes the HPA final rule,” the statement said.
Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) said such a freeze is not unusual during administration changes. Even so, he said the final anti-soring rule was caught in the freeze because it was not printed in a timely manner.
“We were burning the midnight oil talking the them about printing the rule,” Cohen said. “I am disappointed in the USDA for not getting the final rule over there sooner.”
Cohen said that following the suspension period, Trump has the option to either eliminate the rule or implement it.
Mike Inman, chief executive officer of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, agreed the freeze has more to do with timing that with the rule’s content. Still, the industry will use the suspension period to talk with incoming Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and make him “aware of important facts regarding the proposed rule-making.
“We very much look forward to that communication,” Inman said.
If the rule isn’t implemented, Cohen said he believes the rule-making process must start again from scratch.
“It took seven years (of hearings and testimony) to produce the final rule,” he said. “We don’t know if Trump is an animal lover or is concerned about the horse.”
In the meantime, the rule remains suspended and under review.