Understanding the Sad Facts behind Horse “Soring”


The animal rights community has long been against the inhumane practice of horse “soring.” What exactly is soring? Many animal lovers haven’t heard much about soring, but it is a practice that everyone who cares about the welfare of animals should know about. Here are a few basic facts about horse soring.


What is horse soring?

Soring is the practice of irritating a horse’s forelegs merely to accentuate its high-stepping gait (as seen in the Tennessee Walking Horse). Horses will instinctively pull their front legs up quickly to avoid pain. They will also shift their weight to their back feet. This movement produces the sought-after exaggerated gait.


What are the methods used to sore a horse?

Horses can be sored both mechanically and chemically, both practices starting on young horses. Mechanical soring uses a variety of methods, including stacks (attaching weights to the front hooves), chains, pressure shoeing (attaching a shoe to a hoof filed nearly to the quick), and road foundering (the horse is pressure shoed and then rode on a hard surface).


Chemical soring is the application caustic substances to the front legs to cause burning and blistering. Substances used in chemical soring include mustard oil, kerosene and diesel fuel, salicylic acid, and other harsh chemicals.


How did soring start?

The exact history is unclear, but it is generally thought that sometime in the 1950s, it was accidentally discovered that a harsh chemical (either mustard oil as a hoof treatment or kerosene as a cleaner) applied to a Tennessee Walking Horse’s legs made the horse walk in a lively way. The audience at the show this horse performed at loved the style of walking, and the sad tradition was born.


Is horse soring illegal?

The outcry against soring began in the 1960s. In 1970, the US Congress passed the Horse Protection Act which banned the sale, transport, and exhibition of sored horses. The USDA is responsible for enforcing the law. Horse organizations and individual inspectors (like vets) are certified to inspect horses for soring. Unfortunately, some trainers have found ways to bypass inspections by training the horse not to react to pain during inspections, and by using topical anesthetics before inspections. A new chemical detection method similar to airport bomb detection is now being used.


To learn more about this issue, check out The Horse Fund’s website.




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  • Aaron Seminoff
Comments 1
  • Kailey

    I love this post it is so important for people to know about the type of crap that goes on behind closed doors.

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