By Taylor Cuda
Some of the world’s most beautiful animals need help. Despite laws intended to protect them, 80-90 percent of Tennessee Walking Horses have experienced soring, a practice that intentionally causes pain in their front hooves.
BLAC (Big Lick Animal Cruelty) is a widespread problem among Tennesee Walkers. These horses have an unusual four-beat gait, called the walking run, where their hooves fall in the same pattern they do when they’re walking.
This foot pattern causes their front feet to go up high, and their back feet to land about eight inches in front of the prints left by their front hooves. It is attractive to many horse show judges, and helps Tennessee Walkers win shows. The higher the feet, the prettier the gallop, the better the score.
But some Tennessee Walkers hooves do not get high enough for the riders and owners. This caused owners to start weighing down their horse’s hooves, so they would step down hard and lift their front feet higher. Soring exaggerates the horse’s Big Lick, and causes great pain to the horse’s hooves.
Soring can be done by adding four inches of wood to the Tennessee Walkers’ hooves. The wood is hammered in with nails for extra weight and causes extra pressure on the horse’s hooves. It’s illegal because of the pain it causes the Tennessee Walkers.
Another method of soring is equally cruel. Some owners “cook” the horse’s hooves by applying chemicals to a horse’s pasterns before wrapping them for days. The chemicals cause the hooves to swell, and the end result is added pressure and pain to the horse’s feet. This also makes the horse lift its front legs higher, and the effects are enhanced by stacked horseshoes and chains.
Making matters worse, many of these horse abusers severely punish their horses if they flinch in pain when their hooves are touched. They train them to show no emotion so they can slip through security at the shows. Many of the judges choose to look the other way.
You can help the Tennessee Walkers by getting involved in politics. The PAST Act would amend the Horse Protection Act to stop the abuses involved in soring, such as grinding down the hoof to expose sensitive tissues, applying chemicals to burn a horse, inserting sharp objects into the sole of the hoof, and using large stacked shoes and chains to increase the pain these animals endure—all for the sake of “competition.”
You can also help out foundations like CCABLAC (Citzens Campain Against Big Lick Animal Cruelty) You can raise awareness about soring and its issues to any family who lives outside of the state. Most importantly, don’t go to or support horse shows advertising the “Big Lick.”
If you’re at a horse show and notice any of these conditions, ask someone nearby if they notice them too. If you’re sure that this horse is subject to BLAC, please call 866-601-7722, the PSPCA Humane Law Enforcement.