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Friends of Sound Horses

Updated on April 24, 2014

FOSH?? What on earth is that?

FOSH is an acronym that stands for "Friends of Sound Horses". FOSH is incorporated as a public benefit, and is a humane and educational organization.

Its purpose is to provide information to the public about the humane care, treatment and training of gaited horses, with a special emphasis on the Tennessee Walking Horse, and to promote the exhibition of the flat shod and barefoot Walking Horse at competitions designed to showcase the natural gaited pleasure walking horse. They also educate people about a deplorable practice that has been in use for years and is every gaited horse's worst nightmare: Soring.

What is soring?

Soring is a process of intentionally causing pain to a horse's front legs and hoofs to enhance a gaited horse's movement in the show ring. Soring is illegal and inhumane, but is still being practiced today in pursuit of that all important blue ribbon.

How did the whole thing start anyway?

Would you believe by accident?

Soring began quite by accident back in the early days of the Tennessee Walking Horse breed. Shortly after the breed association was established in 1935, Walking Horses became one of the most sought after breeds on the market. Prices soared as their popularity increased.

In the 1950s, the Walking Horse industry hit a slump. It was about this time that a trainer discovered that mustard oil (a caustic agent) applied to his horse's legs, caused him to step livelier. At the next show, his horse all but flew around the arena with his feet snapping off the ground as if they were on fire. Eyes rolling, he would barely set his foot on the ground before snatching it back up again. The crowd absolutely loved it. People quickly began experimenting, and before too much time had passed "everybody" was doing it.

The spectators went wild for the action and the judges clearly favored those horses with the flying feet. It didn't take too long for this vicious cycle to become "the new norm".

If'n he trains with chains... - Thars a shor nuff lack of brains.

Throw in a little bit of a blistering agent, add some plastic wrap and presto! - You have a nicely sored horse, ready to show - and isn't it pretty??

Inspection and Detection - Photo courtesy of USDA

In 1970 the Horse Protection Act (HPA) was passed which made the practice of soring illegal. Sadly, this practice continues even today. The USDA has inspectors which attend some of the shows to discourage this practice, however, budget constraints severely limit their ability to "police" all but a small number of horse shows.

Initially, inspectors could simply palpate a horse's forelegs as a means to detect soring; their touch would cause the horse to flinch (indicating he had been sored) and the inspector would then know to disqualify the horse.

To avoid detection and disqualification, trainers began practicing what's known as "stewarding". The trainers would palpate the horse just as an inspector would, and any undesired reaction by the horse (such as flinching) would result in a severe beating. Other methods include the use of alligator clips on the tongue or testicles to distract the horse from reacting to the touch.

Radiographs (picture above) are now being used to detect improper treatment, but the problem of soring continues to plague the industry.

Spectators and participants at these Walking Horse Shows will fall into one of two categories:

1. Those that don't know.

- or -

2. Those that don't WANT to know.

The Tennessee Walking Horse Gaiting Naturally

To help you see the difference, look at this picture of a Walking Horse. Pay careful attention to the hocks (the area I've circled) and notice in particular the angle of both his back legs; this is what it should look like.

NOTE: Horses carry 60% of their body weight on the front end. A sored horse, however, will shift as much of his weight as possible to his back end in an attempt to alleviate the pain in his front feet and forelegs. The flashy gait known as "the big lick" occurs as a direct result of the horse literally attempting to throw off or climb out of the shoes that are causing him so much agony. If you have ever seen a show, you'll notice it doesn't take very long before these poor animals are all but staggering around the ring. This is due to the overwhelming strain placed on the hind legs; which are not designed to support the bulk of a horse's weight.

Shifting the weight to the back

Although I've only circled one, you can clearly see the difference in the angles of both back legs. Added to that, his back has a definite downward slope instead of being level. You can see by the flared nostrils and overall body language that this horse is under a horrendous amount of strain to perform.

