The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the final version of a rule Friday that will help protect horses from the practice of soring. 

Soring is the intentional infliction of pain on horses' feet and legs to achieve a high-stepping gait for competitions. The Tennessee Walking horse breed, know for their "big lick" gait, has suffered from soring for decades. While the practice is illegal, the USDA said there is "substantial noncompliance" among the breed. 

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The rule is an update to the Horse Protection Act (HPA), a federal law that bans the show or sale of sore horses and prohibits the use of soring equipment. The current enforcement of the HPA, which relied on industry self-policing, was deemed inadequate by the USDA Inspector General after an audit. 

Under the new regulation, the USDA will train, screen and license inspectors to enforce the HPA. It will also update the HPA to ban chains, large stacked shoes and foreign substances at horse shows, standards much of the equestrian industry already have in place.

"Horse soring is truly one of the worst practices," U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (R-TN) said in a statement. "I applaud the Obama Administration for finalizing this much-needed update to the existing Horse Protection Act regulations."

The changes were both included in the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act that Cohen sponsored last year.
Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) released a statement Saturday on the changes, saying he is in favor of wiping out illegal soring practices but thinks the rule could negatively affect Tennessee's Walking Horse industry and other small businesses.
"I would hope the new Secretary of Agriculture will not concur with this overreaching rule announced during the last few days of the Obama administration and instead will work with Congress to enact legislation that punishes trainers, owners and riders who abuse horses while preserving the opportunity for law abiding horse enthusiasts to participate in competitions that are the basis of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry," Alexander said.
According to the statement, the Tennessee Walking Horse industry provides 20,000 jobs across that nation and contributes $3.2 billion to the national economy. Alexander said he and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced legislation last year to end horse soring that would also preserve the Tennessee Walking Horse tradition.