Horse Soring Reflects Badly on Tennessee

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Courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States

As anyone who has visited Tennessee will tell you, it is a beautiful state with many tourist attractions including the Smoky Mountains, Graceland, Beale Street, Dollywood and the Grand Ole Opry. Unfortunately, the actions of those who abuse Tennessee Walking Horses are also giving the state a black eye.

The decades-long practice of horse soring has been condemned by the horse industry, veterinary community, law enforcement and animal protection organizations. This cruel practice inflicts pain on the horse's feet and legs to produce an exaggerated gait known as the "Big Lick." Tennessee walking horses are bred for their smooth, natural gait and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) supports the many owners and trainers who use humane training methods to showcase this natural gait.

I serve on the board of HSUS and also own five horses. I can't bear the thought of a horse fitted with tall, heavy shoes, its legs covered with caustic chemicals and chains, and hard objects jammed into its tender soles all for the sake of the "Big Lick" and a ribbon in a competition. These practices are meant to cause pain and are unbearably cruel.

The people of Tennessee should stand up for their horses by supporting new regulations put forth by the USDA to close loopholes in the current system of enforcement - it's the right thing to do The proposed changes to upgrade the Horse Protection Act regulations include:

• The elimination of the use on show grounds of stacks, pads, chains, and hoof bands on Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds, and
• The elimination of the current industry policy of self-policing to be replaced by the implementation of a new system of independent third party inspectors, who are trained, licensed and overseen by the USDA.

I urge the people of Tennessee to raise their voices in support of these new regulations by submitting favorable comments to the USDA immediately. Visit the government website at this link: http://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=APHIS-2011-0009 and show your support for the Tennessee Walking Horse. Then post a message on your Facebook page urging your friends to join you.

Tennessee does not want to be known as a state that abuses horses. Here is an opportunity for them to help achieve change and send a message to those who show Tennessee Walking Horses that the days of the "Big Lick" are over.