Cruelty Exposed in Gaited Horse World
Cruelty Exposed in Gaited Horse World
WARNING CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGES OF ANIMAL CRUELTY
- by Alicia Graef
- May 19, 2012
A recent undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) at a training barn for Tennessee Walking horses exposed the cruelty these horses endure to achieve an unnatural high stepping gait otherwise known as the “Big Lick.”
According to the HSUS, the investigation led to criminal charges for felony conspiracy to violate the Horse Protection Act (HPA), in addition to violations of the Tennessee Cruelty to Animals Statute against nationally recognized trainer Jackie McConnell, who has a history of horse abuse, and his associates, Jeff Dockery, John Mays and Joseph R. Abernathy after they were caught “soring” horses.
Soring of all breeds has been banned for decades under the HPA, but the technique is still used by unethical trainers to get that high step. The practice involves methods that include putting caustic substances, such as mustard oil, Croton oil mixed with kerosene or diesel oil, on the sensitive skin around their hooves at their pasterns, bulbs of their heels and coronary bands to cause blistering, burning and irritation and wrapping them in plastic wrap to make sure its absorbed, which makes them quickly lift their legs to avoid pain.
Chains may also be used to add to the pain because chemically burning the crap out of their legs apparently just doesn’t quite do the trick by itself. Some people also use Salicylic Acid to cover the visible damage that’s been done. After all of that, some are trained not to react to having their legs touched, which is what is happening to the horse in the video that is being beaten over the head.
Pads, or stacks, may also be used on the front hooves to raise a horse’s forehand to add even more animation, but this causes unbalanced feet, among other problems. Objects may also be placed between the pad and the hoof to cause even more pain and discomfort.
To help enforce regulations under the HPA, APHIS developed a program that appointed Designated Qualified Persons (DQPs) to inspect horses at shows before every class and disqualify horses who show signs of soring. DQPs may be vets, farriers, trainers or other knowledgeable individuals in the industry. This leads to an incredible conflict of interest since they may be Big Lick supporters with industry friends, which leaves the Tennessee Walking horse world to essentially self-regulate. However, larger shows are usually overseen by veterinary medical officers (VMOs), inspectors or investigators.
Unfortunately, the HPA doesn’t cover what happens at home, it only protects horses during transportation and at shows.
In 2006, the World Grand Champion Class was cancelled at the annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration for the first time in its 68 year history after seven of the 10 horses were disqualified because they couldn’t pass a USDA inspection. A total of 103 violations of the HPA were found at the show that year.
But even the number of violations isn’t always accurate. Some people just leave before getting caught. In 2008, one of the biggest shows in Kentucky practically shut down after USDA inspectors showed up, which left 40 horses who were shown when there were typically between 500 to 550. Talk about clearing a room.
Since the HSUS investigation was aired on CBS, at least one sponsor of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, Pepsi, has withdrawn as a sponsor. McConnell is due in court on Tuesday and willreportedly be pleading guilty to one count with all other charges being dismissed. The Walking Horse Trainers’ Association board has also pulled McConnell’s credentials.
The really sad thing here is how surprised all of the industry organizations are pretending to be about soring. They may claim they don’t support it, but if they really didn’t, standards for the breed would not have developed into what they are now, abused horses wouldn’t place at shows, trainers would be getting fired left and right and Tennessee Walkers would be showing off their natural gaits,
Tennessee Walking Horse Investigation Exposes Cruelty
An HSUS undercover investigation into the walking horse industry finds rampant cruelty. Warning: Contains Graphic Footage.
Part 1 “Current Trends in Soring” Confidential Interviews
Spell binding! will keep you riveted to your seat historical first Black to exhibit in the all White Southern World Grand Championship Tennesee Walking Horse Class. First keg shod horse to show in this class in over 45 years. First youth to show in this open class in the breed’s history..This historical video will bring you to tears as this courageous interracial family bucks old southern traditions admist racially motivated bigoted life threatening conditions.
instead of being admired for hideous incredibly exaggerated, seizure-like movements that are the result of ongoing torture.
