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Horse soring to be banned in US
HORSE HORROR: The practise of soring is said to cause horses extreme pain (photo courtesy of the Humane Society)

A leading animal welfare charity is hailing victory in the fight to abolish the barbaric practice of soring – described as 'one of the cruellest human acts to horses.'

In a landmark move, the US government has introduced legislation that could finally see the practise of crippling horses to exaggerate their gaits outlawed.

Keith Dane, of the Humane Society in the United States, told MumsHaynet: “It means we are now close to ending this barbaric practice for good.”

Soring involves deliberately inflicting excruciating pain on a horse’s legs or hooves to amplify movement. It is carried out by chemical or physical methods and activists say it causes horrendous suffering and stress to the animals involved.

Now, after a fierce ten-year fight, the Humane Society has successfully persuaded the US government to introduce legislation banning the practise, and the new rule has been ratified by the Department of Agriculture.


Soring is performed on breeds such as the Tennessee Walking Horse, Racking Horses and the Spotted Saddle Horse as a way to make them lift their legs faster and higher.

The animals are said to spend weeks isolated and confined to their stables while the painful procedure is carried out – a process which sees their legs covered in caustic chemicals and plastic wrap to "cook" the flesh. Caustic substances include mustard oil, diesel, and heating fuel.

In training barns where soring takes place, campaigners say it is common to see horses lying down in their stalls, moaning in pain.

They further say that when these horses are ridden, whether in schooling or in competition, trainers put chains around the horse's maimed ankles. As the metal slides up and down it further exaggerates the horse’s gait.

Other methods to achieve this aim are said to involve heavy shoes nailed with weights, a practise known as stacks, or beating a horse’s legs with cattle prods.


According to the Humane Society, an estimated 10,000 horses in the US suffer this horrific abuse each year.

In 2017 a law was passed to end soring, but it was never properly implemented due to a lack of funding. The abuse is still said to be widespread in Tennessee, Kentucky and other southern American states.

Although the new “Final Law” won’t come into force until January 2025, it will effectively end the practice of soring horses at all shows and sales throughout the US. Independent and trained officials will also be appointed to spot evidence of abuse.

Incredibly, the ban is already under threat from industry insiders who are threatening legal action to block it.


Keith Dane, senior director of equine protection at the Humane Society of the United State, said: “The rule is final, but doesn’t go into effect until January 2nd next year.

“At that point, some of the devices used in soring – stacks, pads, wedges and action devices – will be prohibited on Tennessee Walking and Racking horses at shows and sales. 

“Those who sore horses in the industry are contemplating filing a lawsuit to block the implementation of the rule, so we will need to see if they do, and if they are successful.

“We will of course oppose their efforts vigorously.

“The announcement of this final rule is a big step in the right direction. If it goes into effect as planned and is enforced properly, by this or future administrations, it will go a long way toward ending soring for good.”

Referring to the failed laws in 2017, Dane said: “The rule finalised by the US Department of Agriculture in 2017 at the end of the Obama Administration was frozen, along with other rules that had not yet been implemented, by the Trump Administration.  It was never implemented. 

“Our charity insisted that since it was finalised the rule was withdrawn illegally, and we sued USDA.  In 2023, we prevailed, leading to the finalisation of this new rule in 2024.”


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