The American Association of Equine Practitioners and American Veterinary Medical Association urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to prohibit the use of action devices and performance packages in the training and showing of Tennessee Walking Horses.
Action devices, such as chains, ankle rings, collars, rollers and wood or aluminum bead bracelets, are used in conjunction with chemical irritants on the pastern of a horse’s foot to cause pain and induce an exaggerated gait, according to a joint statement issued by the American Association of Equine Practitioners and American Veterinary Medical Association. There is little scientific evidence indicating that the use of action devices on their own are detrimental to the health and welfare of the horse, but banning the devices would reduce the motivation to apply a chemical irritant, the organizations reported.
The U.S. Equestrian Federation, the national governing body for equestrian sport in the United States, does not allow action devices in the show ring for all recognized breed affiliates.
Performance packages, also called stacks or pads, made of plastic, leather, wood and rubber, are attached below the sole of the horse’s natural hoof and have a metal band that runs around the hoof wall to maintain them in place. The packages add weight to the horse’s foot, causing it to strike the ground with more force and at an abnormal angle, the AVMA and AAEP said. The packages can also facilitate the concealment of items that apply pressure to the sole of the horse’s hoof, and pressure from those hidden items produces pain in the hoof so that the horse lifts its feet faster and higher in an exaggerated gait.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services is considering changes to the regulations that could prohibit or restrict the devices, but there are no formal plans at present, according to APHIS spokesperson David Sacks. Under current regulations, a foreign substance causing pain to a horse qualifies as a soring violation. Due to a recent APHIS rule change, anyone responsible for soring a horse is subject to minimum penalties under the Horse Protection Act.