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Saturday, Mar. 28, 2015

Scar rule: It's all about interpretation

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

(Photo)
John Bennett demonstrates how a Walking horse is inspected during the press conference at the Celebration.
(T-G photo by Jim Davis)
If you think a pastern is where horses graze, you probably don't quite understand the "scar rule" portion of the Horse Protection Act.

And you're not alone.

The pastern

We'll start with a layman's explanation of the pastern, the area of concentration. The pastern is the area of a horse's legs between the ankle (fetlock) and the hoof. It is made of two bones -- the smaller of which is the closest to the hoof, and the portion in question.

Horses found to be in violation of the scar rule are legally "sore." To be out of compliance, scars indicative of soring must be present on pasterns of both forelimbs (bilateral). Each is evaluated independently, and signs don't need to be similar on both forelimbs to constitute a violation.

But what are inspectors looking for? And where are they looking?

Areas of interest

The anterior -- or front -- portion of the pastern is the area from which the hoof grows. Here, inspectors are looking for signs of soring through lesions formed as a result of reactions caused by the application of caustic chemicals.

The posterior -- or back, flexor -- surface of the pastern is also referred to as the "pocket," and is typically the main focus of question. Here, inspectors are looking for the formation of scar tissue resulting in plainly seen ridges, furrows, lesions and excessive hair loss.

These furrows are not to be confused with wrinkles, and cannot be smoothed out with the thumbs. The skin is not simply "uniformly thickened," as it would be through a normal aging process.

Subjectivity

The problem of subjectivity arises when some claim that what are seen as man-made scars are actually wrinkles, tissue changes caused by a horse's gait and aging process, and conformation of the lower limbs.

(Photo)
John Bennett demonstrates how a Walking horse is inspected during the press conference at the Celebration.
(T-G photo by Jim Davis)
If these are actually the case, then they are specifically exempt from the Act.

The weight of the decision rests on one person. This person could let a sore horse in the ring, or could label a loving horseman as an animal abuser.

It all depends on an interpretation.


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