For information on how to help these horses, visit For the Tennessee Walking Horse. http://forthetnwalkinghorse.blogspot.ca/
Key Figure In Walking Horse Scandal Set To Plead Guilty In Chattanooga On Tuesday
A key figure in the Tennessee Walking Horse scandal aimed at trainers involved in “horse soring” is set to plead guilty in Chattanooga on Tuesday morning.
Jackie McConnell is due to appear before Federal Magistrate Court Judge Bill Carter.
According to papers filed in Federal Court, he will plead guilty to one count and all other charges will be dismissed. A 52-county indictment had been issued against him, Jeff Dockery, John Mays and Joseph R. Abernathy. Abernathy and Mays are also set to appear in court Tuesday.
McConnell was in the news this week when the Human Society of the United States released a video showing him repeatedly hitting a horse in the face – allegedly to teach the horse not to flinch when he was being checked for signs of soring.
McConnell, who is from Collierville in West Tennessee, but is a big part of the walking horse industry centered at Shelbyville, had his license revoked by the association there.
McConnell had a grand champion at Shelbyville in the late 1990s.
For the first time, the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville canceled the selection of a world grand champion.
NASHVILLE, Sept. 3 — In the waning days of summer, Tennessee walking horses are the talk of Shelbyville. Thousands of the breed’s admirers crowd into the town, 50 miles southeast of Nashville, for the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. Traffic crawls behind horse trailers. Silhouettes of the steeds, with their signature raised hoofs, are everywhere: on license plates, baseball hats and T-shirts.
But this year, a long-simmering dispute between federal regulators and the horses’ trainers and owners climaxed late Saturday with the cancellation of the celebration’s final showing to crown the world grand champion, for the first time in the event’s 68-year history.
The decision by the organizers came after inspectors who check for signs of abuse disqualified most of the horses, leaving just three eligible for the championship, the organizers said. The organizers said the cancellation was due to safety concerns after a crowd of 150 people demanded that all of the horses be allowed to show in the final event.
“It’s a heck of a mess,” said Link Webb, a trainer who had been given the green light to show his horse.
Performing walking horses are trained to raise their front hooves high while taking long “overstrides” with their back legs, giving them the appearance of half-sitting as they walk and run. Devices, including boots and ankle chains, are used to enhance the horses’ high-stepping gait.
The United States Department of Agriculture tightly regulates the breed to prevent “soring,” the act of intentionally injuring the horses’ ankles to force them to maintain this unusual gait.
Soring became illegal in 1970, when Congress passed the Horse Protection Act. It outlawed all soring, which can include burns, cuts, injected chemicals and applications of caustic or blistering agents. The department also forbids substances that mask soring, like anesthetics and ointments that soften scar tissue or cool the irritated flesh.
The cancellation of the championship was a body-blow to the tight-knit community of walking horse enthusiasts, putting a spotlight on a deep rift over treatment of the horses that has riled a longtimeTennessee tradition.
“It’s heartbreaking to have to make that announcement, but I have no doubt that all sides of this industry will work extremely hard this off-season to rectify the issues that affect it,” the event’s chairman, John T. Bobo, said in a statement.
It was not the first time this year’s show was halted. On Aug. 25, trainers angered by the inspection process refused to bring their horses to be checked, resulting in an angry standoff, the summoning of the police, and the postponement of several events.
At the dispute’s center is disagreement over the standards that determine whether a horse is injured and should be disqualified from events. Many owners and trainers see the inspections as a subjective process that finds soring where there is none and is suffocating a longstanding tradition and the industry around it.
An example they often cite is that the marks left by ankle chains, which are legal, are interpreted as scars from soring.
In Shelbyville this weekend, there was a palpable animosity toward the Department of Agriculture. After the first shutdown, some attendees wore T-shirts declaring Aug. 25 as “The Day the Celebration Stopped.” The billboard at the Huddle House diner on North Main Street read, “We need less government.”
Donna Benefield, who owns walking horses and started her own independent oversight organization, thinks the problem lies with lax standards in the walking horse industry. The shutdown will have a devastating effect, she said, “because the industry has been saying that soring is basically a thing of the past.”
