On Wednesday, June 18th, six flat-shod Tennessee Walking Horses gaited their way to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC to show support for the PAST Act.
Prevent All Soring Tactics Act, or (PAST Act H.R. 1518/S. 1406) will end “soring” among the small sector of the Tennessee Walking Horse, Spotted Saddle Horse and Racking Horse groups who use the tactic to produce the “big lick” gaits. Practices include dressing the front legs of the horses with caustic chemicals to make them sensitive so they will lift their legs higher. This legislation will also eliminate heavy shoes and stacks (tall wooden “pads”) and other “action devices,” and it will eliminate the failed self-regulation programs that currently exist and put that regulation into the hands of the USDA for better enforcement.
Included among the selected six supporters were Marylander Denise Parsons and her Walker, I’m Royal Flash, a.k.a. Benny, a multiple year-end award winner who participates in versatility events such as gaited dressage and trail obstacle classes in addition to the traditional English and Western rail classes. Benny is a registered Tennessee Walking Horse and is one of Denise’s favorite trail companions.
Another prominent Maryland horseman was among the demonstrators: former U.S. Senator Joe Tidings (D). Senator Tydings was the author of the original Horse Protection Act, which passed in 1970. Additional speakers included Congressman Ed Whitfield, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and Congressman Steve Cohen. According to Denise, the day was “flawless; all six horses were amazing, they never took a wrong step, even in the middle of downtown DC, not a single spook or even a twitch despite all the commotion including a motorcade with sirens blaring.”
The selected six were joined by about 60 dedicated volunteers from all over the country. Local and national news organizations picked up the story, including an ABC affiliate, USA Today photographers, and a PBS team.
The legislation is endorsed by virtually every major horse association in the country, including but not limited to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Equine Practitioners, and the American Horse Council. The passing of this bill is also supported by the majority of TWH owners and is cosponsored by the majority of the house and senate, but has not been brought to the floor for a vote, despite its bipartisan support.
The Maryland Horse Council was one of the first state horse councils to formally join the effort to support PAST. However, according to Denise, “Congressman Andy Harris is the last holdout in Maryland, as he has not yet cosponsored the bill. We really need his support, as he is a Republican. We need eight more republican cosponsors to get the majority of the Majority and force it to a vote. Any pressure anyone can put on him would be great.”