A Shadow Over the Horse Show Industry

The image of a graceful horse, hooves pawing the ground in a high-stepping gait, is often associated with elegance and athleticism. However, behind the scenes of certain horse shows, a cruel and illegal practice known as “soring” persists, inflicting immense suffering on these majestic creatures.

What is Soring?

Soring involves the intentional infliction of pain on a horse’s hooves and limbs to achieve an exaggerated gait called the “Big Lick.” This gait is characterized by the horse’s front legs reaching an unnatural height and its hind legs stepping excessively deep underneath itself, creating a high-stepping, almost prancing movement.

To achieve this unnatural gait, perpetrators employ various cruel methods, including:

  • Applying caustic substances: Applying chemical agents like blisters or irritants to the horse’s legs, causing extreme pain and inflammation.
  • Action devices: Using chains, weighted shoes, or other contraptions to exacerbate pain and force the unnatural hoof movement.
  • Overtraining: Subjecting horses to excessive training routines, often on hard surfaces, to condition them to endure the pain and perform the “Big Lick.”

The Impact of Soring:

The consequences of soring are severe and deeply detrimental to the horse’s well-being. These practices cause immense physical and psychological suffering, leading to:

  • Chronic pain and lameness: The intentional infliction of pain through soring methods damages muscles, tendons, and ligaments, resulting in lasting pain and difficulty walking.
  • Psychological trauma: The constant fear and stress associated with the abuse can cause anxiety, depression, and learned helplessness in the horses.
  • Open wounds and infections: The use of caustic substances often leads to open wounds and infections, further jeopardizing the horse’s health.

Combating Soring:

Soring is illegal in the United States under the Horse Protection Act of 1970. However, the practice continues to exist due to a combination of factors, including:

  • Weak enforcement: Insufficient resources and loopholes in the law make it difficult to effectively enforce the ban.
  • Financial incentives: Shows rewarding the “Big Lick” gait create a financial incentive for some trainers to resort to soring.

What We Can Do:

Despite the challenges, there are ways to combat soring and protect these magnificent creatures:

  • Educate yourself and others: Raising awareness about the cruelty of soring and its detrimental effect on horses is crucial.
  • Support organizations fighting soring: Organizations like the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and The Humane Society of the United States work tirelessly to eradicate this practice. Donate, volunteer, or spread their message.
  • Advocate for stricter enforcement: Contact your local representatives and urge them to support stricter legislation and stricter enforcement of existing laws against horse soring.
  • Choose your entertainment wisely: Avoid attending horse shows that promote or reward the “Big Lick” gait.

By taking these steps, we can work towards a future where these majestic creatures are treated with respect and compassion, and the cruel practice of soring becomes a relic of the past. Remember, every voice matters in this fight against animal cruelty.