Tamahome is one of our Hanaeleh Horse Ambassadors, and we point to him as an example of the abuses of horse “soring.” He is a Tennessee Walking Horse who was rescued due to the extremely abusive training that was done to him, and he still suffers the effects of that abuse. Although he has healed physically, he still suffers emotionally, which is why he was never put up for adoption. Tamahome is a very sweet, very loving horse, and it is unfathomable as to why people will resort to torture for the sake of winning a show.
Horse soring is the purposeful infliction of pain on a horse’s legs or hooves in an attempt to create an exaggerated gait. The sadistic, convoluted theory behind horse soring is that if the horse is in an incredible amount of pain, he will not want to bear any weight on his legs, thus keeping them in the air longer. The horses are in so much pain that they can’t put their feet on the ground, and will rock back onto their hind end, which creates the exaggerated gait.
This huge obviously unnatural gait is called a “Big Lick,” and is highly coveted at saddleseat shows. Tennessee Walking Horses are the preferred mount of these trainers, as they have an easy gait to ride (they can perform a walking gait at the same speed that some horses can canter). Thus, the horses are often referred to as “Big Lick Walkers.”
NOTE: At Hanaeleh, our credo is to keep all equine abuse information palatable without whitewashing. We want you to have all the facts and the following descriptions may cause uneasiness or upset.
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Horse Soring is Gratuitous Torture
Trainers will put caustic chemicals, such as petroleum, mustard oil and kerosene on a horse’s legs, which will burn the skin, causing an incredible amount of pain. They also will attach tall “stacks” to the horse’s hooves, which promote both pain and an unnatural hoof growth. These stacks also are also an attempt to create that unnatural gait.
Trainers will also put shoes that are six and eight-inches in height onto the horses’ front feet in order to achieve this gait, which causes hoof and leg trauma. Chains are added to the horses’ legs in order to prevent them from tracking normally, but encouraging them to throw their feet out to the front.
In addition to the soring and stacks, trainers will attach chains to the horse’s front legs to encourage them to throw their feet forward, instead of moving naturally. If the horses move naturally, the chains come back up and hit them across their legs and across their stomach. This encourages them to move unnaturally, at the risk of straining muscles, tendons, and creating joint issues in even young horses.
Putting a horse in pain and soring itself has been illegal since the 1970 Horse Protection Act was passed, but unfortunately, there has been little oversight of the industry, and the trainers have been allowed to continue to torture horses to this day.
Pass the PAST Act to Prevent All Soring Tactics
Many organizations including Animal Wellness Action have been working to get the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act passed in Congress. The PAST Act in the 116th Congress (2019-2020) (S1007/ HR 693) would help to close the loopholes that allow these trainers to maim and torment these horses. Unfortunately, Congress has not yet passed this bill that would comprehensively prevent these atrocities from occurring. Please contact your representatives and tell them to pass the PAST Act!
The USDA announced the ruling on January 13th, 2017, but the Office of the Federal Register did not publish the ruling before Donald Drumpf and his administration took office. It was set to go into effect on Tuesday, January 24th. Unfortunately for horses, the administration pulled every single piece of pending legislation for “review.”
Drumpf’s pick for the Secretary of Agriculture, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, is pro-slaughter and has stated to be “insensitive to the welfare of farm animals.”
What this means is that the ruling is in limbo: it is not “dead,” but neither is it in effect. Until the ruling is passed, “Big Lick” trainers can continue the practice of soring on horses.
Saddleseat (Soring’s Wicked Sibling)
Saddleseat is often a cruel sport, even without soring. Trainers and riders use very severe bits, often with twists, in an effort to keep the head up at an unnatural angle; again, to achieve that very exaggerated gait. The theory behind using severely harsh bits is the same as soring; the horse will try to do anything to prevent from being in pain. These bits put an undue amount of pressure on the horse’s mouth, and the horse will put his head up as high as he can in an effort to get away from that pressure.
“Big Lick” Bits Cause Further Pain
The bit that the trainers used on Tamahome was not nearly as harsh as some of the bits used in saddleseat training, but to this day he will get overly nervous to the point that he is inconsolable if we put any sort of snaffle bit in his mouth. He feels the pressure of that bit, even the softest French link, and has a complete mental breakdown. He does not, however, have the same issue with a straight bar, such as a low-port curb (which we use when we ride him on trail), or a Kimberwick (which we sometimes use when we train him in the arena). The fact that he has such a visceral reaction to a snaffle bit really made us realize how harsh these trainers are on their horse’s mouths.
Hanaeleh’s belief is that if a horse needs a harsh bit to listen to his rider, then the horse needs more training, not a harsher bit.
Hanaeleh never uses ANY twisted bits. We believe in training horses with softer, gentler tools. When possible, we would rather not ride with a bit at all.
“Chair Seat” Forces Unnatural Gait, Damages Horse for Life
Saddleseat also requires that the rider sit with a “chair seat,” which also puts an undue amount of pressure on the horse’s back, as the riders sit back farther on the horse, their feet forward and hands very high in the air, often with their shoulders hunched. If you watch any rider practicing good equitation, you will notice that the individual is sitting up straight, sitting rounded and soft in the saddle, with their heels down. The purpose behind this is to create the smallest amount of pressure on the horse’s back as possible. Saddleseat, on the other hand, has a larger area of the rider on the horse’s back, and forces the rider into an unnatural position, just as it forces the horse into an unnatural gait.
At Hanaeleh, we have rescued a number of horses like Tamahome who were trained or shown in saddleseat and these horses invariably have back, leg and hock issues.
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Hanaeleh is a 501(c)(3) (Tax ID 20-3255341) Nonprofit horse rescue operating in Southern California since 2004 and every penny donated goes to the horses.
We are 100% volunteer-run and we’re a Verified Rescue with Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.
We rescue all breeds and ages of horses, and after we rehabilitate them, we work to find them new loving homes. When horses are not adoptable due to severe neglect or abuse, we provide sanctuary for them to live out their days knowing they’ll always be loved and cared for.
For even more information on Horse Soring, please click on the following links: