Animal Update: Soaring In The Walking Horse Industry

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(KCBS) – In the walking and performance horse industry, there is some controversy over the use of a technique known as “soaring.”

“I’ll start with what a walking horse is,” said Jennifer Scarlett, DVM, co-director of the San Francisco SPCA. “Which is this beautiful horse that is brought up in the southeastern part of the United States and has this amazing, fast moving walk. And, about 50 years ago in the horse show industry judges started to reward horses that had a very high, quick gait. So trainers started to do things to enhance that, and they did it by soaring, making the horse feel pain when it put its foot on the ground.”

There are health consequences of that practice.

“Unfortunately, trainers have gotten more and more aggressive about getting this big lick, this big gait in these horses,” warned Scarlett. “And they’ll put caustic substances on the band of the horse’s hoof that is extremely painful. So one is just this acute pain. And second, we see chronic pain from horses having to change their gait over a long period of time.”

There has been a ban on the practice for years, but the walking horse industry seems to be tolerating it, nonetheless.

“Recently there’s been an expose by the Humane Society of the United States that shows a Hall of Fame Tennessee walking horse trainer using these practices and this has spawned a huge outcry to have the industry clean up its act,” said Scarlett. “And if you’d like to know more about this subject, check it out at the San Francisco SPCA website.”

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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