Please help protect Walking Horse breeds from cruel and painful practices to their feet, known as SORING!
U.S. Horse Protection Act Revisited: Animal Welfare at the Forefront
In the late '60s, the Walking and Racking Horse industry was out of control with soring their horses with mustard oil to "get the big lick." Being a show manager back then, I can assure you that what was being done to Walking Horses was not pretty. I watched horses get off trailers and stand shifting back and forth between front feet to relieve pain. This led to the implementation of the much needed
U.S. Horse Protection Act of 1970 (USHPA).
What is sad is that after all these years, soring of these breeds has not been eliminated - better but not eliminated. So the PAST Act - Prevent All Soring Tactics Act - was proposed in Congress to stop the abuse about two years ago which specifically named Walking Horses, Racking Horses and Spotted Saddle Horses. That Act was opposed and stalled by Kentucky and Tennessee Congressmen.
This has led to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposing new rules - a rewritten USHPA - which in its present form mirrors the PAST Act but appears to not restrict the Acts application to just those three breeds. This means that breeds such as Arabian, Morgans and Saddlebreds which wear pads could be included in the vague language.
The American Horse Council (AHC) has stated "The proposed rule would make several changes to current USHPA regulations with the goal of improving enforcement of the law and ending soring. However, the proposed rule has prompted some questions about its potential impact on the wider industry, particularly on other gaited breeds. The AHC has convened a USHPA working group and has been engaging industry stake holders to answer some of these questions and draft formal comments regarding the proposed rule. The AHC has been actively communicating with industry groups including the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the U.S Equestrian Federation, the American Saddlebred Horse Association, the American Morgan Horse Association and the Arabian Horse Association."
As the Executive Vice president of AHA, I represent AHA on this USHPA working group. Unlike Walking Horses, trotting breeds such as Arabians must be sound in order to compete. Our industry has been diligent in self-enforcement. Our judges, for instance, will eliminate very quickly an unsound horse from either their card or the ring. Had Walking Horse judges been as diligent, this rule making process would not be necessary. Also, to my knowledge, not one single charge has ever been made by USDA against trotting breeds as a violation of the USHPA.
Julie Broadway, AHC's new President who came from the Morgan Horse Association, stated, "It is equally important that any new regulations are narrowly focused on the problem of soring and do not adversely impact or unnecessarily burden other segments of the horse show industry that are not soring horses and have no history of soring horses."
So the points we need to use in lobbying for language change:
Trotting breeds have to be sound in order to compete
Trotting breeds have never been cited to be in violation of USHPA
USDA's budget to enforce the USHPA is limited and needs to focus on the breeds which have been proven to have problems in the past
Very thick exaggerated stacked pads used by Walking horses are the problem, not pads and bands used by the trotting breeds that serve as therapeutic, and in many cases, protective in nature to avoid soreness issues.
The proposed rules in their present form can be found at http://goo.gl/hpZobf.
Presently the USHPA working group is asking USDA to modify section 11.2 to read: "The use of the following devices, equipment, or practices is specifically prohibited with respect to any Tennessee Walking Horse, Racking Horse, or Spotted Saddlehorses, that performs with a gait that raises concerns about soring at any horse show, horse exhibition, horse sale, or horse auction, except breeds governed by the U.S Equestrian Federation, the National Governing Body for Equestrian Sports pursuant to the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, 36 U.S.C. Sec. 220501 et seq., and the United States Olympic Committee."
In talking to our national elected leaders and USDA we stress the point that our breed has never been sanctioned by the USDA for violation of the USHPA and therefore doesn't need to be burdened at this time by the Walking Horse industries lack of self-regulation. In addition, remember to stress the economic impact our breed and your farms bring to the community. The USDA is taking written statements and verbal statements at hearings around the country regarding these proposed regulations until September 25, 2016. Information on these "Listening Meetings" can be found at the link above.
The Arabian Horse Association has always placed the welfare of our horses as paramount and is known for self-regulation!