Since the 1970s, a federal law , the Horse Protection Act, has been on the books. Its purpose is to stop the practice of soring horses,  predominately associated with Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds,  in order to obtain enhanced, exaggerated gaits, commonly known as the "big lick".   It's now    2016.  Soring practices continue with more than 12,000 violations contained on public record databases. The USDA recently released information showing that out of 200 randomly selected horses swabbed for prohibited federal substances at the annual Celebration horse show, 175of them returned positive results. That's 87.5%. 


The Mission

  After more than 40 years, thetime has cometo say enough.    "Enough"  includes no more attempts to regulate this illegal activityrather than to stop it in its tracks.    The primary goal is to pass the PAST Act.  This bill,  in 2014,  had the most bi-partisan support in both the House and Congress of any legislation introduced during the congressional session. PAST never got a vote during the session because of the sleight -of -hand of a few well placedsenators whose campaign funds have been directly and handsomely replenished by participants in the walking horse performance business.     The PASTAct   would amend the existing federal law ,  greatly increase penalties for violatorsand would   remove so-called performance packages,  chain action devices as well aslead in the feet,  andother forms ofheavily weighted shoes from the breeds where soring is a documented blight. 

Thesedevices have been shownto be contributory to the act of soring horses in order to show them. After a documented history of more than 40 years of abuse, always accompanied by promises of reform by the forces in support of the big lick horse, the removal of these devices and packages has been recommended by the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the American Veterinary Medicine Association and the American Horse Council.

  The secondary goal is toraise public awareness , while legislation continues to be pursued,   directlyconfrontingthis cruelty and the lies thatsurround it wherever and wheneverit is placed on public display.

  To do this, advocates need access   to factual and timely information in order to accurately inform the conversation and frame the debate.  This site is intended to be a clearing house for information helpful to attaining these goals.  Wheneach voice is heardthe unified callof principled and informedopposition to these practiceswill be overwhelming.

The fact is the big lick can only be accomplished by soring. When one soring technique becomes detectable, another one is developed. The big lick is a learned response to pain and if horses have not been sored, they do not learn it.
— John C. Haffner, DVM ABVP(Ea) November 25, 2013

More from Dr. Haffner

  • As long as a horse is doing the big lick there will be soring. It will not be a "few bad apples" doing it. It is inherent to the gait and unavoidable in training.
  • It takes a combination of the built- up pads for the weight and the chains to strike against the pastern that has been sored to produce the big lick.
  • It takes skill to be able to teach a horse the big lick and then determine the proper amount of soring and the proper timing to have a horse ready on a Friday or Saturday night. 
  • The horse must have the memory of pain but they must also be able to pass the inspection.
  • Calluses develop as a result of the chain hitting against the skin. [They] are removed with a paste made by mixing salicylic acid with alcohol ...and putting a leg bandage over it for a few days. This practice is very painful to the horse. I have seen many horses lying in pain in their stalls on Monday morning from an acid treatment on Saturday.
  • I want to stress the people involved in the walking horse business are no better or worse than people in any other walk of life. ...They just don't see anything wrong with the way the big lick is achieved, or they don't think their trainer really sores their horse...They are blind to what they are doing and until they have a personal ephiphany  of what lies at the bottom of the big lick, they will be unable to see it.
  • That is what happened to me, and it appears that it  is what happens to others in the business from time to time.

If you think the performance shoe  looks bad from the outside, here's what the package  looks like from the inside. This x-ray   doesn't show the pounds of lead that can  be legally  attached to the bottom of the package to add yet more weight.   The performance apologists will tell you that a horse wearing a  package is no different from a woman wearing high heels,   that it is as comfortable as an athletic shoe, and that the action chain is like a woman wearing a bracelet.    Technically it's all  legal but is it right? That's a call that you have to answer for yourself. The PAST Act would remove shoes like this from use in  show rings.