A Call to Action: Friends of Sound Horses

Many good people are trying to eliminate soring in the face of this truth: Although this loathsome practice is illegal, it keeps going on. What does one do about the contemptuous defiance of the Horse Protection Law that those who sore demonstrate? The severity of this issue demands action rather than fruitless hand-wringing. Theory flies out the window when horses are still tortured. We should rise above theory and take productive action to expose the villains and see to it that the truth about what they do to horses is communicated to the world. Men and women who sore flourish in secret, work covertly. I am never surprised when people tell me they don’t know what soring is.

Friends of Sound Horses (FOSH) is devoted to acting on its conviction that education is paramount to understanding the problem of soring, and that  people who sore should be exposed and punished. In this posting, I’ll be quoting from the group’s website at http://www.fosh.info/. I believe that FOSH represents the highest hope for ridding the equestrian world of this shameful practice and freeing horses from this abuse.

In deciding whether to join an organization, it’s helpful to read and agree with the principles that motivate the group. Here they are for FOSH:
“All FOSH events adhere to the requirements of the Horse Protection Act.
Horses are to be treated with dignity, respect, and compassion.
Horses must be presented as sound in both body and mind.
The preferred way of going is natural, correct, and without exaggeration.
Shoeing is intended only for the protection of the foot and its structure. Barefoot horses are both welcomed and encouraged where practical.
Handlers & riders are expected to use training techniques and equipment that conform to the highest humane standards as recognized by the general equestrian community.
Exhibitors have a duty to conduct themselves in an orderly, responsible, and sportsmanlike manner.”

To give legs to these principles, FOSH has many programs to see that natural gaited horses are the rule rather than tragic, sored horses like the one above. Here are several examples of FOSH thinking.

  1. The horse is always the first consideration. In its shows, FOSH “no longer allow[s] two-year olds under saddle, manhole cover shoes and hooves longer than 4 1/2 inches. Our philosophy is different from most other equine showing and inspection organizations, and we take risks with these rules. Sometimes it’s about doing the right thing and not what’s popular.”
  2. “Because the horse comes first, FOSH does not allow trainers on its Board. We realize there are sound, wonderful trainers who are FOSH members; however, we have observed that some organizations suffer turmoil through trainer battles. There is also a perception that trainer Directors have a show ring benefit over others or push for rule changes that provide advantages to them and their clients at the expense of the horse. This could cause the FOSH ‘horse first’ mission to become watered down.”
  3. FOSH has an Independent Judges Association with a set of rules, “designed to showcase a more natural horse because the naturally moving horse will be more marketable and less likely to end up at auction or with an unhappy owner and home.”
  4. FOSH provides inspectors for horse shows to make sure there are no sored horses in the ring. Remember my previous blog that discussed the fact that sometimes inspectors are often appointed who have an interest in not finding sored horses? FOSH says, “Our inspectors are the gold standard in the industry and our Licensed Designated Qualified Persons (DQPS) . . . pay close attention to the HPA regulations and use our experience to negotiate the Operating Plan with the USDA . . . “
  5. “No other gaited horse showing organization fights soring to the extent of FOSH. We have spent thousands of dollars attending Horse Protection Act (HPA) meetings, researching soring/pain/pressure technology, and fighting the evildoers tooth and nail on ideas they try to slide through the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). We post the HPA suspensions and Horse Industry Organization (HIO) Meeting Minutes on our website, organized the Sound Horse Conference, and track and quantify thousands of HPA violations (this is a tremendous use of our dollars and time) so we can issue press releases and keep the world informed.” This last function of the group impresses me the most. The FOSH site has listed more than 8,700 HPA violators who were suspended from 1986 to the present. Imagine the number of people and groups this invaluable information helps: as The Humane Society says on its web site, “individuals selecting a professional trainer for their gaited horse can use the . . . [FOSH]Web site to research the trainer’s violation history. A buyer can verify the seller’s reputation for soring. Horse rescues that are placing horses with new adoptees can verify their HPA history before placing the horse. Show management and enforcement officials can familiarize themselves with names of repeat violators, listed in one of the search options. The site also provides current data, such as suspension proportions by state, and by violation type.” Informing the world, indeed!

There are many more advantages to becoming a FOSH member. But see for yourself. Go to http://www.fosh.info/ and read the whole web site. I’m confident that you’ll  join the fight to end soring by joining FOSH.

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