Skip to content

USDA Announces Changes Aimed at Ending the Inhumane Practice of Horse Soring

WASHINGTON, January 13, 2017--The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today announced a final rule that includes changes that will help to protect horses from the cruel and inhumane practice known as soring and eliminate the unfair competitive advantage that sore horses have over horses that are not sore. The practice of soring is intended to produce a high stepping gait through the use of action devices, caustic chemicals, and other practices that cause horses to suffer, or reasonably be expected to suffer physical pain, distress, inflammation, or lameness while walking or moving.
APHIS enforces the Horse Protection Act (HPA), which is a Federal law that makes it unlawful for any person to show, exhibit, sell, or transport sore horses, or to use any equipment, device, paraphernalia, or substance prohibited by USDA to prevent the soring of horse in such events.  APHIS works actively with the horse industry to eliminate such inhumane practices and the resulting unfair competition they create at HPA-covered events.
The final rule addresses recommendations made by the USDA’s Office of Inspector General following an audit of APHIS’ horse protection program, which found the existing industry-led inspection program to be inadequate for ensuring compliance with the HPA.  The rule also seeks to address the substantial noncompliance that continues to exist among Tennessee Walking Horses and racking horses and the relationship that continues to exist between the use of certain prohibited items and soring in horses, such as the use of permitted action devices alone or in conjunction with prohibited substances.

Under the final regulation—

APHIS will license, train, and oversee independent, third party inspectors, known as Horse Protection Inspectors, and establish the licensing eligibility requirements to reduce conflicts of interest.

To allow sufficient time to train and license HPIs and ensure an adequate number before the start of the 2018 show season, current Designated Qualified Person (DQP) licenses will remain valid until January 1, 2018.  Beginning January 1, 2018, management of horse shows, exhibitions, sales, and auctions that elect to use inspection services, must appoint and retain a HPI to inspect horses.

Beginning January 1, 2018, the regulatory provisions applicable to Horse Industry Organizations and Associations are removed and are no longer effective.

Beginning 30 days after publication of the final rule, all action devices, except for certain boots, are prohibited on any Tennessee Walking Horse or racking horse at any horse show, exhibition, sale or auction.  All pads and wedges are prohibited are prohibited on any Tennessee Walking Horse or racking horse at any horse show, exhibition, sale or auction on or after January 1, 2018, unless such horse has been prescribed and is receiving therapeutic, veterinary treatment using pads or wedges.  This delayed implementation allows ample time to both gradually reduce the size of pads to minimize any potential physiological stress to the horses and prepare horses to compete in other classes.

Beginning January 1, 2018, management of HPA-covered events must, among other things, submit certain information records to APHIS, provide HPIs with access, space and facilities to conduct inspections, and have a farrier physically present to assist HPIs at horse shows, exhibitions, sales, and auctions that allow Tennessee Walking Horses or racking horses to participate in therapeutic pads and wedges if more than 150 horses are entered, and have a farrier on call if 150 or fewer horses are entered.

Congress passed the HPA to end the cruel and inhumane practice of soring horses and stop unfair competition.  Strengthening the HPA regulations and the enforcement of alleged violations is the best way to achieve this goal.  In addition, the prohibitions on the use of action devices and pads (with certain exceptions) are consistent with recommendations made by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Equine Practitioners, and leading industry standards for equestrian sports.
This final rule will be publish in the Federal Register in the coming days. A copy of the rule that was submitted to the Federal Register can be viewed here.
The changes regarding the prohibitions on the use of action devices and associated lubricants for exhibitors of Tennessee Walking horses and racking horses, along with the training and licensing of inspectors will be effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. The rest of the rule will be effective January 1, 2018.

More Stories

  • Equine Obituary - John F.K.'s Delight

    Multi-titled WGC and WC John F. K.’s Delight aka “Bingo” passed away on March 8 at McCarley Farms in Samantha, Alabama. Born Oct. 1, 1997, the 21 year old stallion was owned and loved by Linda McCarley in his final years.  Read More
  • National Trainers' Show Live Stream

    What A Horse will be handling the Live Streaming duties for the National Trainers' Show again this year. You must have a subscription to What A Horse to access the Live Stream. ReporTV will be posting highlight videos the following day of each session... Read More
  • Georgia Senator introduces resolution encouraging passage of the PAST Act

    Georgia State Senator Curt Thompson recently introduced a resolution in the Georgia Senate in support of the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST Act). The summary on the Georgia Lobby website read... Read More
  • Cantrell: We do ‘it’ because we believe in our horse

    In celebrating our 50th Walking Horse Trainers Association Anniversary, this is a salute to all the dedicated professional trainers that have passed through these “gates” . . . and the ones yet to come... Read More
  • Trainers revamp Horse of the Year awards

    The Walking Horse Trainers’ Association (WHTA) will revamp the Horse of the Year awards program in 2018. Previously, the Horse of the Year was determined by a vote of the licensed members of the WHTA. The program has seen a decline in interest from voting members in recent years and the board of directors decided a change was needed. Read More
  • Latest Issue March 19 18

    Read More
  • Throwback Thursday

    Check out this week's Throwback on ReporTV featuring Oh My Darlin' and Counti Green in the Youth 11 & Under class from the 2012 Tunica Fall Classic... Read More
  • SHOW to measure both ponies and 15.2 & Under horses

    The SHOW HIO will begin to measure horses in post-show inspections for compliance with class requirements in pony and 15.2 & under divisions. In previous years, show management could require horses to measure pre-show, however no post-show measurements were completed. Read More
  • Objective post show violations to carry increased penalty

    The SHOW HIO will retain its policy of reporting to show management its findings for disqualification on pre-show violations with no further penalty issued by SHOW. However, on clear, objective post-show violations that result in notices of disqualification, SHOW will issue a two-week suspension to the person responsible for the violation. Read More
  • Celebration adds Amateur Four & Under Park Performance

    The 80th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration will add a world championship class for the Amateur Four & Under Park Performance division. Previously, the Celebration had an amateur park performance division but did not designate the four and under in the amateur division Read More