Animal Activists Try Playing Nice With Walking Horse Association

Animal activists say the only way the high-stepping "big lick" can be achieved is through soring, which uses either chemicals or scarring to cause pain on the horse's ankles or hooves. Credit: Chad Sisneros / HSUS

Animal activists say the only way the high-stepping “big lick” can be achieved is through soring, which uses either chemicals or scarring to cause pain on the horse’s ankles or hooves. Credit: Chad Sisneros / HSUS

A Tennessee Walking Horse show in Murfreesboro this weekend has gained an unlikely sponsor – an animal activist group that’s been conducting undercover investigations on walking horse cruelty.

The Humane Society of the United States has become enemy number one to some walking horse enthusiasts who feel the group is trying to end competition altogether.

“From what I understand, HSUS’s sponsorship of our event is the first time for our industry,” Tracy Boyd said in an email. He’s the president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association.

The “World Versatility Show” highlights non-traditional uses of the Tennessee walking horse, such as dressage and jumping.

“We want to see a sound future for the walking horse and believe that it’s possible,” says Keith Dane, HSUS director of equine protection.

However, Dane says the Humane Society won’t be sponsoring the annual “National Celebration” in Shelbyville anytime soon. He says that show focuses too much on getting horses to exaggerate their high-stepping gait, which he argues can only be achieved by hurting the animal.

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