The Big Lick

Many of these horses collapse in their stalls - unable to stand - following a show. The amount of suffering this horse is enduring is clearly evident in his tortured expression.

Wondering if all this stuff is for real? - Don't take my word for it - watch the Humane Society's video instead:

Pay particular attention to the back legs of these horses; they should not be as shaky as they are here, nor should a horse's hind end be so much lower than the front. Personally, I happen to think that the riders look like a great big bug perched up there...a cockroach perhaps?

Just sayin' ;o)

Under Cover: Creating the Big Lick Horse - WARNING: Graphic Footage

This video was taken by someone working under cover for the Humane Society at the barn of a well known big lick "trainer". This man had already been brought up on charges of abuse, but was continuing to sore horses under someone else's name.

So tell me...

Had you heard of soring before this lens?

See results

This lens is dedicated to Shadow because that was the way his life began...

(and from whom I have learned so much)

The Lord has richly blessed us with you, Shadow, and I will never cease to be amazed that your traumatic experiences in life have not adversely affected your heart...

It remains full of love and as big as the world :o)

P.S. His 'toon is also our "mascot", did you notice?

Thank you so much for stopping in to see us. - It may not be a very fun subject, but it sure is an important one!

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    • Lionrhod profile image

      Lionrhod 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Oh my god. I am crying now. Horses are...like any of our semi domesticated critters...so precious and special And there is NO CALL to treat them like this. Having been a horse owner and lover for a good part of my life, I know these remarkable animals will do almost anything for the people they love....merely out of love. To abuse that is beyond contempt. To abuse any animal is beyond contempt. I have a neighbor who had a gorgeous black Tennessee Walker that died recently. I don't think they practiced this because I doubt they were educated enough, or else they might have. The horse died of malnutrition and other complications from what I understand. The owners were planning to stud him out. I don't know for sure what kind of treatment that poor beauty dealt with. I do know that the same person tried wacking one of my yaks over the head with a steel pole. I was thrilled that she gored him, sticking one of her horns right into his buttock. Well deserved IMO. Normally not something I'd want one of my animals to do but....

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      This is an interesting lens, and very well done my dear.

      You bring things to light here. Oh my! - Blessed!

    • rawwwwwws lm profile image

      rawwwwwws lm 4 years ago

      Great lens.

    • profile image

      JoshK47 4 years ago

      Shocking! Blessed by a SquidAngel for bringing this to people's attention.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      You should give some warning to us horse lovers at the beginning of this lens - I was shocked at the pictures even though I had heard of the practice. The things people will do for a blue ribbon are amazing.

    • EpicFarms profile image
      Author

      EpicFarms 5 years ago

      @TennesseeTravelGuy: Thanks for your comments Scott - it infuriates me too. You have only to read Job 39:19-25 to see how the Lord feels about horses (one of my most favorite pieces of scripture ;o)

    • profile image

      TennesseeTravelGuy 5 years ago

      Thanks so much for this lens. I absolutely hate this practice. We own horses and I could not imagine hurting them for a ribbon! The people that do this are SCUM!!!!!! Horses are some of God's most magnificent creatures and should be treated with love and respect. OK...I am getting angry. Just wanted to thank you for taking the time to create this lens!!!!! Scott

    • profile image

      anegjs 5 years ago

      "Strongmay": I wouldn't even call them riders.. :(

    • profile image

      StrongMay 5 years ago

      The riders don't Care?!? How can they Dare to ride?

    • profile image

      Light-in-me 6 years ago

      This is just terrible, I never knew about this before. How could anybody do such a thing it just makes me sick. Thanks for sharing such an important message!

