Friends of Sound Horses (FOSH) announced praise for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s recent declaration to mandate minimum penalties for the soring of gaited horses with its release of the 2011 Penalty Protocol.  Soring is the illegal and cruel practice of using chemical and mechanical methods to create pain in a gaited show horse’s front feet to exaggerate their animated step, most prevalent in Tennessee Walking Horses.  Soring has been illegal for over forty years yet continues to be widespread in some horse show venues.

For years, penalties were recommended to horse industry organizations (HIOs), yet HIOs were free to impose their own penalties that were much less stringent than those recommended by the USDA.  As of December 1, 2010, penalties are no longer recommended but are required by the USDA as set forth in the 2011 Protocol.  Consistent penalties in the Walking Horse industry must be applied to ensure that violators do not continually exhibit in show rings with lax enforcement, thus affording little protection to the Tennessee Walking Horse.

FOSH also commends the Animal Plant and Health Inspection Services (APHIS) for its willingness to address the numerous areas of concerns raised by the Office of the Inspector General during its audit of inspection program for Walking Horses.  The auditors recommended an entire overhaul of the program, including abolishing the current DQP licensing system and instituting a system where the USDA licenses DQPs because of the numerous conflicts of interest. 

FOSH feels this change is vital to ensuring that conflicts of interest do not continue to plague the industry, and guarantee that violators of the HPA are penalized.  The positive response of APHIS to the report is a monumental step in the right direction to end soring and bring about stronger enforcement of the current program.