WASHINGTON, D.C. — Almost a year and a half after a federal rule was adopted to end the practice of soring in gaited horses, the rule is still on hold.

Soring is a practice of using caustic chemicals and chains or other devices on the pasterns of gaited horses like Tennessee Walkers, to produce an accentuated gait for competition. It was outlawed by the Horse Protection Act in 1970 but efforts to update the law in recent years have failed.

In 2016 the United States Department of Agriculture introduced a rule change regarding the practice after like-minded legislation failed to get through the Congressional process. The new rule was to have banned “stacks,” the heavy pads put on Walking and Racking horses’ feet, and chains that go around the pasterns to create an exaggerated gait, known as the “big lick.”

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According to a statement on the USDA’s website: “USDA would train, license and screen all horse inspectors. Currently, horse industry organizations handle these responsibilities, but in a 2010 audit the Office of Inspector General stated this regulatory structure is ineffective because many industry-trained inspectors have conflicts of interest. Under the proposed rule, inspectors would be independent veterinarians or animal health technicians who are licensed by USDA and have no affiliation with any horse industry organizations. USDA would oversee this new group of independent inspectors.”

See the rule and transcripts of the public hearings at www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalwelfare/horse-protection-amendments

The rule was finalized in January 2017 but to go into effect it had to be published in the federal register at the end of the month. Instead, Donald Trump took office before it was published. He then put a freeze on any new rules adopted at the end of the prior year. That included the soring rule and many others. The rules were to be reviewed by the respective agencies before being implemented or eliminated. The soring rule was never implemented.

In a recent letter to Pete Sessions, the Chairman of the House Committee on Rules in the U.S. House of Representatives, American Horse Council (AHC), president, Julie Broadway wrote, as “the voice of the U.S. equine industry, I would like to express support for Amendment #90 to H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, sponsored by Reps. Marino (R-PA), Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Cohen (D-TN). This bipartisan amendment would call on the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to implement a common-sense rule — finalized by USDA in January 2017 — that would prohibit the continued practice of inflicting pain on a horse's limb, aka ‘soring,’ to produce an accentuated gait for competition.”

Meanwhile, bipartisan legislation that would also address the soring of horses, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act (H.R. 1847) has 280 co-sponsors from both parties. Broadway wrote that “underscores the breadth of support for the goals that Amendment #90 would implement. By allowing a vote on Amendment #90 during debate on this year’s farm bill, the House of Representatives would be granting floor time to an important animal health issue on which more than 60% of House lawmakers have already expressed an interest.”

H.R. 1847 was introduced in March, 2017 and no further action has been taken.

The bill can be viewed at www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-115hr1847ih/pdf/BILLS-115hr1847ih.pdf

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