GET INVOLVED – USDA Horse Protection Act

usda-horse-protection-actDear Members:

After discussion with USEF and on our WDAA board, we wrote and posted the following comment in response to a proposed regulation from the USDA. Our commitment to Honor the Horse is absolute. The link to the proposed regulation is: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=APHIS-2011-0009-0001

If you would like to make a comment personally, go to: https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=APHIS-2011-0009-0001

The deadline for public comment is October 26, 2016.

The Western Dressage Association of America is responding to the proposed USDA regulation pertaining to the Horse Protection Act and the imperative to protect gaited horses, specificallyTennessee Walking Horses, racking horses, and other related breeds that have been subjected to appalling abuse. WDAA strongly supports this goal but is opposed to the current draft for the new regulation. This is a summary of our concerns with the current proposed regulation:

  1. WDAA is committed to Honor the Horse; soring and any inhumane practices run absolutely contrary to this commitment.
  2. Western Dressage is a discipline that includes both trotting and gaited breeds, so our organization and events would be affected by this USDA regulation.
  3. Western Dressage does not encourage or reward extreme motion but instead focuses on the concepts of “softness, responsiveness and partnership” between horse and rider.
    The equine population of Western Dressage is often older than is typical of other discipline and breed competitions; many of our horses are on a second or even a third career.
  4. Horses of any age may need therapeutic shoeing and pads to keep them comfortable. These applications are used at the recommendation of an equine professional such as a veterinarian or farrier and are designed to address underlying medical conditions such as navicular syndrome. With proper, supportive shoeing, these horses can remain sound and useful. Without benefit of such therapeutic shoeing methods, both their careers and their comfort will be compromised.
  5. The vague wording of the proposed regulation might well be interpreted to include fly spray, liniment and therapeutic poultices that are used to maintain a horse’s comfort and well being.
  6. USEF has a very robust program of training for judges and stewards; this program is committed to horse welfare and these officials are educated to support this mission.
  7. WDAA is the Recognized National Affiliate for the discipline of Western Dressage for USEF.
  8. WDAA works with USEF to create a body of rules for this discipline and relies on USEF’s robust and well-funded enforcement and Hearing process. The current enforcement budget of USEF is about $18,000,000.
  9. WDAA is concerned that the USDA regulation as written will not accomplish its stated objective and instead might become the ultimate example of “unintended consequences.” By robbing many horses of their chance at soundness and usefulness, this proposed regulation can only contribute to the unwanted horse issue. When a horse has a “job,” the more secure his future will be. If we take away their ability to work, we put them at risk.

The Western Dressage Association of America would strongly urge that the USDA reject the current proposed regulation with its vague wording and instead work with USEF, the governing body for equine sport in the United States, in their shared goal of protecting our horses.

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