Op-Ed

We rid NC State Fair of Big Lick horse show – now let’s go national

Chad Baucom shows the horse Walk Time Charlie around the arena in the World Grand Championship class at the 2012 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.
Chad Baucom shows the horse Walk Time Charlie around the arena in the World Grand Championship class at the 2012 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. AP

It’s hard to believe that some people find entertainment in watching horses that have been intentionally harmed for the sake of achieving the pain-based, unnatural “Big Lick” gait. Unfortunately, these abusive Big Lick horse shows have been going on for years.

Now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is proposing rules that could stop the abuse for good, and it’s seeking comments from the public.

Tennessee Walking Horses and similar breeds are subjected to acts of torture to create the signature “Big Lick” high-stepping walk. Their abusive trainers start by slathering the horses’ legs with caustic chemicals, then wrapping the limbs in plastic to “cook” the chemicals in, causing extreme pain. Ankle chains are then strapped around the legs for the sole purpose of causing further pain and irritation. On top of that, the horses are forced to stand on tall, heavy platform shoes known as “stacks” 24/7. This abusive method is called “soring,” and it’s time to stop the Big Lick shows and soring for good.

In 2014, I introduced an online petition that successfully removed any Big Lick horse shows from the N.C. State Fair permanently with the help of 19,678 supporters. It’s clear the people of North Carolina firmly believe the intentional infliction of pain on an innocent horse to achieve an unnatural gait is cruel.

Together, we were able to make a huge change for the better in North Carolina, and today we have a new opportunity to help all the innocent horses being sored across our nation.

There are laws in place to prevent such abuse, but they are insufficient and have not been effective. In 1970, Congress passed the Horse Protection Act to end soring. However, trainers clinging to the cruel practice of the Big Lick continue to exploit loopholes in the system in order to carry on this abusive practice.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture proposal would upgrade those regulations, close loopholes and help finally bring an end to soring. The rule would abolish the use of the painful stacks, bands, chains and other devices that are part of the soring process. It would also end the industry’s failed self-policing system, replacing “insider” industry inspectors with USDA trained and licensed inspectors impartial and unaffiliated with the Big Lick community.

I strongly urge anyone who believes animals deserve a life free of misery to support these common-sense initiatives. We’ve already used our voices once to stop soring at our State Fair – now let’s stop soring nationwide!

Michelle Disney lives in Raleigh.

Add your voice

The USDA is taking comments until Sept. 26. Find a sample letter at humanesociety.org/hparule.

  Comments