Humane Society Exposes Extreme Abuse of Tennessee Walking Horses

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is working to expose the extraordinarily cruel treatment that Tennessee Walking Horses endure at the hands of human “trainers” to get them to display their characteristic exaggerated gait of lifting their front legs high off the ground when walking.  The gait is referred to in the breeding industry as the “Big Lick.” In the mid-1940’s a stallion named “Midnight Sun” had a similar but less exaggerated high-stepping gait that drew people’s attention and brought people to shows to see him. Trainers started thinking that if they could get their horses to walk like Midnight Sun, they could draw more people to shows and make more money from their horses. To produce the gait, trainers began using a torturous process called “soring.”  Soring is the practice of applying caustic chemicals to the horses’ lower front legs, like mustard oil, diesel oil, or even using chemicals from an ordinary grocery store that become irritating when mixed. The chemicals are applied to the horse’s pasterns, or lower legs just above the hoof, and then wrapped in plastic wrap and then regular vet wrap, so the horse’s body heat helps the chemicals get absorbed through the skin. These wraps are left on overnight. After they are removed, and just before a training session, chains are fastened around the pasterns to further irritate the horse’s front feet. The horse tries to pick his feet up high to try to avoid the pain, resulting in the much sought-after high gait. The practice of soring violates the Horse Protection Act, but the show horse industry uses a failed system of self-policing that results in a lack of enforcement. A blog called “For the Tennesse Walking Horse” has an excellent article about soring and the torturous training of these horses, and the HSUS is imploring people to support a bill called the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act (HR 1518), which would bring more meaningful enforcement against the torture of Tennessee Walking Horses with soring and abusive training techniques. The HSUS conducted an undercover investigation into the horrible abuse of Tennessee Walking horses, which contributed to horse trainer Jackie McConnell and two of his associates pleading guilty to felony violations of the Horse Protection Act for soring, whipping, kicking, shocking and hitting Tennessee Walking Horses across the head and legs with wooden sticks.

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