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The Sore 
Tennessee Walking Horse

(This is an informational website about abusive training techniques used on some Tennessee Walking Horses as well as some horses of other gaited breeds.)

The term ''sore'' when used to describe a horse means that:
          1. an irritating or blistering agent has been applied, internally or externally, by a person to any limb of a
          2. any burn, cut, or laceration has been inflicted by a person on any limb of a horse,
          3. any tack, nail, screw, or chemical agent has been injected by a
person into or used by a person on any limb of a horse, or
          4. any other substance or device has been used by a person on any limb of a horse or a person has engaged in a practice involving a horse, and, as a result of such application, infliction, injection, use, or practice, such horse suffers, or can reasonably be expected to suffer, physical pain or distress, inflammation, or lameness when walking, trotting, or otherwise moving, except that such term does not include such an application, infliction, injection, use, or practice in connection with the therapeutic treatment of a horse by or under the supervision of a person licensed to practice veterinary medicine in the State in which such treatment was given.




         “Pads” or “stacks,” (Pictured above) not to be confused with medicinal purpose pads, are training devices used to “enhance” the gait of some Tennessee Walking Horses.  Stacks/pads are one-inch layers of a combination of wood, leather, plastic, and/or rubber that are attached to the bottom of the front hooves of a 
“Big Lick” performance Tennessee Walking Horse.  The stacks look similar to platform shoes. 

          Stacks started to become popular in Tennessee in the early 1970’s as more and more show horse trainers became attracted to the gaits produced by stacks.  This led to the common use of stacks.  Stacks were sometimes made of mostly leather and were much heavier than most used today, which are usually made of rubber and/or plastic.  Some stacks were also made hollow, and were able to be filled with substances such as  lead, and wet sand to make the stacks heavier, forcing the horse to use more strength to lift its legs.  Most stacks today are solid and not filled although they are far from harmless and require bands to keep them attached.  

Stacks are popular among certain TWH (Tennessee Walking Horse) 
owners and trainers because they make the horse do the gait trainers and 
owners want (high, quick steps) which is considered desirable by these owners, trainers, and show judges. 

Some critics say that it is not uncommon to see metal bands cutting into the hooves of stacked horses 
as the hoof tries to grow past the restrictions of the band or from the band wearing a slot in the hoof.  
Below we see a curious groove in the hooves as well as in the picture at the above right.
Photos taken in 2004:


               Chains are another training device that "enhance" the gait of a horse.  Manufactured, bracelet-type chains can be bought through tacks stores, horse supply magazines, and other sources.  These store bought chains, weighing up to 10 oz. legally (although chains that violate weight limits are still sold and used) are placed around the front pasterns/ lower legs of the horse.  These chains are used to get the horse to lift it's legs higher, either because the chains are hurting the horse, or the horse is trying to step out of the chains to  depending on the weight of the chains and the length of time they have been used.

Why Chains Are BAD:

-The Auburn Study-

     In September of 1978 - December of 1982 a study was done by Auburn University, called the Auburn study.  The Auburn study was done to test "Thermography in diagnosis of inflammatory processes in horses in response to various chemical and physical factors."

Thermography being used in 2004 to show inflammation in the front legs of a horse:


     *The Auburn study summary of the research done from Sept. 1978 - Dec. 1982 reports, "Thermography was very effective in the diagnosis of inflammatory responses and healing processes."   (They found that the use of thermography was effective in detecting inflammation caused by certain training techniques use by some Tennessee Walking Horse trainers such as the use of stacks/pads and chains.)
*Determination of Theraputic Patterns in Response to 10 oz. Chains:
         - Three horses (#s 3, 4, and 6) were fitted with 10 oz. chains according to the USDA, APHIS, Veterinary
           Services regulations. 
"Results of this study provided that by day 7 of exercise with chains, lesions can
           be produced on a horse's legs."  "Thermographically, horses exhibited altered thermal patterns as 
           early as day 2 of exercise with chains.  These altered thermal patterns persisted as long as chains were
          "It took about 20 days in recovery to obtain normal thermal patterns."  
     *"Thermograms and pressure readings readily distinguish a normal, unsore horse from one being treated
            with chemicals on the pastern and exercised in chains."
*A stallion was "exercised and monitored nine times 9/22 - 10/3 in 8oz. chains for 15 minutes each
           exercise period.  Vaseline was used as a lubricant."  Results of this study showed that the stallion
           developed raw, bleeding lesions on the scared pasterns when exercised in action devices and lubricant.
           "Abnormal thermal patterns developed on the pasterns of the horses during the period of exercise in
           action devices and the drop in pressure readings occurred."
"14oz. rollers and 8 and 10oz. chains will cause raw lesions on scarred pasterns of horses when the 
           horses are exercised 15-30 minutes per day in action devices.  Lesions occur in less than 2 weeks, even
           when the horses are not exercised on weekends.  The actions devices cause irregular thermal patterns
           detectable by thermovision, increased sensativity to pressure on the pastterns, and discomfort and
           altered gaits visible to observers."


Why Stacks Are Bad:

Letter from Auburn University to USDA,APHIS:

(Begin quote)  "February 19, 1982

Dear Dr. Schwindaman:
     We We have yet to carry out the formal steps to determine the effects of built-up pads on Tennessee Walking Horses.  Over the years, however, we have experienced what the group considers a high rate of thrush in the horses we have shod with pads and used in tests.  Although it is not readily apparent on clinical observation we have observed with thermovision varying degrees of abnormal inflammation on the posterior aspect of the metacarpal area where the flexor bundle is located.  This usually occurs the day after a horse has been freshly shod, whether or not he is exercised daily, and lasts from a few days to two weeks.

     We Attached are some questions we asked of our farrier and four clinic veterinarians who devote their professional time almost exclusively to equines.  They all answered `yes' to the first two questions and suggested sheared heels, quarter cracks, and laminitis as other abnormalities of the forefeet of Tennessee Walking Horses shod with conventional pads.  They all answered `yes' to the fourth question, giving their reason that they could not adequately examine the feet unless the sole was exposed.

R.S. Sharman, DVM
Assistant Professor

     1. Do you associate , from your observation, increased incidence of thrush with pads covering the sole of
         horses hooves?
     2. Contracted Heels?
     3. Other abnormalities?
     4. Would you consider it necessary to remove pads and shoes from a horse to do an adequate foot
         examination?  Why?" (end quote)


*Opposition to the padding of TWHs*

Soring Info

WHTA Trainers of the year

Tennessean News Report On Soring