"Today, Tennessee Walking Horses are known throughout the industry
as the breed that shows abused and tortured horses."

~ Jim Heird, Ph.D., Do Right By The Horse, February 2010

"If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity,
you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men."

~ St. Francis of Assisi

Sunday, May 23, 2010

RESEARCH - True Stories of Soring

Since there isn't much action on the soring front right now (well, besides the fact that no, the practice has not ended and yes, it is still rampant), I'm posting some info here from my website. Some good reading to chew on.

True Stories of Soring

Since the USDA attended the 2006 Celebration and the horses were disqualified from classes, I have recieved a lot of emails from folks who have been "coming out of the woodwork," so to say, and speaking out against soring and telling me what they've witnessed. I think the USDA's actions have motivated people to stand up and talk and to tell stories about what has really been going on behind the government's back. Here are the stories I've received, and I hope they enlighten you as a reader to understand why soring still exists and why it must end.

Permission to reprint granted by the authors of the emails I received. Although names have been changed for protection purposes, the emails have only been edited for grammar and none of the content has been changed.

First email received from "Joy" in Kentucky, Wednesday, September 6, 2006
Thank you so much for your anti-soring support. I agree with you totally that the "Big Lick" shoudl be no more. It's sad to see them that way and I for one will not watch them. I have tried to show in pleasure classes for the past four years and have gotten so put out with the abuse and soring of these beautiful animals that I cannot stand to go anymore because I feel like I am supporting them every time I pay the fees to show. Even in the pleasure classes horses are sored really bad, and if you watch the spotted or racking classes you'll see a "lot" of them squatting down in back as if on big pads because they are sored so bad. The DQPs are useless. Most of them are trainers and show themselves, so I believe they trade off favors at shows and let the soring through. It's very sickening.

I've paid a small forture for "regulation" show clothes and saddles and such to abide by the rules, but I've found there are few of us abiding by the rules and few of us with a heart in us. I'm giving up showing because I can't handle the soring any longer, nor the favors rom the judges and DQPs, the buyouts, and the arguments. You can find a "real fight" at about any Walking Horse show anytime. Sad!

There is no fun in it. I thought I would enjoy showing off the beautiful natural walking stride of my horse, but as it turns out, nobody wants to see that. I've been urged so many times to "just try a little on him" to get more action.

Well, sorry you got me on a bandwagon and I'm made about what's happening with our horses. I'm so happy somebody did something about it at the "big show." It's about time. I would love to shake his/her (their) hands and give a big hug for doing something wonderful to protect the horses. I hope and pray they will go forward with this.

Second email from Joy in Kentucky, Thursday, September 7, 2006
Thanks for giving me the website information to contact the USDA. I definitely will let them know I support what they are doing and sincerely hope they continue to move forward.

I have considered showing at other shows, and I may just do that, but I have some work ahead of me. Unfortunately, I bought a beautiful spotted saddle horse that is triple registered (TWH, Racking, Spotted) and found out later that from day one of someone being on his back, he had been sored with extra heavy (illegal weighted) shoes, and therefore, when I put him in regular keg shoes and no soring, "surprise!"--all he can do is pace. When I considered buying him, I had no idea he had illegal weighted shoes on, and I surely didn't know he had been sored all his riding life. Other than being very "showy" and seeming to be very spirited, I thought he rode very well. No wonder he picked his front feet up so high--he was sore. Honestly, if I had known all this before, I probably wouldn't have bought him. Or then again, maybe I would have just to save him from future abuse. I found out the hard way that most Spotted Saddle Horses today were bred to pace, then shod and sored to show. I found out real quick what the "show" world was like.

But I'm not giving up on him. I'm slowly trying to work with him to get him to walk normally and comfortably for him and me, and I've taken the extremely harsh bits from his mouth. I also found out much later that his tongue had been tied in the past and it had nearly cut his tongue off. I wondered why his mouth was so tender, and now I know. I know it's going to take time and he might never walk as smoothly as my other naturally gaited Walking Horses, but at least he will be happy and comfortable.

