Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Walking Horse Celebration: Humane Society (HSUS) Proposal Calls for Biggest Show to Ban Pad Stacks, Use Independent Veterinarians and Farriers to Inspect for Soring

A proposal from The Humane Society of the United States was made public today; it calls for 20 percent of the horses at the Walking Horse Celebration to have their shoes pulled for inspection by independent  veterinarians and farriers recommended by the AAEP and AFA, respectively. (USDA file photo)
The following proposal has been put forward by The Humane Society of the United States ("HSUS") for soring detection at the upcoming Walking Horse National Celebration in Tennessee. The key points of the proposal are published as an excerpt from the original document from HSUS:

With just weeks left before the 2012 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, Tennessee, The Humane Society of the United States is calling on industry organizers to implement five key changes that would help protect horses and restore the credibility of the walking horse industry.

The HSUS called for the following five reforms:

1. FOR THE HORSE: Eliminate horses from competition, and from any property owned, leased or used by Celebration, Inc. if there is evidence of the application of one of several common soring techniques, including the use of all stacks, action devices or bands; the use of shoes weighing more than two pounds; the use of tail braces which require the tail to be cut; and the riding of two year olds under saddle.

2. FOR THE INTEGRITY OF THE PROCESS: Exclude any show officials from participation (including judges, DQPs, veterinarians, farriers) who have personally been cited for an HPA violation within the past five years.

3. FOR THE HONOR OF THE SPORT: Rescind the title, prizes and other awards of any entry that has been found to be in violation of the HPA (including the use of prohibited foreign substances) following his/her performance.

The HSUS proposal calls for no horse to be allowed to compete in the Celebration if it is shod with a "stack" or band, both of which are shown in this photo of a recently shod Walking horse. The AAEP and AVMA recently identified both as playing a role in soring. This horse was shod under veterinary supervision and had no other equipment or treatment than the banded stacks. (Photo © Hoofcare Publishing)

4. FOR THE CONFIDENCE OF THE PUBLIC: In addition to the inspection procedures required by USDA regulations, randomly pull the shoes of at least 20 percent of all entries throughout the show, and of the top two placing horses in every championship class, examine the horses’ hooves for evidence of intentional soring.

This examination should be overseen by a licensed veterinarian recommended by American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) and a farrier recommended by the American Farriers Association (AFA), neither of whom have any ties to the Tennessee walking horse industry nor any history of HPA violations.

In any case in which soring of the hoof is suspected, disqualify the horse, rider and trainer until such time as a final determination is made as to whether the HPA has been violated.

5. FOR TRANSPARENCY of CHANGE: Prohibit the use of all stall drapes, or other materials designed to prevent visual inspection of property owned, leased or used by Celebration, Inc. on which horses or other personal property are held or kept during the event.

The HSUS sent the list of key needed reforms in a letter to the Celebration’s board of directors nearly one month ago, and the Board has not yet responded.

(end of quoted text)

Walking horses haven't always worn
stacks and bands.
Before publishing these points, Hoofcare Publishing queried Tom Trosin, current president of the American Farrier's Association, to inquire about the role of the AFA in recommending farriers for this project and if the AFA endorsed this plan. Trosin said he was not aware of the plan and did not believe that the AFA had been contacted about it.

The HSUS proposal, if enacted, would require any Walking horse competing at the Celebration to be shod in a way that meets the HSUS recommendation. While the recommendation clearly states what it does not allow, it does not state what it would allow or how it recommends a Walking horse be shod for a show performance.

It also does not clarify who is to pull the shoes and replace them for the inspection by the independent vet and farrier, or who would pay for those services. Having shoes pulled and replaced during a show, or waiting for that service, would possibly prevent a horse from being able to compete in multiple classes, and would run into considerable expense.

The questions this proposal raises suggest that drastic changes might be a Pandora's Box that could backfire on the immediate well-being of the horses. If the horses are not stacked and banded, don't have other action devices, and are wearing lightweight shoes, would they be able to perform the way the audience would expect? Might the sudden removal of the pads--in the name of welfare--be construed as a deliberate act to make a horse unsound?

Reform is needed in the Walking horse show scene and change is possible. We have witnessed the uproar that shoeing regulations can cause with only minor adaptations in the past, including mere ounces of weight and fractional inches of pad height in breeds like the Arabian.

If change is to be realized, a gradual reduction in stack height and firm definitions of shoeing parameters might be a gentler road for insuring the safety and well-being of the horse during the transition, unless the HSUS goal is to simply exclude horses that perform in padded shoes from being entered in the Celebration. Logic suggests that padded horses would probably just show somewhere else that week.

This video from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is a reminder about what soring is and the history of the American Horse Protection Act and its enforcement.

Congratulations to HSUS and all organizations who are concerned about the welfare of the Walking horse at horse shows and actively seeking to reform the way that Walking horses have been abused.

Read the full letter from HSUS to the Celebration.

To learn more, click on these links:

Tennessee Walking Horse Pastern Action Devices and Hoof Pads Ban Endorsed by AVMA, AAEP; Vets' Joint Memo States Devices Are Part of Soring Practices

ABC News / HSUS Tennessee Walking Horse Expose Brings Soring Case to National Attention

AVMA, AAEP Soring Policies Place Veterinarians on the Side and at the Side of USDA Inspectors at Tennessee Walking Horse Events

Walking Horse Celebration Shuts Down Over Soring Inspector Issues (2006)

Mechanics of Shoeing Gaited Horses (book) by J. Scott Simpson

The subject of soring has been covered extensively on the Hoof Blog since 2005. Type "soring" into the blog search box at top right for a full menu of articles and to read the evolution of this issue.

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