USDA wants input on anti-'soring' rules

The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service wants public input on how well the federal government has implemented the Horse Protection Act, which is designed to eliminate the "soring" of walking horses and other gaited breeds for shows.

The USDA also is considering eliminating controversial walking horse training techniques, such as weighted chains and thick padding, that are used to create an exaggerated show gait known as "the big lick," and that are sometimes used to intentionally create soreness in the front feet to get the horse to lift them higher.

Beginning in March, the Health Inspection Service will hold listening sessions in Lexington and around the country to answer questions such as: How close is the USDA to eliminating soring? Can self-regulation by industry-run groups be effective? Should "action devices" such as chains be prohibited? Should pads (walking horses for shows often have several inches of padding added to front horseshoes) be prohibited?

The USDA listening session in Lexington will be at the Kentucky Horse Park from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 15. Speakers will be limited to five minutes each. Written comments may be left with USDA officials at the session. Online registration is available at