Above: Rider flying over jump in the warm up ring. Photo by TPH Intern Vyla Carter.
By Alix Morrison
USHJA Annual Meeting and therefore Rule Change season are upon us. Some rules are undergoing clarification, while other rules are notable in that they are catching up to our modern welfare standards. One example is GR839: Cruelty and Abuse of a Horse, which outlaws the practice of poling. Poling is the act of standing next to a jump and hitting a horse with the rail as he goes over. The intention is to make the horse become more careful, essentially making the horse think that the jumps will hurt him, so he has to jump higher. This creates a more careful jumper. The USEF Rule Book, until now, has allowed poling with a bamboo pole because it is lighter and more flexible. However, over the past few decades poling grown to be considered an exceptionally harsh training technique. I’m happy that this rule has been proposed because I think it is important to make sure that horse welfare is addressed and updated as training techniques evolve.
A good definition of soring also made it into this section. Soring refers to the use of chemicals or other topical substances to cause pain or heat on the leg or hoof. Often, this practice is combined with an action device like a big shoe or chain to irritate the sometimes invisible sores and change the way the horse moves. While it is uncommon to have these issues in the hunter/jumper world, the Tennessee Walking Horse industry is having a number of problems with soring and regulation of soring. The proposed rule bans, “Soring of any horse, including but not limited to the application of caustic chemicals to a horse’s legs or hooves in order to cause pain and/or affect a horse’s performance, and/or used as a training technique.” Prior to this rule change, the rule book only talked about substances that induced heat and action devices, but not directly about chemicals and soring. The hunter/jumper world doesn’t necessarily have these problems yet, but it is always good to get ahead of any bad trends.