Excerpt from third email from Joy in Kentucky, Monday, September 11, 2006
Sometimes we get a judge that has several of their own horses showing in several classes. Now isn't that fair and impartial judging! Sometimes it's a real joke, but not for us that drive far and pay lots of fees to show.

The following emails are corresponsdence sent to me by "DeeDee" in Tennessee, a woman who bought a Big Lick horse and chooses NOT to sore it. However, the horse already has scarring, and her horse has been disqualified because of the scars. The woman contacted USDA and FOSH to find out more information.

Email written by DeeDee, as written to the USDA and sent to them May 17, 2006
I am in deep concern over the new scar rule. I am an owner of six horses: one padded, the rest all pleasure. I am deeply against the soring of the walking horse and realize this has gone on for many, many years and needs to be stopped.

I recently purchased a walking horse from a vet-approved and inspected auction in Shelbyville. We felt confident since they had been inspected. We bought a beautiful padded black Walking horse. After several weeks of riding we decided to go to a horse show, the first being The Walking Horse Breeders Association. We went through a DQP inspection and passed. There were many horses squatting to the ground and one fell over right in front of the DQP inspection. It was obvious this horse was in pain.

The next weekend we went to a Charity Horse Show and was turned down in inspection to a scar rule but was not written up. The guy explained what a scar was and we told him this horse had been inspected by a vet a few weeks ago with no problem. He said he was sorry but he was not there at that auction. He gave us a scar rule book. After walking off being very disappointed, we had several Walking horse trainers and other people come up to us and tell us what we needed to do to get rid of any scars. We asked about all the horses that were squatting and flinching why there are not be disqualified. They said they are mostly looking at the scar rule. I was amazed at how this must be a regular thing for them. I can tell you now with the exception of putting Vasoline or hoof flex we will not do this to get rid of scars. As for the inspection, there were many horses not being disquailified for pain or flinching nor was there a rope up to keep inspected horse there so people could not doctor them up before going into the ring. They all went back to there horse trailers.

If you cannot do a test for chemicals, keep people in the area, or even disqualify for pain, why in the world would you disqualify for scars? Where was the test for chemicals (sniffer test)? This has to be structured, with all the same rules with no in between. We all know the horse that is squatting is in pain now. There is going to be a lot of horses available that need good homes when this is done correctly; homes that will no longer cause pain or sore. Do not punish the good people that have gotten these horses for scars of the past from bad trainers. There has got to be a way to make pictures, x-ray or vet observations that are documented to new owners so they can show these horses the right way. There needs to be a way this can be allowed to turn this around into a good situation. If you don't, you are going to have more problems of horses just being discarded in one form or another. The USDA/APHIS can be assured they will be responsible now for more trainers using more abusive chemicals and burning scars off more frequently to get thru DQPs. This in turn will make them also responsible for the horse that has to be put down or permanently damaged even more.

This needs to be handled a better way. Why can't you take points off for horses that are squatting? We all know, again, this is not natural and never will be. A horse that is not in pain will not squat. Would this just be too easy. Would the government not get their money, or what is the deal? Are you afraid of taking money out of the big trainers and barns, but it's okay to disqualify the people who truly love these animals? I could pay $400 a month and go to any barn and get the scars and the squatting done for a price. I choose not to do this. My new horse that they say has scars does not squat and does not have any pain. We can pick, prod and do anything to his feet and I want to keep it this way. I would do a sniffer test anytime because my horse is chemical free. But I feel you, the USDA/APHIS, have only forced the sorers to be more sneaky and to use more abusive behavior. Is this a way that the USDA/APHIS can force out the little people and only the big barns and trainers stay in by knowing how to get around this? It sure is looking that way to me by the so-called “disqualification check.”

I have been a personal trainer for all ages of people, 10 years to seniors, for over 20 years, and I know about shortcuts. I can tell immediately when someone is on steroids. It is out there, just like soring. I don't care how much testing is going on, there are always ways with enough money to get around this. I know—I see kids at age 14 getting on steroids to get ahead. We, the public, the money and admiration of the big huge bodybuilders and great athletes, have created this. We have created a monster. The money in this is huge and is why this will not change. Please do not let this continue in the Walking Horse industry. We have got to punish the ones responsible, not the ones who are trying to make it better. Do not again let the dollar put you in the wrong direction.

