Culpeper Virginia horses to Walk on Washington to end ‘soring’
Culpeper horses to Walk on Washington to end ‘soring’
Posted: Tuesday, June 17, 2014 12:15 am | Updated: 1:19 pm, Tue Jun 17, 2014.
Four Culpeper County horses will “Walk on Washington” Wednesday as part of an awareness event aimed at ending an inhumane practice known as “soring.”
Orange County activist and 20-year horse trainer Jeannie McGuire is helping to organize the grassroots rally taking place at 1 p.m. in front of the U.S. Capitol Reflecting Pool in Union Square through the All American Walking Horse Alliance. Soring is an illegal and cruel practice that uses chemical and mechanical methods to create pain in a horse’s front feet to exaggerate the step in Tennessee Walking Horses, she said.
For the past seven months, McGuire has visited Rep. Eric Cantor’s Washington, D.C. office as a lobbyist on a mission to pass the PAST (Prevent All Soring Tactics) Act.
“There is an industry within this breed where the hierarchy of the breeders association continue to practice soring where they blister the horses’ leg or add implements to their shoeing to get this super high stepping action that wins ribbons in shows,” she said. “It has been mostly contained to Tennessee and Kentucky, but it’s also in Virginia.”
U.S. Senator Mark Warner, D-Virginia, is an original sponsor of the PAST Act, which he introduced last year with U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire.
“Whether riding, racing, hunting or training, horses have been part of Virginia’s culture for 400 years,” Warner said in a release at the time. “However, owners and breeders from across the commonwealth agree that the deliberate act of inflicting pain on horses has no place in modern equestrian competition.”
Wednesday’s rally opposing soring will feature a parade of six Tennessee Walking Horses ridden without pads and chains including Cori, stabled at Walking H Farms in Culpeper; Flame, stabled at Liberty Hall Farm in Brandy Station; and Howie and Rio, also of Liberty Hall Farm.
According to McGuire, the Horse Protection Act passed 44 years ago imposes penalties for those who employ soring, but it’s not being properly enforced.
The PAST Act, sponsored by Rep. Eric Whitield, R-Kentucky, would prohibit all soring tactics, banning the use of chains and pads for achieving the show gait. Whitfield is expected to speak at the rally along with former U.S. Senator Joseph Tydings, D-Maryland, author of the Horse Protection Act passed in 1970.
“What is being done to these horses in 2014 is brutal and has no place in civilized society,” 86-year-old Tydings said in a statement. “The only answer to end the soring of Tennessee Walking Horses is to remove the pads and chains.”
Other expected speakers will include PAST Act co-sponsor Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tennessee and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois.
McGuire said though she never got a response from Cantor on the issue of soring, she hoped he would also attend the rally. She said she has been working her heart out to raise awareness.
“Being a Virginian and loving history as much as I do, I am aware this breed of horse was instrumental in the building of this country just as much as the other main American breeds,” McGuire said. “This breed of horse is so kind and docile and gentle – that’s one of the reasons this practice of soring can take place. Many of the other horse breeds would not tolerate it. I’ve seen what Tennessee Walking Horses can do for children, wounded warriors, handicapped riders, and I feel that they deserve it, for us to speak up for them.”
According to the All American Walking Horse Association, the PAST Act has broad bipartisan support in Congress. Opposing Whitfield’s legislation are Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and Rep. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. Both reportedly support other legislation addressing soring.
Mississippi attorney Clant Seay raised Tennessee Walking Horses for about 25 years, and will be present at Wednesday’s march in D.C. as event coordinator for the Walk on Washington.
“I represented Pat Stout who polled the members of the Tennessee Walking Horse breed registry which voted 63 percent in favor of the PAST Act,” said Seay. “The reason I became involved was to attempt to save the breed from the stigma of soring which forecloses any hope for future growth and public acceptance of what is potentially America’s horse. It’s time to pass the PAST Act.”
The cause has celebrity support, too.
Priscilla Presley, wife of the late Elvis Presley, wants to end soring.
“Over the years, Elvis and I owned several Tennessee Walking Horses, and I know them to be gentle, graceful creatures. Today, 44 years after the passage of the Federal Horse Protection Act that was intended to end the terrible practice of soring, these horses continue to suffer at the hands abusive trainers. I’m calling on Congress to pass the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act to finally end this torture,” she said, according to humanesociety.org.
The PAST Act, if approved, would increase penalties and fines for soring, prohibit the use of action devices – such as chains that rub a sore leg – and allow veterinarians to serve as show inspectors versus the current practice of industry self-policing.