Tennessee Walking Horses, TWH, are gentle horses that are gaited. This basically means that they have a natural, four beat gait that is smooth to ride. TWH performance horses, also known as the “Big Lick”, are the horses that are forced to wear stacks and chains 24 hours a day so that their owners can win a blue ribbon, and lots of money, in the show ring. This Tennessee Walking Horse Abuse has been going on for decades!
The horses, even with the stacks and chains, cannot excite a “Big Lick” crowd (those that love the grotesque movements the horses are forced to perform) without soring. That means Big Lick trainers take measures to ensure the horse is so sore that it will step high and squat back end. Some of those measures include applying chemicals and other caustic compounds to the horse’s legs, or inserting bearings between the stack and the sole of the hoof.
In 2013, the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act of 2013, PAST Act was introduced by Representative Ed Whitfield (R-Ky). That bill was blocked in committee and never made it to the floor for a vote. The bill would have amended the Horse Protection Act to prohibit the use of stacks, pads and chains on gaited horses. The PAST Act was introduced again in 2015 and has again been blocked.
In 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, APHIS, proposed an amendment to its Rules and Regulations that govern the Horse Protection Act to, among other changes, prohibit the use of stacks, pads and chains. Those rules are currently in the comment stage. Kudos to APHIS for finding a way to stop the abuse since Congress cannot get past its infighting and its bowing to big money lobbyists to get the job done.
APHIS Rule hearings have been held in Tennessee, Kentucky and California. One more is scheduled to be held on September 6th and a virtual public meeting will be held on September 15th. Comments can be made in support of the Rules until September 26. To date, 3,478 comments, both for and against, have been made. The more comments that are made in favor of the changes are needed so that it is loud and clear to APHIS that the majority of the nation is against this animal abuse and want it to stop NOW. Towards that goal, advocates of the PAST Act and the Rule, including Billy Go Boy and the Humane Society of the United States, have been tirelessly working to educate and get people to take action to end the abuse.
Clant Seay and the Citizens Campaign Against “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty have protested at Big Lick shows around the south this year. Their advocacy is working if extremely low attendance at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration is any indication. The Celebration, or Sorebration as some like to call it, is a ten day event that will end with the new World Grand Champion TWH Big Lick horse being chosen. Billy Go Boy gave an update on his blog that is very encouraging.
How You Can Help
Everyone that wants to see the Big Lick abuse come to an end must get on board and help in whatever way they can. For example, go to the APHIS website and make a comment in favor of passing the proposed rule, share information on your social media so that the word gets out about this horrendous practice and the ways that it can be stopped, blog about it, and attend protests at Big Lick horse shows. Please help make this the year that the abuse ends!!