Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee is one of the more despicable TEA party Republicans in Congress. Her fellow Republican Representative, Ed Whitfield of Kentucky, has introduced a bill named Prevent All Soring Tactics, or PAST, which would outlaw all methods of “soring,” which is a practice employed by many trainers of Tennessee Walking Horses to force the animals to raise their forelegs high in the gait which is desired in competition.
There are already laws on the books which make it illegal to use chemical agents to achieve the desired results. The practice employs corrosive chemicals to create sores on the horses’ ankles which are then wrapped with chains to irritate the sores, causing the horse to raise its feet high while walking. Breeders and trainers are known to routinely ignore those laws.
Whitfield’s bill would make all artificial means of inducing the horses to step high in the desired manner illegal, including weighted horseshoes, hoof bands and other devices. These devices are often used in conjunction with chemical soring.
The law would also require that inspections to prevent and uncover these practices be conducted by inspectors licensed and certified by the USDA. Currently the industry “self polices” and reports that it has an amazingly high compliance rate without outside interference. This is much like having the high school calculus class grade its own tests, everyone would ace every test.
Even after all of this evidence, Blackburn remained unconvinced of the necessity of the legislation. She claimed that the industry’s own inspections have shown that there is already a 97% compliance rate negating the need for any further regulation.
Former Tennessee Walking Horse world-champion competitor, Marty Irby also testified saying that he left the industry because he got tired of pretending that the abuses are not common practice but only something done by a few bad eggs.
He asked, “Should I continue to perpetuate the lie that the padded and chained performance Tennessee Walking Horses are mostly sound and a few bad [trainers] sore them, or should I recognize the truth: that all padded and chained Tennessee Walking Horses are either sore or have been sored?” He also told the Huffington Post that taking a stance against these abuses had cost him his career, his marriage and strained his relationship with his parents who are also involved in the industry.
Blackburn herself attended the celebration in 2013 and observed the inspections. Despite the heightened awareness due to her presence and the findings of 2012 there were still problems this year. A horse named Honors, who was the favorite, was referred to by many as the Michael Jordan of the industry but was disqualified early when inspectors found evidence of past soring on his legs. Two other ribbon winners were disqualified in the post performance inspections and stripped of their ribbons.
Both of the horses stripped of their ribbons belonged to Terry Dotson, who was at the time president of the Performance Show Horse Association (PSHA). The PSHA also hosted a campaign fundraiser for Blackburn while she was visiting, at which guests paid $100 per plate. Only a few days later Dotson resigned as president of the Association, most likely for completely unrelated reasons.
If you are squeamish be forewarned that the video below from the ABC expose has some very disturbing imagery of horses being violently abused.
h/t: Huffington Post