Lexington, Ky. — As Tennessee Walking Horse owners and trainers prepared for their biggest show of the year, the American Association of
Equine Practitioners (AAEP) called for the elimination of the "culture of abuse" of soring the animals.
The AAEP released recommendations for how the walking-horse industry can eliminate soring, calling it "one of the most significant
welfare issues affecting any equine breed or discipline."
Soring is the practice of purposely injuring a horse with chemical irritants, chains or pads, shoeing or hoof trimming to
exaggerate its natural gait.
Prohibited by the federal Horse Protection Act of 1970, soring continues as shown by the Department of Agriculture's issuance
of 103 competitor violations during the 2007 Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration, the industry's championship event.
"As an organization with the primary mission of protecting the health and welfare of the horse, the AAEP is strongly opposed
to soring," says AAEP President Dr. Eleanor Green.
The AAEP urges drug testing at all competitions, abolishing the Designated Qualified Persons (DQP) program, independent veterinarians
to inspect horses and impose sanctions, better means to detect soring and a single agency to set and enforce uniform standards.
The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration announced it will strengthen its commitment to protecting the horses, but
its beefed-up measures still fall short of AAEP recommendations.
At press time, organizers of the celebration, held Aug. 20-30 in Shelbyville, Tenn., said there would be random drug screenings
of class winners. They said hoof testers would inspect for improper shoeing and that stricter guidelines would be in place
for judges, Designated Qualified Persons and show management, including post-event polygraph tests. Overall security for the
inspection area was to be stepped up and, in an effort to comply fully with the Horse Protection Act, random inspections were
to be conducted by outside veterinarians from the USDA and other agencies.