Tennessee Walking Horse Abuse Continues

Tennessee is home to the Grand Ole Opry, FedEx and International Paper. It is also the place where dozens of beautiful Tennessee Walking Horses are subjected to horrific abuse. Through a practice known as soring, the horse's legs are covered in caustic chemicals and their hooves are injured to force the horse to perform an exaggerated, high-stepping gait known in competition circles as the "big lick."

Four years ago, The Humane Society of the United States went undercover at the farm of Jackie McConnell and his associates where an investigator documented blatant instances of soring. The Big Lick segment of the Tennessee Walking Horse community disavowed any association with McConnell. He pled guilty to 22 counts of animal cruelty under Tennessee law and faced a federal felony conviction for charges related to conspiracy to violate the Horse Protection Act. McConnell was also thrown out of the Walking Horse Trainers Association's Hall of Fame.

Not satisfied that the practice of soring had ended, the HSUS decided to launch another undercover operation at ThorSport Farm this year where our investigator documented the same type of sickening practices-slathering caustic chemicals on horses' legs so owners can collect ribbons at horse shows such as the annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.

All evidence of soring from the undercover investigation was turned over to the Rutherford County Sheriff's office. For some reason, a search warrant scheduled for August 24th was rescinded at the 11th hour with no explanation. Duke Thorson, the owner of ThorSport Farm, and the trainers involved in the investigation have still not been charged with any crimes.

In the meantime, eight horses that were sored at ThorSport Farm won top prizes at the celebration.

Why aren't these individuals who torture horses not being brought to justice? Are they being protected by an old boy network where winning a competition is more important than the welfare of horses?

The HSUS provided indisputable evidence that horses were routinely wrapped in bandages that included banned substances such as turpentine and sulfur.

Keith Dane, vice president of equine protection at The HSUS, said:

In our investigation, a horse named Play Something Country is seen moaning in pain on his stable floor after having illegal chemicals slathered on his legs. Weeks later, he was winning ribbons at the Celebration.

This is outrageous and speaks volumes about the systematic and ingrained cruelty in the big lick: It is far from an isolated incident. The state law in Tennessee is scarcely enforced, and it is inadequate in preventing this horse abuse. The only way to stop it is for Congress to act and strengthen enforcement and penalties.

What can you do to help? Contact your two U.S. Senators and Representative and urge them to pass the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act (H.R. 3268/S. 1121) which would bolster the Horse Protection Act and put an end to the corrupt, ineffective system of industry self-regulation.

These individuals in Tennessee are giving the state a bad name and need to be stopped.