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The Appalling Practice of Soring

Updated on June 30, 2016

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If you are as much of an animal lover as I am, you will find this topic particularly upsetting especially if this is the first time you are reading or hearing about it. This article is about the procedure of horse soring.

Soring is a common and widespread practice in the Tennessee Walking Horse show industry and has been for decades. The abusive practice is for the purpose of what is called the artificial "Big Lick" gait for which judges reward contestants highly with financial prizes, marketing opportunities and sponsorships. A “Big Lick” gait involves the show horse walking with an extreme and exaggerated manner; their legs moving with a steep overreach. Tennessee Walking Horses are normally known for their smooth gait and gentle dispositions therefore, in order for them to acquire this “Big Lick” gait, this breed tends to be the most common victims of this practice, although there are other breeds who fall victim such as Racking horses and Spotted Saddle horses.


What is Soring?

Soring involves the intentional infliction of damage to a horse's legs or hooves in order to force the horse to perform the artificial "Big Lick" gait. One method of soring is applying acidic chemicals such as mustard oil, diesel fuel, and kerosene and apply them to the horse's limbs. Their legs are then wrapped in plastic so the chemicals can "cook" into the flesh. Injections of harmful chemicals and drugs are also injected into the horse's pastern area above the hoof.

Another favored method of the torture called soring is called pressure shoeing. Pressure shoeing involves putting a foreign object, such as a screw, bolt or some other foreign object against both of the horse’s front hoof soles, and then shoeing over said object. Pressure shoeing can also involve cutting a horse's hoof wall and sole down to the area where it starts bleeding, and then nailing a shoe over that surface. Each time the horse steps down, putting weight on the hoof, causes extreme pain.

To make things worse for these beautiful animals, whenever they are ridden, whether in training or in competition, trainers put chains around the horse's sore ankles. As the horse walks or gallops, the chains slide up and down, further irritating and infecting the already sore areas. Instead of wearing regular horseshoes, they are fitted with “stacks” which is a tall, heavy stack of pads to further emphasize their gait. These stacks force the horses to stand at an unnatural angle and often times, foreign objects are inserted between the horse's hoof and the stacks causing discomfort, adding to the horse's anguish.

These sweet animals are also not allowed to go outside to graze or play with other horses. Except when being trained or shown, they spend all of their time confined to stalls, lying down, moaning in pain while their sores are “cooking” under the plastic and chemicals in which they are wrapped.

Below are a few signs that a horse that has been sored:

- The horse may resist anyone handling his hooves

- Hair loss or wavey hair patches that do not match the rest of the horses coat is visible in the pastern area

- Lesions or scar tissue are visible on the pasterns or coronet band

- The horse tends to shift weight a lot on to its hindlegs

- The hoses may have difficulty walking as his hock may tend to twist outward, causing him to fall

Please be advised, the video I've included below is very graphic and disturbing in nature.

Tennessee Walking Horse Investigation Exposes Cruelty

Shouldn't This Be Illegal?

It is illegal. Soring has been federally illegal since the Horse Protection Act (HPA) was first passed in 1970. Sadly, lack of sufficient funding prevents the USDA from sending legitimate agency officials to every one of these horse shows resulting in the institution of a system that allows horse industry organizations to train and license their own inspectors, known as Designated Qualified Persons (DQPs). These DQP’s are responsible for examining horses at shows for signs of soring. However, most of these DQP’s are industry insiders - very few who are trained are committed to ending the practice of soring - so, as they are industry insiders, they believe they must preserve the status quo. Inspectors do have the authority to examine horses anywhere on the grounds of a show, exhibition, auction, or sale. However, through various forms of manipulation form industry participants, including but not limited to extortion and intimidation, the inspectors are kept from examining horses outside of a designated inspection area before entering the show, giving these masochistic trainers plenty of time to conceal any signs of soring before the horse is inspected.