“I think it’s going to become crystal clear what’s going on in this industry,” she said, “and I think it discourages the general public from wanting to participate in an industry that is this fundamentally corrupt.”
Tennessee walking horses are a distinct breed of light horse originally bred by large landowners who wanted a steady and stately steed for their properties. They are a mixture of several other breeds, including Narragansett and Canadian pacers, thoroughbreds and Morgans.
Almost everyone associated with walking horses — including Agriculture Department critics — agrees that soring has not gone away, although there is disagreement about how widespread it is.
Keith Johnson, 48, a walking horse owner, said he grew up in Shelbyville seeing walking horses that had obviously been abused. He said the Horse Protection Act was still needed, but felt that the inspections and their findings had become arbitrary. “We don’t understand how they think they have a scar one night, and then you show the next night, and there’s nothing there,” Mr. Johnson said.
Dr. Todd Behre, a veterinarian who coordinates the department’s horse protection program, said the government was not out to get the walking horse industry and did not want to shut down Shelbyville’s yearly celebration. “The only thing the U.S.D.A. is out to do is enforce the Horse Protection Act,” he said.
While the department has ultimate authority, it is industry inspectors who do the majority of checking for injuries at horse shows nationwide. According to Ms. Benefield, those inspectors are not consistent and are far more lenient when U.S.D.A. inspectors are not present.
“The industry really needs to raise the bar. They are the architects of their own demise,” she said.
Kathy Jamison, an amateur owner and trainer from South Carolina, found little reason to celebrate this year. On the event’s next-to-last day, the stables across from hers were mostly empty. Longtime friends had loaded their horses and left early, and there was little of the festive spirit of years past.
Then came the cancellation. On Sunday, she returned, dejected, to South Carolina with her horses. “I think it’s terrible,” she said by phone. “That show’s been going on for 68 years. That’s the first time they’ve never had a world grand champion. When you continually turn horses down, you can’t have a horse show.”
Correction: Sept. 6, 2006An article on Monday about the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration gave an incorrect description in some copies for the method used to put pads on the horses’ front hooves. The pads are nailed in place, not held with ankle chains.
The AVMA’s policy against soring
The American Veterinary Medical Association has worked to end the cruel practice of soring in show horses for over 40 years, and soring has been illegal since 1970. In this video, AVMA leader Dr. Nat T. Messer IV, a professor at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, and Elizabeth Graves, a horse trainer with experience judging horse shows and rehabbing sored horses, explain why soring needs to stop.
Undercover Horse Abuse Video Exposes Shocking Cruelt
An HSUS undercover investigation at a training barn for Tennessee Walking horses led to state and federal criminal charges against nationally known trainer Jackie McConnell and some of his associates. The group was charged with felony conspiracy to violate the Horse Protection Act as well as numerous violations of the Tennessee Cruelty to Animals Statute after being videotaped using caustic chemicals on the front legs of horses in order to cause pain, resulting in the artificially produced high-stepping gait that wins prizes in the show ring.
This cruel practice is called “soring” and has been illegal for more than 40 years under the federal Horse Protection Act. The HSUS undercover video shows horses being whipped, kicked, shocked in the face, and violently cracked across their skulls and legs with heavy wooden sticks during and after soring of their front legs. Unless the Horse Protection Act is upgraded to include stronger penalties for this type of horrendous abuse and to end the failed system of industry self-policing, inhumane trainers will continue to torture horses.
Please make a brief, polite phone call to your U.S. Representative and two U.S. Senators urging them to fix the problems in the Horse Protection Act. Look up your federal legislators’ phone numbers here. You can say: “I am a constituent and I urge you to upgrade penalties in the Horse Protection Act and require more meaningful enforcement by USDA to end the abusive and common practice of soring Tennessee Walking horses.”
Then, use the form below to send a follow-up note. Be sure to edit your message so that it stands out.
FIND YOUR FEDERAL LEGISLATORS
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You can find your state lawmakers here. Your state lawmakers represent you in your state’s legislature and consider state-specific issues.
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