      Robin

    • profile image

      GetSillyProduct 6 years ago

      I can't believe some of the things people will do to animals for the sake of making money, it sickens me. Good job for spreading awareness about soring, it sounds like a terrible practice.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      This is a very important lens. It is amazing that almost no one outside of gaited horse enthusiasts are aware of this barbaric practice, and many horse people complacently think it is a thing of the past. As if outlawing a practice ever made it go away.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      ~ Visiting in the Nonprofit neighborhood to leave my Angels April Fools' Day Quest Blessings ~

    • EpicFarms profile image
      Author

      EpicFarms 6 years ago

      THREE MORE PEOPLE were indicted on March 8, 2011 for soring horses in the US District Court Eastern District at Winchester Tennessee. This was posted on the Fugly Horse of the Day Blog this morning and I was able to download the Indictment to read. Since this happened less than three weeks ago I'll just rest my case, shall I? ;o)

    • EpicFarms profile image
      Author

      EpicFarms 6 years ago

      @skywish: Thank you for your comments Skywish. I'm not sure exactly which picture you are referring to, but soring involves more than just the horse's feet. While the addition of inspectors may have curtailed some of the soring and stewarding, I'm afraid there ARE still people out there who continue these disturbing practices in secret. I have been to the shows myself and I have also visited "show barns" containing walking horses valued at up to $30,000. I have seen the blistering agents and Saran Wrap in tack rooms too. I'm very glad to know that you would not treat your horse in such a way, but I think we may just have to agree to disagree on whether or not it still happens ('cause I know it does ;o)

    • profile image

      skywish 6 years ago

      I show Tennessee Walking Horses so I know for a fact that they are NOT sore. People on this website don't know what their talking about. Yes, a long time ago the trainers used to sore the horses to make them do a bigger "lick" but now the government has taken to much control and is turning down horses left and right when their feet look fine. The trainers take great care of their horses now and because of that their feet do NOT look like that pictures shown above! If you don't believe me go to a show and you'll see there isn't anything wrong with the horses now.

    • EpicFarms profile image
      Author

      EpicFarms 6 years ago

      @delia-delia: I know exactly how you feel. I had initially planned to breed, train and sell horses but could not follow through because of the way things are in the industry. For every good home and responsible owner there are a hundred neglectful, heavy handed creeps *sigh*. Knowledge of the ongoing soring problem is still largely limited; it just blows my mind what people will do to their horses for a .99c ribbon.

      I am extremely partial to the Arabians myself, and we've run into breeding issues with our Bella (those delicate teacup muzzles tend to cause major mouth problems; she had retained caps).

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 6 years ago

      I'm crying as well... I'm mad as hell that this STILL exists...in the late 80's this was suppose to come to an end...what happened? Greed does this, and people don't care what they do to win...it's not only this breed, all breeds have their evil, that's why I got out of breeding Arabians. Why on earth do people allow this, why aren't more in an uproar?

      I can barely contain myself I'm so angry...even the dog breeds and how they are bred to look, just because of some stupid fad, hip-dysplasia is rampant ...

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I'm crying! I cant bear to watch the video. How anyone can condone this sort of inhumane treatment to any living creature is beyond me. Angel Blessings from me and my thanks to you for the work you do.

    • ctavias0ffering1 profile image

      ctavias0ffering1 8 years ago

      OMG I couldn't watch all the video, hardly got more than a few seconds in and I had seen enough. Having owned and nursed back to health (before handing him on to a new owner) a neglected horse who has a horrible looking injury which caused him to lose a large portion of muscle on one foreleg, I know how a horse can be brought back to health again. Our vet wanted to put that horse down but had to eat his hat when I showed how working with the horse restored his muscle (what was left grew to compensate for the missing part).

      As an aside, the owner prior to me got the message about mistreatment and neglect direct from the horse's mouth, my darling, sweet natured and beautiful creature wasted no time when he saw his previous owner, he dived straight in and bit him on the ear.

      More power to your cause.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      That video was so hard to watch, but I am glad I did. I will NEVER EVER endorse those kinds of shows. I have never been to one, and now I never will.

      Bless you Shadow, you are such a wonderful, huge hearted horse to still love after treatment like that!