Unquestionably, this is abuse: these horses are subjected to near-constant agony for the sake of a blue ribbon. Soring is still widespread in the Tennessee walking horse show industry and will persist unless the current system is changed significantly.
Meaningful reform is within reach, thanks to federal legislation currently before Congress. The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act (H.R. 1518/S. 1406) would amend the Horse Protection Act to end the failed system of industry self-regulation, ban the use of devices associated with soring, strengthen penalties, and hold accountable all those involved in this cruel practice. The bill cleared the Senate Commerce Committee this week, and is co-sponsored by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of Senators and Representatives in Congress.
However, a handful of lawmakers loyal to the Big Lick faction have introduced competing legislation in a transparent attempt to maintain the cruel status quo at any cost. The bills by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, whose district in Tennessee is at the epicenter of the soring problem, and Sen. Lamar Alexander, also of Tennessee, would give industry insiders the authority to continue to self-police the horse shows and do nothing to end the use of soring devices or to strengthen penalties, therefore allowing the abuse to continue.