RARE BIPARTISAN SUPPORT FOR LEGISLATION TO STOP “SORING”
by Sharon Rondeau
(May 25, 2019) — A video released Thursday by Clant M. Seay, founder of Citizens Campaign Against Big Lick Animal Cruelty (CCABLAC) reported that a bill to ban “pads and chains” on show horses has more than 300 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Earlier that day, Seay reported on his blog that the bill was unofficially cosponsored by 292 House members.
The bill, H.R. 693, is titled, “U.S. Senator Joseph D. Tydings Memorial Prevent All Soring Tactics Act of 2019” (PAST), hence Seay’s reference to Sen. Joseph Tydings at the beginning of the video.
As The Post & Email reported, CCABLAC hosted a symposium in January at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, where Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN9) pledged that the House would take up the new bill honoring Tydings, considered the “father” of the 1970 Horse Protection Act.
Tydings passed away last fall at the age of 90. A World War II veteran and lifelong lover of horses stemming from his time in one of the U.S. Army’s last cavalry units, Tydings took a controversial stand during his sole term in the U.S. Senate to author and steer to passage the Horse Protection Act. The measure banned the sale, auction, transport or showing of a horse with signs of “soring,” a set of techniques used to make the animals step higher in the show ring.
The process encompasses the use of both “mechanical” and “chemical” components on the horse’s lower front legs to cause the high-stepping gait known in some circles as the “Big Lick.” Chemicals can include kerosene, mustard oil, croton oil and WD40, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
Reports posted at the website of the USDA, the agency tasked with oversight of the HPA, demonstrate that inspectors continue to find violations at horse shows, particularly in the Southeast. The “padded” category indicates horses affixed with mechanical “devices,” which were not banned by the HPA, while “flat” indicates horses competing in their natural state without pads or chains.
Seay told The Post & Email that his organization seeks to obliterate “soring” which the proposed Tydings Act states “includes various actions taken on horses’ limbs to produce higher gaits that may cause pain, distress, inflammation, or lameness.”
Seay’s references to “Shelbyville” in the video are to the “National Celebration” held in Shelbyville, TN each year at summer’s end. The Celebration’s CEO, Mike Inman, maintains that no horse taking part in the event has been sored due to stringent inspections by USDA personnel.
As Seay has reported over a number of years, attendance at the Celebration has declined dramatically. He describes “Big Lick” supporters as well-heeled, moneyed individuals, some of whom have donated to certain congressional Republicans in order to prevent additional legislation from passing.
Founded in 2015, each year CCABLAC’s members protest at horse shows where the “Big Lick” gait appears.
A number of locations have ceased to sponsor “Big Lick” events, Seay has reported, including what was an annual horse show for 19 years at Panama City Beach, FL and a 75-year-old horse show featuring “Big Lick” classes which provided a $50,000 annual donation to the Children’s Hospital at the University of Mississippi Medical Center
As of this writing, there are 302 published cosponsors of the Tydings Act, although Seay said that “impeccable sources” told him late last week that the number is actually “304.” He said that includes the original sponsor, Rep. Kurt Schrader.
Seay remarked that the 80 Republican co-sponsors of the bill is “virtually unheard-of. Most recently, we have a Republican from the state of Georgia, Carter, from Savannah. We have Patrick McHenry from Gastonia, NC, which is right next to Asheville, where we’ve protested for five years. His district covers part of Ashville; another congressman who has part of Asheville is Mark Meadows, and he cosponsored also.”
Against the backdrop of congressional legislation in general, Seay said that the number of cosponsors on the Tydings Act in a “real, real, real unusual” occurrence. “We’ve had 38 cosponsors sign on in the last four days, which is also unheard-of,” he said. “We have strong bipartisan support, and we hope to see a floor vote on this bill where people go on record.”
On Friday The Post & Email asked Seay how great an impact he believes his group’s activism might have had on the recent action in Congress, to which he responded, “A huge amount due to the awareness created by social media. We have had over 600,000 people sign our petitions. We’ve been before the White House with over 105,000 signatures on a petition. The horse show in Panama City Beach no longer exists; the horse show in Jackson, MS no longer exists.
“We’re talking about the ‘Big Lick’ shows. We’re not against horse shows, but we’re against animal cruelty. We’ll be in Columbia, TN for the fifth straight year next week. The word has spread; it’s cumulative, and it speaks volumes as to the people in this day and time, who no longer want any part of what is animal cruelty to Tennessee Walking Horses, and they have spoken loud and clear. When you get Republican members of Congress supporting this bill openly, that’s a big deal. Of course, the Democrats, too.”
Updated, 2:30 p.m. EDT.