The AAEP released its 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, weighted chains or pads, shoeing or hoof trimming to exaggerate its natural gait.
Prohibited by the federal Horse Protection Act of 1970, the continued practice of soring is documented by the U.S. 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," said AAEP President Dr. Eleanor Green.
Key points among the AAEP recommendations:
-- Immediate institution of drug testing at every competition.
-- Abolishment of the Designated Qualified Persons (DQP) program and the establishment of a corps of independent veterinarians to conduct horse inspections and impose sanctions for violations of the Horse Protection Act.
-- Development of objective methods to detect soring in order to eliminate the current practice of conditioning horses to tolerate pressure applied to the limbs.
-- Establishment of a single industry organization to set, oversee and enforce uniform standards and regulations.
-- Re-evaluation of judging standards so that the innate grace and beauty of the breed are valued instead of rewarding a manufactured, exaggerated gait.
The recommendations were developed by the AAEP's Tennessee Walking Horse Task Force.
The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration announced it will strengthen its commitment to protecting the horses, but the beefed-up measures still fall short of AAEP recommendations.
There will be random drug screenings of class winners during the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration Aug. 20-30 in Shelbyville, Tenn. In addition, hoof testers will inspect for improper shoeing, stricter guidelines will be in place for judges, Designated Qualified Persons and show management, including post-event polygraph tests, the overall security plan for the inspection area will be stepped up and, in an effort to further follow the Horse Protection Act, random inspections will be conducted by outside veterinarians from the USDA and other agencies.