AAEP's Walking Horse Directives Labeled Costly, Unrealistic

The American Association of Equine Practitioners' (AAEP) Tennessee Walking Horse Task (TWH) Force recommendations to eradicate the practice of soring drew strong reaction from Walking Horse industry members who label the directives costly and unrealistic.

In a "white paper" issued on Aug. 8, the AAEP called for several changes in Walking Horse industry enforcement of Horse Protection Act of 1970 prohibitions against soring--the use of pain-causing caustic chemicals, cutting, and other techniques to achieve a higher-stepping gait. Recommendations include strict drug testing, 24-hour security systems at show stabling sites, and the use of independent veterinarians to examine horses for soring evidence.

"That's an impossibility," said Earl Rogers, president of the Kentucky Walking Horse Association. "Out here in the country (Rogers lives in Bath County in northeastern Kentucky) we can't even get a large animal vet to treat our animals, let alone have one at every show."

National Walking Horse Association Executive Director Don Vizi worries that implementing the AAEP plan will burden associations and horse industry organizations financially.

"We do 60 shows a year, not counting our national show," Vizi said. "I don't think they've even thought about cost yet."

Task Force Chairman Midge Leitch, VMD, Dipl. ACVS, of Cochranville, Pa., admits the recommendations represent a financial commitment. But the investment is necessary to abolish a long-standing "culture of abuse" reflected in 103 HPA competitor violations at TWH shows in 2007, and the failure to crown a 2006 World Champion due to the high volume of disqualifications at the TWH National Celebration that year.

"Exhibitors, owners and trainers are going to have to pay a lot of money to clean this up," she said.

The AAEP has no legal authority to make its recommendations mandatory, Leitch said. However, she hopes public animal welfare sentiment will pressure the Walking Horse industry to implement them.

"One has to be hopeful," she said.

View the entire white paper at www.aaep.org.

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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