The practice of “soring” horses involves applying caustic chemicals to the animal’s hooves, then further irritating the wounds with chains. As a result, the horse develops a higher-stepping gait; while some humans might prize this trait, the procedure amounts to torture for the horse.
Soring is already illegal in the United States, but the ban has not been enforced. Kentucky Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield is trying to pass legislation to stop soring; however, one lawmaker opposes the bill, placing profits over humanity.
Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn said at a hearing, “This legislation brings excessive regulatory burdens on the walking horse industry and could potentially eliminate the entire industry and thus the entire breed."
Blackburn also claimed that 97 percent of the industry complies with the law and does not practice chemical soring. However, a USDA inspection in the politician’s own state revealed that 76 percent of horses tested had been exposed to soring chemicals, which may include lighter fluid and mustard oil.
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Said former world-champion Tennessee Walking Horse competitor Marty Irby, a proponent of the new bill, "Should I continue to perpetuate the lie that the padded and chained performance Tennessee Walking Horses are mostly sound and a few bad [trainers] sore them, or should I recognize the truth: that all padded and chained Tennessee Walking Horses are either sore or have been sored?"
The Humane Society of the United States has spoken out against soring. Their website states, “The life of a sored horse is filled with fear and pain. While being sored, a horse can be left in his stall for days at a time, his legs covered in caustic chemicals and plastic wrap to "cook" the chemicals deep into his flesh. In training barns where soring takes place, it is common to see horses lying down in their stalls, moaning in pain.”
Once the horse has been sored, it flinches in agony with each step. The result is a high gait that looks proud and regal to the untrained observer; in fact, the altered stride is an expression of pain.