House Passes 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—Yesterday, the US House of Representatives passed the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act of 2021 (H.R. 5441), moving one step closer to enshrining the most significant protections for Tennessee walking horses and related breeds in more than half a century.

The legislation, passed by a vote of 304-111, would end the barbaric practices associated with soring—the act of intentionally injuring a horse’s hooves and legs to force a higher-stepping gait (known as the “Big Lick”) during certain walking horse competitions.

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. Under the current system of industry self-policing, individuals who abuse horses often go unpunished.

The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) has fought for passage of this legislation for many years, as it would entail the most comprehensive update to the Horse Protection Act since its enactment in 1970.

“For decades, Tennessee walking horses have been tormented and abused by trainers and owners for the sake of winning awards and cash prizes,” said AWI President Cathy Liss. The PAST Act delivers long overdue and meaningful reforms so that the Horse Protection Act can live up to its name. We are grateful to Reps. Steve Cohen, Brian Fitzpatrick, Jan Schakowsky, and Vern Buchanan for their tireless advocacy to protect these innocent animals from wanton cruelty.”

“The PAST Act would shut down the cruel practice of horse soring…It’s a horrendous practice that horse trainers have used in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry, Spotted Saddle, and Racking Horse shows,” Cohen said. “The Big Lick is wrong…I’m proud to lead the fight to end it. We’re going to end it.”

A version of the PAST Act was first introduced in 2012. Over the years, the bill has garnered tremendous support from animal welfare groups, the equine industry, and the veterinary community, including the American Veterinary Medical Association. The bill overwhelmingly passed the House in 2019, but the full Senate failed to take action. During this session of Congress, the Senate version of the PAST Act, led by Sens. Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Mark Warner (D-VA), has gained 53 cosponsors since its reintroduction last year.

To learn more about the issue of horse soring and to urge your senators to support the PAST Act (S.2295), 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.

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