Due to the high volume of emails they receive, the USDA deferred DeeDee’s email to FOSH, and it was answered by Keith Dane, the FOSH USDA Liasion. DeeDee had not included her name, so Keith requested her name and she gave it to him.

Email received from Kevin Dale, FOSH USDA Liasion, as sent to DeeDee on July 5, 2006
Thanks for getting back to me. FOSH does not typically respond to requests for its position on a particular issue from folks who are not willing to disclose their identities. Unless someone wishes to anonymously report a case of abuse, or of witnessing a violation of the HPA, it is not prudent for us to respond to unnamed questioners, as it has been our experience that sometimes such persons may plan to use our responses to our detriment.

The head of USDA's Horse Protection Program (the APHIS program responsible for administering the Act) is Dr. Todd Behre. His email address is todd.h.behre@aphis.usda.gov. The Deputy Administrator for Animal Care is Dr. Chester Gipson, whose email address is Chester.A.Gipson@aphis.usda.gov. These two gentlemen would be the best USDA personnel to address your concerns to.

Briefly, in response to your email: FOSH supports full enforcement of the HPA and its regulations, including the scar rule. There is no "new scar rule"; the current one has been in place for decades, although its enforcement may have been erratic in the past. Although a scarred horse may not currently be in pain, it was in just as much pain when the scarring occurred, as a horse that is currently suffering from the effects of soring. The scar rule was intended to help stop the soring of horses by eliminating scarred horses from competition.

We are not aware of any project or plans to change any elements of the HPA or the scar rule.

While it is certainly unfortunate that you were sold a horse that is ineligible for competition, there is no way to know who originally caused the scars and apply the scar rule only to that individual. All owners must know and understand the scar rule and be cautious when buying any show horse.

We welcome you to bring your sound, Lite Shod pleasure horses to one of our FOSH shows and experience an environment free of soring and abuse, where natural Tennessee Walking Horses are rewarded for performing the original, signature gait of the breed.

Email sent to Kevin Dale, FOSH USDA Liasion, written by DeeDee on July 7, 2006
I appreciate your response and I totally identify your position on identities. I am aware of the threats that have been made to people trying to put an end to this abuse by horse owners or associations, some that have actually been carried out. So you have to appreciate my request not to identify myself and keep it on a first name basis.

Would you comment on the previous things I have asked? I realize this is your opinion, just as this is mine. I would just like some input on what you think about some of my ideas and concerns. I know the rules are as they are and I bought a horse that was inspected by a approved vet who stated that the horse was sound. So now it is my problem, and obviously there will be a lot of other people’s problem also, with the so-called vet approvals at sales. There are lot of other people that think the same thoughts as I do and would like to know a real answer or opinion from FOSH also. If new owners are going to be punished for saving a horse and nothing can be done about that, then why can we not change the way a judge rules to stop this now and for all? This would be a much simpler rule for everyone. This would also fix one of our major problems. Everyone that knows about the real Walking Horse knows that a sore horse is squatting, no questions asked. Is it fair for a horse that has been whipped, beaten, burned or whatever extreme way they use to make a horse not move while his feet are being handled to be able to show? Or how about the horses being sprayed with numbing agent, etc. to pass inspection and win because the trainer is an chemist and knows what to do? After all, the sniffer test is only at a few inspections, so what about the rest? And guess what, I predict that being the chemists they are they will learn a way, a new soring agent or lubricant of some sort, that will soon not be detected by the sniffer as an opposed agent, just like the steriod testing now.

If the one rule was changed to count points against the horse that is squatting, it would change everything. I know that a horse that has been sored will eventually not squat if the abuse is stopped. No longer would the abuse be done because the squatting horses would not win, and there goes the chemicals used to sore the horses, there goes the beating, burning, etc. that the horses get for moving when there feet are being handled, there goes a lot of horses with severe rotation and lameness for being sored and pressure shod. Then the trainers would actually be on an even playing field and have to work for their money; no longer could they sore as an shortcut to win.

