Soring is about the worst torture that can be inflicted on horses–short of killing them, that is. Rational people in the horse industry who love and respect horses, cannot understand why owners would maim their own beautiful animals in ways designed to inflict the most pain possible to the horse–all to produce the grotesque Big Lick gait seen in Walking Horse events. (Or for that matter, at shows where other gaited horses like Spotted Saddle Horses or Racking Horses perform.) The big money, name recognition, and blue ribbons are certainly not worth ruining a horse physically and mentally.
In the accompanying image, you see the results of damage to a horse’s leg and hoof. (Thanks to the USDA, United States Department of Agriculture.) The following are techniques used by unethical trainers to achieve the Big Lick, the artificial movement where in reality, horses are lifting their legs high to somehow avoid more pain. Owners and trainers often pretend that these poor horses love to perform this way and nothing bad has ever happened to them to achieve this movement.
Reality coming, though. Here is what unscrupulous trainers do to the horses.
- Apply corrosive chemicals that blister the horse’s legs, like kerosene, mustard oil and diesel fuel, and then wrap plastic wrap around the legs. Leave the horse in the stall for days at a time to suffer.
- Pressure shoe the horse, that is, cut the hoof almost to the quick and tightly nail on the shoe.
- Stand the horse for hours with the excruciating part of his sole on a raised object.
These methods induce the most equisite pain imaginable to the horse. But it doesn’t stop there; the pain must be prolonged to be effective, so when the horse moves in the future, trainers put chains around the ankles, which slide up and down, aggravating the painful ankles.
But the trainer is not done yet. To emphasize the Big Lick, the performing horse wears a high, heavy stack of pads. To those who witness a show like this, the horse appears to be standing at a bizarre angle. And sometimes trainers put foreign objects between the hoof and the stacks to induce more pain.
More to come. In the meantime, go to http://www.hsus.org/horses_equines/tn_walking_horses/what_is_soring_fact_sheet_.html to read more.