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Horse shoes are shown during a news conference, ahead of a House vote on a bill that would prevent Soring in training Tennessee Walking horses on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Members of the Nashville Metro Council are urging U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., to support a bill they say will end the cruel practice of horse soring.

Soring is when humans intentionally injure horses' forefeet to force an exaggerated, pain-induced step known as the "big lick." The two senators representing Tennessee have repeatedly blocked the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, which the U.S. House passed by a 333-96 bipartisan vote in July, in favor of their own anti-soring legislation they say better preserves Tennessee tradition.

Unlike the PAST Act, their opposition bill allows "pad and action devices" — a phrase used to describe the stacked, weighted shoes and chains or bands placed on the front legs of Tennessee Walking Horses and similar breeds to create the "big lick."

some text Chad Baucom shows the horse Walk Time Charlie on a victory lap around the arena after winning the World Grand Champion title on the final night of this year's Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration held in Shelbyville, Tenn., in 2012.

Councilwoman Nancy VanReece introduced the Nashville Metro Council's resolution supporting the PAST Act, and it was approved at last night's council meeting with an amendment by Councilwoman Kathleen Murphy.

"It was important that we went on the record saying we support the PAST Act," said Murphy, District 24. "These action devices are frequently used to sore the horses ... We don't think that federal regulations go far enough now, and hopefully the PAST Act will close some of these loopholes."

Soring was outlawed in 1970, but weak enforcement and loopholes in the current law allow the practice to persist, particularly in areas of Tennessee and Kentucky.

Although Davidson County doesn't host as many horse shows as some other areas of the state, Murphy said the council wanted to send a "strong message" that Nashville protects animals, particularly as the city's new fairground and expo center opens.

"We want to make sure that events taking place there reflect our values, and if we can prevent harm to these horses, even better," she said. "I'm really proud that Nashville has taken this step ... I hope that the U.S. Senate takes the legislation up and votes it on through."

Eric Swafford, Tennessee senior state director at the Humane Society of the United States, on Wednesday applauded the council's move. Swafford said as a sixth generation Tennessean and walking horse owner, he understands the damage of soring.

"Opponents say [the PAST Act] will hurt things economically ... Soring and the image of soring has already almost ruined Tennessee Walking Horses," he said. "It's a great day when the Tennessee state capital steps up and say it's time to pass the PAST Act."

Contact Elizabeth Fite at efite@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.

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