An example of a horse that has been sored.
Soring is a process of intentionally causing pain to a horse's front legs and hoofs to enhance a gaited horse's gait for the show ring. Soring is illegal and inhumane.
Good Movies on the Subject...
See It Through My Eyes won its creators the coveted Gold Award from the Girl Scouts of America. The DVD was produced by three senior Girl Scouts in Franklinville, New York. The Gold Award is the highest nationally recognized award a Girl Scout can earn.
Yes, soring has been federally illegal since the Horse Protection Act (HPA) was first passed in 1970. More information is available on the USDA website, which is the agency tasked with enforcing this Act.
Is Soring Still Done Today?
Yes, there have been over 1,000 suspensions issued for violations to the Horse Protection Act in the last 12 months. Sadly, these are only the people who have been caught at inspection stations at shows and sales.
The USDA operates on very minimal funding for this enforcement, and can only afford to attend under 10% of the shows where Tennessee Walkers and other gaited breeds are exhibited. They have tasked 11 other "Horse Industry Organizations" (HIOs) to inspect shows in their absence. Unfortunately, the HIOs that hold the largest "performance" shows (performance in this industry means padded and plantation shod Tennessee Walking horses) where soring is prevalent don't do a very effective job of self-inspection: they write 8x to 22x more tickets when the USDA is present auditing their inspections than when they are not present.
If the USDA could afford to inspect 100% of the Tennessee Walking Horse shows, the total Horse Protection Act violations could be as high as 10,000 or 20,000 per year!
FOSH tracks all of the soring suspension data, and issues press releases to keep the public eye on the issue. For more information on this, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
How Do People Sore Horses?
A variety of cruel and devious methods are used to sore horses. They can include painting caustic chemicals on the horse's pasterns, such as diesel fuel, kerosene, mustard oil, etc., and then wrapping the legs in plastic wrap with leg wraps over the top so the chemicals can "cook" into the flesh. Injections of harmful chemicals and drugs are also made into the horse's pastern area above the hoof using hypodermic syringes.
Mechanical means such as pressure shoeing involve putting a foreign object, such as a screw or bolt, or half of a golf ball, against both of the horse's front hoof soles, and then shoeing with a pad and horse show over the object. Each time the horse steps or puts weight on that hoof, it causes pain. Pressure shoeing also involves cutting a horse's hoof wall and sole down to the quick, where it starts to bleed, and then nailing a shoe over that surface. This makes a very tender hoof that is sore again each time pressure from the animals' weight.
The book " From the Horse's Mouth ," written by a FOSH member, is a novel detailing the methods and results of soring. (available on the FOSH web site.)
How is Soring Detected?
At horse shows, the USDA inspectors use a combination of palpation (pressure on the horse's pastern to see if the animal flinches in pain) with observation of the movement of the horse, and more technical methods of gas chromography (or the "sniffer") to detect foreign substances, and thermography (to check for heat from pain.)
HIO DQPs (trained inspectors) usually use observation and palpation.
Pressure shoeing is difficult to detect without pulling the shoe and using hoof testers.
Scar rule violations are detected by observation, and feeling the pastern skin.
FOSH is opposed to soring. FOSH is also opposed to the style of performance shoeing called "Big Lick" or "Padded." Chains, called "action devices" are put on the horse's pasterns to cause more percussion against the pastern, which might be sensitive from soring. This is the style of classes where the highest incidences of soring are found. However, now some "Flat Shod" exhibitors and trainers are also using soring to enhance their horse's gait for the show ring.
Look at the movement in these videos available at the web sites:
What Can I Do to Help End Soring?
Horse Protection Act Listening Sessions Presentation
This is a large (approximately 28MB) Presentation. The file should be saved to your local computer before opening it.
This is a PowerPoint presentation. If you don't have a copy of PowerPoint, you'll need to download the PowerPoint viewer from Microsoft.
NOTE: This information is from the USDA website. http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ac/hpainfo.html.
Below are a few of the slides from the presentation, click to enlarge.