House Revives PAST Act to End Equine Abuse at Horse Shows

A horse and rider perform the Big Lick at a horse show.
Photo by Randall R. Saxton

Washington, DC—The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) endorses Friday's reintroduction in the US House of Representatives of the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act (H.R. 3090) to combat the inhumane practice of “soring,” whereby individuals intentionally inflict pain on horses’ hooves and legs to produce an exaggerated high-stepping gait known as the “Big Lick” during competitions and shows. Led by US Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Vern Buchanan (R-FL), and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), the PAST Act represents the most significant protections for Tennessee walking horses and related breeds since passage of the Horse Protection Act (HPA) in 1970.

Methods used to sore horses include applying diesel fuel and kerosene to burn the skin, grinding down hooves to expose sensitive tissues, and applying sharp or abrasive objects to tender areas to maximize pain. During the annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, which proclaims that “the walking horse will always be our first love,” and at other smaller events, soring still persists in large part because of inadequate enforcement and an ineffective self-policing system

Although the US Department of Agriculture conducts some inspections, it mostly relies on “designated qualified persons” (DQPs), who are employees of the organizations that host shows and are often exhibitors of Tennessee walking horses themselves, to find evidence of abuse. Not surprisingly, under this system, individuals who abuse horses often go unpunished.

“The practice of mutilating horses for the sake of winning ribbons and prizes is completely unjustifiable,” said Dr. Joanna Grossman, AWI’s equine program director and senior advisor. “The PAST Act would vastly improve enforcement and protect these vulnerable horses from abuse. We applaud Reps. Fitzpatrick, Cohen, Buchanan, and Schakowsky for championing equine welfare and call on Congress to swiftly pass this legislation, which enjoys tremendous bipartisan support.” 

A version of the PAST Act was first introduced in 2012 during the 112th Congress. A wide range of stakeholders in the animal protection community, equine industry, and veterinary field endorse the bill. The PAST Act overwhelmingly passed the House last year, with 304 lawmakers voting in favor of the bill. However, it was not taken up by the Senate, despite amassing 53 cosponsors in the upper chamber.

“Horse soring is a vile and inhumane practice that must be prohibited,” Fitzpatrick said. “As co-chair of the Animal Protection Caucus, I am proud to introduce the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act to protect horses and I hope our colleagues will join us in passing this important, bipartisan legislation.”

To urge your federal lawmakers to support the PAST Act, visit here.

Media Contact Information

Marjorie Fishman, Animal Welfare Institute
[email protected], (202) 446-2128

The Animal Welfare Institute ( is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.