The soring of gaited horses is an illegal, but still common practice among the criminal underground of gaited horse show competitors. The Humane Society of the United States is working to help bring violators to justice through a generous reward system.
A standing reward of up to $10,000 is offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any violator of the Horse Protection Act or any state law which prohibits soring. Soring is the deliberate infliction of pain to force horses to perform an artificially high-stepping gait for the show ring, which is also known as “Big Lick.” Tennessee’s animal cruelty statute specifically prohibits soring, and was recently amended to create a felony offense of animal cruelty for applying acid or other caustic substances to an animal.
“This gross abuse to horses cannot be allowed to continue unabated,” said Keith Dane, director of equine protection for The HSUS. “It is vital that witnesses to these crimes come forward and report them so that offenders can be brought to justice and this vile practice finally ended.”
Last month shocking video from an undercover investigation done by the HSUS exposed the criminal practices of well known gaited horse trainer, Jackie McConnell. The horses in training included Pride’s Mr. Williams, owned by Beverly and Floyd Sherman. The video showed horses being beaten, sored, and whipped. The Shermans hired McConnell to train their horses, although he was already serving a five year disqualification imposed by the USDA for violations of the HPA.
At the 2011 Spring Fun Show, Beverly Sherman rode one of their horses, Mucho Bueno, to an 8th place finish. According to the undercover investigator, after Beverly Sherman dismounted in the warm-up area, she slapped Mucho Bueno in the face and said, “You made an ass of yourself out there.” The Shermans also have a history of HPA violations.
That undercover investigation led to a 52 count indictment of McConnell and three of his associates. Each have since pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiring to violate the HPA. The HSUS rescued and continues to care for eight horses from McConnell’s training operation.
If you have information to report, call 301-258-1488. The identity of callers is protected.
USDA Testing Results from Tennessee Walking Horse Events
At the 2011 Fun Show, 95 percent tested positive (20 tested, 19 positive)
At the 2011 National Trainers Show, 92 percent tested positive (13 tested, 12 positive)
At the 2010 ETWHTA, White Pine, TN, 95 percent tested positive (19 tested, 18 positive)
At the 2010 Baileyton Horse Show, 100 percent tested positive (6 tested, 6 positive)
At the 2010 SSHBEA Mid Season Classic, 50 percent tested positive (10 tested, 5 positive)
At the 2010 Celebration, 86 percent tested positive (302 tested, 261 positive)