The Tennessee Walking Horse breed is celebrated for its elegant, long stride and its sweet temperament.
These animals have been used in horse shows for many years, which unfortunately means they have also been faced with abuse for many years.
The most prized gait in these horses is known as the "Big Lick." It consists of an extremely high step, moving the legs in a completely unnatural way.
The process of obtaining this stride involves extreme suffering for these animals.
Trainers will often apply caustic substances, like diesel fuel or kerosene, to the horse's legs, and then wrap them up to let the chemicals 'cook in.'
This is obviously extremely painful, but to make it worse, chains or weights are added afterwards, so that with every movement, the metal hits the raw burned skin, creating the exaggerated high step.
Many trainers also put stacked horseshoes on the animals, so that they are essentially wearing high heels.
Soring has been outlawed by congress since the 1970s, but that hasn't stopped many trainers from using these techniques illegally.
Unfortunately, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) is severely underfunded, and they can't afford to send a representative to every show. They charge an independent inspector to check on the welfare of the animals, but too often they are bribed or interested in maintaining the status quo.
The law requires every horse to be checked before competitions. Officials will shake the horses legs before they enter the ring to check if the horse reacts in pain and will also examine the legs for scarring.
Too avoid being caught, many trainers will put numbing agents on the horses legs before they are examined, as well as using spray paint or hair thickener to cover the markings on their legs.
The Humane Society of the United States went undercover in several training facilities to gather evidence against the animal abusers inflicting this pain on the horses. Their work helped end the career of one trainer, costing him $75,000 in fines and three years probation.
You can watch their full reportage and undercover video below:
Just before leaving office, the Obama administration increased protections for the Tennessee Walking horses, including requiring non-federal inspectors to be certified veterinarians.
Talk to your local representatives, and tell them that you want continued protection under the new administration. And most importantly, do not support the cruel industry that takes advantage of these horses.
These incredible animals deserve our protection.
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