Horse Show Abuse: Growth of an Epidemic

McConnell Sentenced After Pleading Guilty to Animal Cruelty

A Tennessee judge sentenced former TWH trainer Jackie McConnell to one-year of house arrest on Tuesday. McConnell pleaded guilty to 12 counts of animal cruelty as a part of a plea deal with the state.
Although McConnell avoided jail time, he will also serve four years probation, pay a $25,000 fine, and a 20 year ban on owning or training horses. The court gave him 120 days to sell his interest in any horses he currently owns.
A Fayette County Grand Jury indicted McConnell and his co-defendants in March 2013. John Mays and Jeff Dockery were also sentenced. Mays received 4 years supervised release and Dockery 3 years for their guilty pleas.
McConnell is already serving three years probation after he took a plea deal in the federal case against him. He also paid a $75,000 fine.
McConnell was exposed after a 7 week undercover investigation in 2011 done by the Humane Society of the United States. Video showed McConnell and his associates brutally beating and using caustic chemicals on the horses’ legs in a cruel practice known as “soring.” Soring is an abusive and illegal method some use to force Tennessee Walking Horses to perform the exaggerated, artificial gait known as the “Big Lick.”

Leighann McCollum, Tennessee state director for The HSUS, said: “The abusive training methods used by McConnell and his associates are appalling and a clear violation of the law. He fully deserved the stiff sentence handed down as justice for the horses who were beaten over the head, shocked with a cattle prod in the face, or sored so painfully just to win a blue ribbon.”
The state is seeking forfeiture of eight horses seized from McConnell’s training barn to ensure the animals are permanently re-homed and retired, according to The HSUS. The group is still caring for the horses.
Although McConnell’s charges were misdemeanors, going forward, those who are caught soring horses won’t be so lucky. Tennessee made it a felony as of July 2012 for any person to apply “acid or other caustic substance or chemical to any exposed area of an animal or forcing the animal to ingest the substance,” if such activity is carried out in a “depraved and sadistic manner.”