There has been a lot of publicity surrounding the soring, padding and overall abuse involved in the Big Lick Tennessee Walking Horses. And some progress being made towards criminalizing those behaviors.
But I wonder why we aren’t looking at the bigger picture – of any “discipline” making use of artificial means to gain an edge. One example I’m going to use right now are Saddlebreds being shown – making use of bungee training devices to gain the high stepping, weighted shoes, chains around the pasterns, gingering and setting the tails. These horses are being permanently altered (tails and hooves) for the sake of a trophy.
How is this different from the outlawed practice of foot-binding to gain a husband?
These are not normal hooves and it is not normal action that is being brought out of these horses. It is as artificial as the TWH big lick gaits with slightly amended methods to achieving it. But the question isn’t whether it’s as abusive as Big Lick, but whether it’s fair to the horse in the human pursuit of a blue ribbon.
Of course all we really need to do is to look as far as the tack stores supplying the training barns to realize how deeply we’ve failed the horse that this is a common practice. Like Show Horse Tack which is based out of Quincy, Illinois. Just looking through the bit selection is enough to make you throw up. But they also offer ginger salve to “aid in maintaining a proper tail set,” and in case you’re a professional they sell it by the case…
And this post is not about Saddlebreds as a breed. It’s about the humans who involve themselves with showing who see a trophy as more valuable than the horse’s well-being. These artificial means of training and altering the horse occur in all breeds and disciplines.
Could there be a future in criminalizing these artificial “training” methods, and not just those happening to Big Lick Tennessee Walkers?