The USDA recently conducted their virtual HIO training course for the 2021 show season. The USDA and industry recently received the final report from the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) and some of the recommendations in that report are communicated in the new processes the USDA will implement in 2021.  

To Whom It May Concern:

I hope this message finds you well. As you look forward to the 2021 show season ahead, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Horse Protection (HP) program shares this anticipation. Over the last year we all experienced unprecedented changes and challenges to everyday life due to COVID-19. USDA regards the safety of its employees, horse industry organizations, event managers and staff, and participants as a high priority as well as ensuring the welfare of the animals covered under the HPA.

This message is to provide you with data from the 2020 show season as well as updates to the USDA HP program and inspection process.

In 2020, the HP impact was:
• HIOs reported 139 affiliated events totaling 36,982 entries inspected with an overall compliance rate of greater than 99%
• USDA attended 3 events totaling 165 entries inspected with an overall compliance rate of 72%
• The three HIOs participating in prohibited substance collection identified 14 horses (out of 124 sampled) bearing a prohibited substance (11.3% positive rate). USDA will offer to partner with all HIOs in 2021 to continue expanding prohibited substance testing at events in which USDA is not in attendance.

USDA is implementing the following for the 2021 show season:
• In order to establish proper identification of all horses pursuant to §11.2
Prohibitions concerning exhibitors subpart (e) Information requirements—horse related; horses must be accompanied by the correct back tag for inspection.
• The cone configuration for the “Figure-8” walk will be adjusted by expanding the distance between the cones and will now require a straight-line walk as well. Inspectors will observe the horse walking a straight line toward and away from them in order to determine whether the horse exhibits signs of soreness as directed by §11.21 Inspection procedures for designated qualified persons (DQPs) subpart (a)(1).
• Following §11.21 Inspection procedures for designated qualified persons (DQPs) subpart (a)(4), any horse that is presented in a manner where the custodian cannot maintain control while holding the reins at approximately 18 inches or other actions or paraphernalia are used to distract the horses during examination will not be allowed through inspection. The horse will be excused and not allowed to participate in the event until it can be presented for inspection in an appropriate manner.
• USDA will no longer return bilaterally sore horses to DQPs for reinspection and will discontinue mandatory second inspections by USDA Veterinary Medical Officers. We will however continue to grant second inspections upon request.

USDA continues to review the findings, conclusions and recommendations in the recently released National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report. As we determine the appropriate path(s) forward, we would like to address one statement of the NAS report. While the report questions whether the scar rule is enforceable, USDA has, and continues to successfully enforce the scar rule. We will continue to take action to prevent the painful training techniques that cause these changes. We appreciate your time to read this update. We look forward to continuing to work together toward achieving our common goals. If you have any questions regarding this letter, please contact Dr. Aaron Rhyner at 970-494-7484.

Betty Goldentyer, DVM
Deputy Administrator
Animal Care