USDA issues new rule to protect horses from abusive practice of ‘soring’

Credit: Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images

Credit: Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images

A new government rule is expected to protect horses from an abusive and illegal practice known as soring.

Soring is done intentionally, mainly to Tennessee walking horses and related breeds, to modify their gait or the way they walk, for competition. Soring causes the horse to lift its front legs higher, called high-stepping, as it walks.

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The practice is achieved by mechanical or chemical means and causes the animal distress, physical pain, or lameness.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced changes to the Horse Protection Act, finalizing a rule to ban the gear includes stacks, which are tall weights attached to the front hooves, chains, which are used on the horse's ankles, and other devices.

The rule will also require inspectors to receive training and licensing through the USDA, instead of through the industry, which had then been tasked with policing it.

The president of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, praised the decision.

“Hurting horses so severely for mere entertainment is disgraceful, and I put this abuse in the same category as dogfighting or cockfighting, “ Pacelle said.

But industry leaders have vowed to fight the new rule, saying the use of chemicals in soring a horse is already illegal, and gear like hoof pads and chains don’t hurt the horses.