Get Involved

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is one organization that is doing its part to help end this cruelty. The Humane Society is dedicated to supporting the USDA to step up its enforcement and urge Congress to provide more funding for the HPA along with other organizations that promote humane treatment and protection to Tennessee Walking Horses and other breeds subject to this mistreatment. The HSUS is also encouraging the offering of rewards to those who report abuse and help bring abusers to justice.

Attached are links to the HSUS Humane Alert page to support the federal bill to end this cruel practice by contacting your local U.S. Senators and politely urging them to co-sponsor The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act or by donating.

(c) 2014 Brenda Thornlow

Brenda Thornlow was voted one of the 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading for 2015. She is the author of the new fiction series My Life as I Knew It; The Revolving Door; A Godless Love and her memoir, My Short-Lived Life at Being Perfect. Available at Amazon. (Link below)

A Godless Love

© 2014 Brenda Thornlow


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    • How to - Answers profile image

      L M Reid 

      3 years ago from Ireland

      How awful for these poor animals. Why are humans so cruel

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      I never heard of soring before. I'm all for animal rights and against any torture or abuse. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Voted up!

    • Bk42author profile imageAUTHOR

      Brenda Thornlow 

      4 years ago from New York

      I hadn't heard of this until recently, myself. So sad how people will hurt others all for the sake of money.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I had never heard of this practice. I am mostly a city dweller and have not had much contact with horses or horse related activities. I am however bothered by any unnecessary hurt to people of animals.

    • Bk42author profile imageAUTHOR

      Brenda Thornlow 

      4 years ago from New York

      Thank you so much for reading, Jodah. It really is horrible what people to do to innocent creatures all in the name of money!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      4 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Bk, this is the first I have heard of this shocking practice. I am a horse lover and I,can't believe people would do this to such a beautiful animal. Then again horses, and other animals have always been the subject of man's cruelty. The Government needs to appoint independent inspectors, and people found guilty need to be given harsh prison sentences. Thank you for bringing this horrendous practice yo my attention.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I've been around horses for awhile and never heard of this , there is a ten. walking horse ranch not too far away , I will be checking this out ! Thank you for bringing such a horrible story to light !.....You are an activist ! Yeeaa !....Ed++++

    • Bk42author profile imageAUTHOR

      Brenda Thornlow 

      4 years ago from New York

      Hi Audrey! Thank you so much for reading and sharing!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      4 years ago from California

      Oh this makes me so sad--sending it around as I had not heard of this before--

    • Bk42author profile imageAUTHOR

      Brenda Thornlow 

      4 years ago from New York

      No apologies needed, I understand how you feel & so true, you get what you give! Thank you for stopping by and reading!

    • goego profile image


      4 years ago from Loserland

      Sorry, I didn't mean to use profanity but people that engage in this type of activity towards animals or anything really, will get what's coming to them.

    • goego profile image


      4 years ago from Loserland

      All I know is you get what you give, karma's a bitch.

    • Bk42author profile imageAUTHOR

      Brenda Thornlow 

      4 years ago from New York

      Hi Terry. I know! Never ceases to amaze me how heartless people can be, especially to the innocent. Thank you for reading!

    • THarman7 profile image

      Terry Harman 

      4 years ago from Lacey Washington

      I being an animal lover feel very sad that this is going on. I used to have a large farm and I owned 5 horses. I think any crulety to animals is horrific and should be punished just as if they had done this to a human. What is wrong with people? The animal suffers just as much torcher and pain as we would in the same circumstances. Thank you for writing this hub maybe it will bring some attention to the matter.

      Voted up!

    • Bk42author profile imageAUTHOR

      Brenda Thornlow 

      4 years ago from New York

      Thank you, Billy! Daytime job keeps me from spending more quality time on here. Hope all is well!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I don't see much of you on my site but I see you write often. Glad you are making yourself at home on HP. Nice job of raising awareness about this cruelty.


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