USDA Toughens Rules to Safeguard Horses Against Soring Cruelty

USDA Toughens Rules to Safeguard Horses Against Soring Cruelty

Ending Horse Soring at Tennessee Walking Horse Shows

Ending Horse Soring at Tennessee Walking Horse Shows

The Cruel and Inhumane Practice of Horse Soring

Horse soring is a cruel and inhumane practice where some owners and trainers chemically or physically irritate or burn horses to provide an accentuated gait that gives them an unfair advantage in walking horse competitions and fraudulent purchase prices at horse shows. Walking horses are known for their naturally high gait, but to be more successful in competitions, some owners and trainers use cruel methods to exaggerate a horse’s gait. These inhumane methods may cause the horse to suffer physical pain, distress, inflammation, or lameness while walking and moving.

USDA’s Efforts to End Horse Soring

In an effort to end horse soring at Tennessee Walking Horse shows, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is announcing strengthened Horse Protection Act regulations. “For far too long, some within the Tennessee Walking Horse industry have sored and abused their horses, despite the industry’s inspection process and our own enforcement efforts,” said Jenny Lester-Moffitt, Under Secretary for USDA Marking and Regulatory Programs. “This abuse must stop. Eliminating this cruel practice will help protect horses competing in these shows and level the playing field for the industry. The independent inspection process should strengthen the competition at these shows and benefit the many owners and trainers who do right by their animals.”

The Horse Protection Act

The Horse Protection Act is a Federal law that prohibits sored horses from participating in shows, exhibitions, sales, or auctions. The Horse Protection Act also prohibits the transportation of sored horses to or from any of these events.

The New Rule

In 2017, APHIS withdrew the initial Horse Protection Act final rule from public inspection per a memorandum issued by the Executive Office of the President. Following a lawsuit based on that action, the agency withdrew the 2017 rule on October 30, 2023, and published a new proposed rule, receiving 8,787 comments. The new rule builds upon information we have learned since the 2017 rule was drafted. Notably, it incorporates lessons and science-based recommendations from the 2021 National Academies of Science review of the inspection program.

Effective Date of the Rule

A copy of this rule may be viewed today, and the rule will be published in the Federal Register in the coming weeks. This rule will be effective February 1, 2025.


Eliminating horse soring is an important step in protecting the welfare of animals and ensuring a level playing field for all participants in horse shows. The USDA’s strengthened Horse Protection Act regulations are a welcome move towards ending this inhumane practice, and the new rule will provide much-needed oversight and regulation. By working together, we can ensure that the Tennessee Walking Horse industry operates fairly and humanely, in the best interests of the horses that make these shows possible.

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US Congress has new chance to stop horse soring
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