Friday, August 08, 2008

As big event looms, veterinarians call for tougher rules to end soring of Tennessee walking horses

"The largest group of horse veterinarians on Thursday called for changes in regulating Tennessee walking horses to end the breed's 'culture of abuse'," Janet Patton reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. The American Association of Equine Practitioners called the soring of walking horses "one of the most significant welfare issues affecting any equine breed or discipline."

Soring is "the infliction of pain to create an extravagant or exaggerated gait in horses for training or show purposes," the vets' group said in a press release. The practice was outlawed in 1970, but continues, as "documented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s issuance of 103 competitor violations during the 2007 Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration, the industry’s championship event," the group said. The recommendations come as the industry is preparing for this year's show Aug. 20-30 in Shelbyville, Tenn.

The vets' group recommended that horse shows no longer use paid industry judges. Because of a very small budget, "Few shows are inspected by USDA veterinary medical officers," Patton notes. "The chances of a citation dramatically decrease when USDA vets are not present." The group said the industry should "pay for a new system of objective scientific inspections, similar to that employed by horse sports regulated by the U.S. Equestrian Federation."

The vets also called for drug testing at every competition, "development of objective methods to detect soring," creation of a single industry organization to set and enforce standards; and an examination of judging standards "so that the innate grace and beauty of the breed are valued instead of rewarding the currently manufactured exaggerated gait."

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