Industry Members Discuss Imaging Technology at Soring Conference

Animal welfare advocates, breed association representatives, and veterinarians gathered at the first Sound Horse Conference, held April 11 and 12 at The Ohio State University, to brainstorm ways to eradicate the practice of soring. Generally used in the Tennessee Walking Horse and other gaited breeds, soring is the use of pain-causing caustic chemicals, chains, trauma, and other techniques to achieve a high-stepping gait.

The event focused on ways breed associations could sanction trainers who practice soring, and the role imaging modalities could play in better detecting sored horses at horse shows and other venues. According to conference panelist Tracy Turner, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, a private practitioner with Anoka Equine in Elk River, Minn., handheld digital radiography devices could allow inspectors to peer deep into horses' hoof capsules to see nail positioning and to examine some soft tissue for injury.

Radiograph of a padded hoof

Digital radiography devices could allow inspectors to peer deep into horses' hoof capsules.

"You can see things you couldn't (otherwise) see unless you pull the shoes off," Turner explained.

Thermography devices display heat patterns in horses' feet and legs and allow the veterinarian to identify areas of injury or where foreign substances have been applied. (Veterinarians with the Fédération Equestre Internationale have recently employed this technique to aid in the detection of similar abuse in the discipline of show jumping. For more on that application of thermography, see "FEI Initiating Thermographic Exams to Prevent Show Jumper Abuse Technique."  

According to Keith Dane, director of equine protection for the Humane Society of the United States, USDA inspectors will test these devices during the 2008 show season.

Lori Northrup, president of Friends of Sound Horses, weighed in, saying, "The use of technology will hopefully lead to compliance instead of looking for ways to get through inspections without detection."

Presenters also discussed ways to promote an equestrian culture opposed to soring within breed associations. They suggested imposing significant suspensions on trainers who sore horses and developing show classes that encourage natural-gait performances.

The event was sponsored by Friends of Sound Horses, the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the Humane Society of the United States, the American Horse Protection Association, the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association, and The Ohio State University.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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