Is this not what we want, horse abuse stopped bottom line, or is there another reason that I keep missing? Is it about the fees that are being paid for fines, etc., the profit and economy of the Walking Horse industry? I think if the rules are changed and we can somehow get back to real training only, everyone would be on the same playing field. Then the big barns, trainers, etc. will still make money but only after the judging is changed will it work. Again I will point out: anyone can go to any (padded) training barn and have scars removed for a price and with pain for the horse. I could do that to mine if I choose to. So the scar rule does not work. Anyone with money can go and have this taken care of, If you have big money like some barns do, you can go and have them lasered off. So tell me how this rule helps except to put another horse thru more agony? Again I will point out that my horse or anyone else's horse can be eligible for competition with a fee for removing the scars at anytime. So the Scar rule will push some people to do this, people that would not have normally done this without the scar rule. I don't understand this to be a help; tell me how this helps. I'm sure maybe at the time it might have been a good idea, until they figured out how to fix this. But when something doesn't work anymore or makes it worse, its time to change something or make a new rule.

I realize I am babbling on, but I have been trying to get a response from someone for awhile and everyone seems to avoid this subject or are scared to answer. I am just wanting an honest opinion; it is only your opinion. What you know that is fact is fine, but I am interested in what FOSH's opinion is on what is being done right now. We know the things being done now are not working. We know the same horses are being shown over and over again that have gotten violations but now have a different owner or rider. We know the top horses that have won in the big shows have violations that have been held up in court for many years that still have there placing keep pulling in the rewards from that horse. They can afford a $1,000 - $5,000 violation when they are pulling in thousands to millions of dollars on that horse. If they have to disqualify a trainer, there's always another one handy to fill his spot. We know large sums of money and fines are being paid, but the horses are still being awarded and ridden over and over again but with a new owner, trainer, etc. Maybe you have your own opinion or idea about how to fix this problem. I would love to know your thoughts or anyone else’s.

Also, what do you or FOSH think about my idea of changing the ruling on squatting? Do you think it is a good or bad idea? Let me know your thoughts or maybe a better idea. Thanks.

Email sent to Dr. Todd Behre and Dr. Chester Gipson of the USDA as per Kevin Dale’s suggestion, written by DeeDee on July 7, 2006 with the above email included
Please let me know of your opinions on this matter. So far it looks like nothing will ever change with the rules we have. I can predict 5, 10, 20 years from now the sored horses will still be out there with what we are doing now, even with the scar rule and the soring violation. There is going to have to be another direction if you really want this to change. We are dealing with the best chemists in the industry. It's time to go in another path and get to the route of the problem if this is really what HPA and the USDA want. If it's not, then I suggest you, me and everyone else just keep doing what they are doing and pretend this is fixing the problem. My ideas may not be the answer, but surely there is someone who has a better and different direction than we are going.

Dr. Behre’s response to DeeDee, sent to her on July 10, 2006 (Dr. Behre also asked how the USDA is influencing people to abuse horses)
If judges stopped rewarding riders with sore horses, soring would probably go away, as the tenet of fairness of competition and its impact on commerce are mentioned again and again in the [Horse Protection] Act. Neither the Act nor the regulations grant USDA any enforcement criteria or control over how horses are judged. Thank you for trying to do your part to help all of us find ways to eliminate the practice of soring. I appreciate your correspondence.

Excerpt from DeeDee’s response to Dr. Behre sent on July 17, 2006
In reference to the other matter of the USDA influence to abuse horses again I will explain my reasoning. The only way I can explain this is by example to make you understand. Anyone who is part of the horse shows now know it has become more apparent in the last year that you cannot have scars. This is a two-fold problem: 1. Now large training barns and trainers are not only soring a horse, they have to remove the scar tissue with acid on a regular basic to keep from getting violations. This is now an even more abusive situation because removing scar tissue is even more painful than soring, and it is being done much more often to the horse now to get by inspections. 2. A new problem now is you have innocent people buying previously sored horses who know nothing about soring or removing scars, and they are finding out they cannot even show without doing the deed. So now you have new people that never would have put acid on a scar before now doing it so they can even compete. We now have a multitude of additional abuses that would have not been done without the scar rule inspections.

