FOSH Supports Ban on Action Devices and Pads
Written by Friends of Sound Horses
Friends of Sound Horses (FOSH) announces that it will request that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) ban the use of action devices and pads in the exhibition of Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds. FOSH also encourages submission of comments to USDA by July 25 regarding penalty enforcement.
Statistics were analyzed from the past three years' data from shows that USDA Veterinary Medical Officers (VMOs) attended. Over those three years (2008, 2009 and 2010) the entries inspected averaged about 50% padded and 50% flat-shod horses. Thirty six percent of the padded horses inspected by the USDA had Horse Protection Act (HPA) violations, which was five times higher than that of flat-shod horses. Of the flat-shod horses the USDA inspected, 7% were in violation. Of the total violations reported, 90% of the violations were for padded horses while 10% of the violations were from flat-shod horses.
Soring is illegal under the Horse Protection Act (HPA) which was enacted in 1970 to eliminate soring in the horse show ring. Soring is the abusive practice of creating pain as a means of achieving a flashy gait in the Tennessee Walking Horse and other gaited horse breeds. Soring continues to be a common practice in some barns and showing venues and as the statistics bear out, especially in the padded horse show ring.
Submit Your Comments to USDA before July 25
On May 25, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted a proposed amendment to the Horse Protection Act (HPA) regulations which would require Horse Inspection Organizations (HIOs) to impose minimum mandatory penalties for HPA violations.
In its supporting document, the USDA states: “The proposed uniform penalty protocol may benefit the walking horse industry by:
- Helping to ensure more humane treatment of the horses;
- Reducing uncertainty about penalties for infractions of the Horse Protection Act;
- Enhancing the reputation and integrity of the walking horse industry;
- Providing for more fair competition at shows, which may positively impact attendance and regional economies; and
- Improving the value of the walking horse breeds”
If you want sound horses in the ring, these new rules are extremely important. At this time, four HIOs have refused to implement the mandatory penalties. The minimal penalties they are using are unconscionable. As an example, a trainer presenting a unilaterally sore horse for the third time under the proposed USDA rules would receive a six month year suspension. Under the previously mentioned four HIOs, the trainer only receives a two week suspension for the third unilaterally sored horse he brings up for DQP inspection. Further, those first two violations are not publicly reported, thus, TWH owners are in the dark as to the trainer’s actual reputation and violation record.
Please tell the USDA you are in favor of their proposed, mandated minimum penalties. Your comments may also include opinions on how these penalties may impact the industry; i.e., level the playing field for exhibitors with sound horses; sored horses in the ring negatively impact the Tennessee Walking Horse breed reputation, or economic advantages to mandatory penalties. Please feel free to mention the number of Walking Horses owned and showed and for how long, etc. Examples of comments: "As a Tennessee Walking Horse owner/breeder/exhibitor for XX years, I am in favor of the USDA mandated penalties." If you are in favor of a ban on action devices and pads, please note that in your comments also.
(For additional examples, please see below)
Please be aware the sore horse industry has gone all out to submit comments. They are opposed to the penalties because they feel the penalties will negatively impact the Tennessee Walking Horse industry/economy and that the USDA has been ruining their industry for years with over enforcement. They also feel the violations are too subjective. They are organizing a workshop to assist people in writing their responses and are providing computers and lunches to pull people in to ensure that they get the word out on how opposed they are to the penalties.
Please note the deadline is July 25. The website may get overloaded close to the deadline so please do not wait until July 25 to post a response.
To see the comments made to date. Click on each individual commentator’s name to see the comment.
Your real name need not be used when submitting a comment and no email address is requested. There is a time and character limit on comments so if you wish to file a lengthier response than 2000 characters or it takes you awhile to compose, it can be saved to a Word document and then attached to your comment or pasted into the Comment box.
I commend the USDA for setting forth minimum penalties for owners, trainers, managers, riders, custodians and sellers for HPA infractions. The USDA is following through on the mandate of Congress to take whatever action is necessary to enforce the HPA The current, self-regulating system with mild penalties has never worked. Enforcement of the HPA has been lacking among several HIOs. All HIOs should be on a level playing field when assigning penalties against those who sore horses.
It is imperative that the USDA step in and provide standards for HIOs that are unable to carry out their mission to protect the horse.
The USDA Penalty Protocol is necessary for HPA violators to realize the USDA will take serious action against those who sore horses and those who allow their horses to be sored.
The industry needs consistency and standards in the operations and inspections of all HIOs. For four HIOs (PRIDE, SHOW, KWHA and Heart of America) to not adhere to the USDA’s mandated penalties creates an economic disadvantage to those HIOs that are following USDA’s guidelines.
Trainers, owners and exhibitors flock to HIOs with weak penalties leaving the compliant HIOs hung out to dry with few exhibitors because they adhered to the stiffer USDA penalty structure. As a result, mandated penalties and a published record of penalties are a necessity in this industry if horse burners (also known as cheaters) are to be permanently put out of business.
Stronger penalties for scars must be imposed. Scars occur because of the use of caustic agents and action devices. Period. Soring a horse on Monday so he is compliant for Friday must stop. The horse may be compliant for the show ring on Friday, but he will eventually accumulate scars on his pasterns. After decades of use of caustic agents on horses, it is mind-blowing that the members of WHTA cannot figure out how to train a horse soundly, isn’t it?
The only time there is subjectivity in determining a scar rule violation is when the decision is in the hands of a rogue HIO that refuses to follow the processes and standards of the USDA.
The padded show horse industry has made it clear they cannot show soundly. The USDA has no choice but to disallow the use of action devices and pads. As stated above, a chain has no effect unless a caustic agent is used on the horse’s pastern, so why in the world should action devices be allowed?
Despite the padded industry’s claim that horses have never looked better, the inspections are still weak and there are still sored horses in show rings every weekend day and night.
Thank you APHIS for proposing minimum penalties and expanding the realm of individuals responsible for a sored horse being presented. This is a great first step towards stronger enforcement of the Horse Protection Act, saving the Tennessee Walking horse industry and leveling the playing field so that sound exhibitors can finally win a ribbon.
I fully support the USDA’s proposed minimum penalties for owners, exhibitors, custodians, trainers, managers and sellers that exhibit, train or transport sore horses. After forty years of the HPA, sored horses are exhibited in the show ring every weekend because noncompliant HIOs cannot self-regulate. If an HIO refuses to implement minimum penalties or any other USDA requirement, it should be decertified. The USDA must do what Congress mandated 40 years ago: enforce the HPA and permanently remove sore horses from the show ring.
I also fully support the ban on action devices and chains. The chained, padded horse cannot do a big lick unless it is sored by caustic agents to create a pain reaction with the chain. I commend the USDA for recognizing that fact and being willing to ban those devices and pads.
Many commentators claim the Walking Horse industry has declined because of the USDA. Nothing could be further from the truth. The industry has not been weakened by the USDA except for the USDA’s inability to enforce the law for 40 years. I cannot emphasize strongly enough that the USDA is NOT responsible for the decline of this breed. That sin belongs on the backs of horse sorers and those who look the other way.
In summary, if the penalties are fully enforced by the HIOs and USDA, the Walking Horse industry will grow and sound horse owners and exhibitors will return.
FOSH is a national leader in the promotion of natural, sound gaited horses and in the fight against abuse and soring of Tennessee Walking Horses. For more information about FOSH or to become a member, please visit www.fosh.info
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