Court Upholds Soring Decision

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently upheld a U.S. Department of Agriculture ruling that Herbert and Jill Derickson of Tennessee violated the Horse Protection Act when they transported and entered a sored Tennessee Walking Horse, Just American Magic, in a 2002 horse show.

Soring is the deliberate infliction of pain on the legs and feet of a horse, in order to create severe pain and force an exaggerated, high-stepping gait.

"This decision sends a clear message to anyone who abuses a Tennessee Walking Horse that the U.S. Department of Agriculture can and will strictly enforce the Horse Protection Act," said Keith Dane, director of equine protection for The HSUS. "We commend the court for its decision and hope this case signals a renewed USDA resolve to protect Tennessee Walking Horses and other victims of soring."

According to court documents, Herbert Derickson presented Just American Magic for pre-show inspection at the 34th Annual National Walking Horse Trainer's Show. Two industry inspectors determined that Just American Magic was sore because he had bilateral scarring and thus did not comply with the Horse Protection Act. The horse was disqualified, and USDA initiated enforcement action.

In their appeal, the Dericksons claimed that there was insufficient evidence to show a violation of the Horse Protection Act, and that USDA lacked authority to pursue legal action once the Dericksons had been sanctioned by an industry self-regulatory organization.

The court rejected both claims, and upheld the USDA's decision in full. According to the decision, this was not Herbert Derickson's first soring offense. He had been issued an eight-month suspension and $600 fine for a bilateral soring violation involving Just American Magic the previous year.

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