WASHINGTON (CN) — In the fall of 2017, federal agricultural authorities took aim at a trio of horse trainers, Joe Fleming, Sam Perkins and Jarrett Bradley, accused of entering injured animals into competition for an unfair advantage.

The Horse Protection Act of 1960 imposes penalties on those who engage in the practice known as “soring,” where an irritant is used to exaggerate a horse’s gait, creating an effect called a “big lick.” It can be achieved artificially by burning a horse’s front hooves with chemical agents like mustard oil, diesel fuel, croton oil or kerosene, or tightly nailing on a shoe to cause pain when the horse puts weight on its foot.

The practice is often used to achieve higher steps during performances in Walking Horse shows, sales and auctions, which are common in Tennessee, where Fleming operates.

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