Soring Inspections Stepped Up at Walking Horse Celebration

Compliance with the Horse Protection Act (HPA) appeared to decline at the 70th Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, dropping from 98% in 2007 to 95% at this year's event, according to USDA figures. The Celebration took place over 10 days in Shelbyville, Tenn., wrapping up Aug. 30.

The HPA forbids soring, which is the use pain-causing chemicals, cutting, and other techniques to achieve exaggerated show ring movement in some gaited horses. This year, officials from the USDA and the National Horse Show Commission issued 187 violation citations after a total of 693 inspections at the event. That's 83 more than the 104 violation citations issued at the event in 2007.

The high-profile event has been under a microscope since 2006, when it was temporarily shut down due to tensions between inspectors and trainers over enforcement of HPA rules. No World Grand Champion was crowned that year.

Since then, Celebration management have stiffened security rules and added mandatory drug testing, eye examinations, and tack inspections to raise the event's compliance rates. (Read more at "New Soring Inspections Beef Up Celebration Plan.")

Celebration CEO Doyle Meadows, PhD, credited stricter inspections overall for the rise in the number of violations.

"These horses were photographed, poked, prodded, thermographed, and radiographed," Meadows said.

Humane Society of the United States Director of Equine Protection Keith Dane said USDA inspectors' performance at the high-profile event demonstrated the agency's willingness enforce federal anti-soring rules.

Despite the violation increases, Meadows said rules adopted by Celebration management to encourage compliance at this event indicate that competition managers are also serious about discouraging soring.

"Those things show we're committed to going forward," he said. "I'm not happy with the violations; I want (the show) to be 100% compliant."

According to Celebration statistics, a total of 2,188 different horses represented 4,689 class entries during the event. Of those entries, the USDA reported that 2,744 were actually presented in the show ring.

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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