Again, I am against this, but this system is not working. Don't keep adding to the problem go to the bulk of the problem. The reason why they sore them is to make them squat and lift the legs; try putting acid, etc. on your one foot and see if you want to put your weight on this. Let’s let them be a natural horse and let them put their weight where it should be: on the front. Why keep going in the direction when it is not working? This again would take out all of the items listed below if just one thing was changed. If you say you (USDA) can't change rules or change the judging process, then disqualify them for squatting. Again, I really believe this is a lost cause because it is actually controlled by the doctors, lawyers, large corporations and all the politics involved to make a change. All pockets have got to be padded to make this work and even though I would like to think this is a fair, honest and genuine way to go, in reality I am kidding myself.

I might be wrong, but the bottom line is this: if you, the USDA, changed a rule or disqualified person who had horses that were squatting, the problems listed below would be put to a end. I think this is worth looking into, but I'm sure I do not have the money it would take to look in to this idea because no one would be making money on this idea and therefore no one’s pockets would be padded. So I am sure this is a very simple and silly solution to the problem to do away with all the problems below.

1. Soring in whatever form it has been.
2. Removal of scar tissue over and over again.
3. Golf balls, screws, nails, toe filing and anything else they do to make them step out for pressure shoeing.
4. Excessive cases of founder and acute lameness.

DeeDee contacted me concerning her frustration in not getting a straight answer to her questions. I am working with her to fix this problem as I think they are misunderstanding her and vice versa.

Email from DeeDee to me, sent September 7, 2006
Andrea, Thanks for emailing me back. It's good to not be alone and know others feel as I do....
I am going to ask a simple question again but maybe you can tell me why this hasn't been approached. As I stated to Todd at the USDA, why can't we stop all this backwards way of solving this by getting the rules changed? We all know a horse sitting on his butt is getting away from the pain in whatever form. Why can't we change a rule that would give major points away for squatting in the backend? This is a totally unnatural way of moving that is well known, we all know a horse is made to carry his weight on his front. They would not squat unless they are in pain.

I have had walking horses for over 35 years. I have had many natural horses, not padded, horses that I padded without soring, and now I have a horse that was padded from a big barn that was squatting when I got it. The only horse out of all of the above horses that squatted was the horse that has scars on his legs from soring. I have many other people I know at barns that sore and don't sore and you can tell the difference.

The pressure shoeing is the thing now. I am very worried; I have a rescue horse at my barn that has been pressure shod and was put through a Walking Horse circuit. This horse was only 2 when we got it and it was already lame. All the vets said to put it down with a severe rotation. We put the horse on to barefoot shoeing to save it. This procedure has worked, thank goodness.

I have many major problems with the way we are going on inspecting horses. I have been in many shows along with my husband. I have the Lite Shod horse now and he has the padded horse. I do not have to worry or never have had to worry about any inspection on my horse because I have never done anything to him. My husband, on the other hand, has been to some of the bigger shows, and when we first got the horse he was awesome. We had people lining up where we went, trainers and their associates telling us what an awesome horse we had. We won several shows then, when there were not any inspectors at first at those shows. Then we went to some others from the Breeders Association; we were turned down but not written up at one and not turned down at another show....

We went to a Lutheran Big Show and he [the horse] was turned down there but not written up. That was a really weird inspection. All the horses are supposed to stay in a designated area after being inspected, but they were going back to their trailers before going in. We saw horses jump and move and all kinds of things and they were allowed to show. I have never seen a judge before go out and pull someone out of the practice ring and tell them to come over and get inspected till I saw it happen to my husband. We had a lot of people eyeballing our horse, and someone had even come over and offer us a large sum of money for our horse while he was in the ring. I turned him down and told him we had just gotten our horse. After pulling him out they told him he was disqualified after a few minutes. After walking away, we had at least 3 other trainers come over and tell us how to take the scars off with acid. One even walked us over to tell us how to hide the scars and what to do.

My point is, anyone can get the scars off if they want to abuse them more. It is a regular way of life, along with the daily regimen of applying burn cream and lubricants to keep it soft by trainers. I will tell you there was a great political thing going on at that show; we were a simple single-owner barn, a nobody, and they wanted our good horse out of the competition. The horse was so pretty, he would have had a great showing and have been hard to beat. That was then. We sat down and talked a lot about the system as we watched horse after horse in other shows be allowed with obvious problems of soring or pressure shoeing and realized it is a bogus front. If your in with the right trainers, you get in no matter what condition your horse is in. Although, I did see one show with the USDA there and it was different and several horses were written up.

We took our horse to get reset with new shoes the second time. The farrier showed us a very small tack that was attached to the bottom of the pad. He said a lot of trainers in Shelbyville use this and if the shoe is pulled off they just say it to help hold the pad on and secure it. This little nail is just enough to make them a little sore when they go at a powerful rate. We took it off. We noticed a pretty big difference now 12 weeks later without soring and without that little nail. The horse still will come in 3rd or 4th sometimes because of it's natural beauty, power but not because of the height of his step. You can pinch, poke, or do anything now to the horses feet and he is not sore but he does have the scar from the abuse before we received him. We would like to show him not in a non padded show but due to the scar rule we will probably not be able to unless we remove the scars. Old scars do not mean they are sore, but he was sore when we got him.

We have since taken this horse off his pads. We were faced with the decision to sore, pressure shoe, remove the scars with acid, and all the other procedures in order to show and be able to be competitive. We chose not to. Believe me, it was a hard decision because he is such a great horse and he could really be up there if we did. We had several barns and trainers wanting to take him in and fix him up. I can see why some people do this to compete, they are out of this division if you don't. Well, at lease if you want to place. We made the right decision and he is a much happier horse.

Email from DeeDee to me, sent September 7, 2006
The problem now is pressure shoeing. There is an overgrowth of this now because of the sniffer test. You can pressure shoe a horse about 8 different ways that are undetectable to the inspectors. I have a friend that has a padded and I know the horse is pressure shod and is never disqualified. We are creating a monster now with the soring rule or scar rule; they will just switch over to all pressure shoeing once this is totally enforced. Unless they come up with a way to test this; the shoe has to come off and apart to test this and be sure. Pressure shoeing is even more deadly and causes more lameness than even the soring.

The other problem is that in the future, when the scar rule is upheld and they cannot get their horses through inspections, two things are going to happen: 1. They are going to apply more acid to get rid of scars much more often, which in turn bring on more torture than ever. 2. The horses that have too much scar or they don't won't to fool with will end up auctions, slaughtered or just ignored and starved. We will then have an abundance of horses we don't know what to do with.

I think there needs to be a way to document a horse you buy. I really don't know how, but the good people like us that want to save these horses from their abuse and show them are being punished for the abusers’ wrath. We need to find a way to help these horses. The horse we have that was sored loves to show and is full of energy. He needs to be able to do this. There has got to be a way to document this. I think owners would pay to have this documented somehow on their own to do this to prove they are not sore anymore and agree not to pad them.

I would let anyone examine our horse that use to be padded for any pain anywhere. The funny thing about the horse we bought is that it was at Sand Farm, and they had vets there inspecting all horses. We felt we were covered. Guess what: the farm is in violation now and has a two year suspension, but it did not start until September even though they were written up long before. Not only that, the rule [states] that no one is allowed to sell a horse that is in violation. The owner or seller was in violation also; his name was Groover. So, we had a barn [that was] in violations and a seller in violations. No wonder non of the NSHC rules applied to anything they did. The rules do not apply or work.

Email from DeeDee to me, sent September 11, 2006, after she attended the USDA Listening Session in Tennessee
Just wanted you to know I went to the listening session today. I thought I would be in a room of least half and half. I realized after my speech I was surrounded by trainers and breeders that were very unhappy with the inspection process and especially unhappy with what I had to say and [my] exposé about some of the trainers. I am sure you will be able to read this soon on the APHIS website. Just thought I would let you know, there was only me and maybe two others speaking out on the abuse. The rest were united together on being against the new HPA violations.

Please encourage others to step up and speak out about the things they have witnessed. This is what it is going to take; we are a small army going up against power, money and unity, and it will take all of us to stand up to them. I don't care if they all stay and show if they will just change their ways.

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