Horse Soring - A Federal Crime

Largely playing out under the radar, except in local media, is a fascinating case out of the Eastern District of Tennessee. Last week 4 defendants, Jackie L. McConnell, 60, Jeff Dockery, 54, John Mays, 50, all from Collierville, Tennessee and Joseph R. Abernathy, 30, of Olive Branch, Miss., were arrested on a 52 count indictment charging them with conspiracy to violate the Horse Protection Act by transporting and showing horses they knew to be "sored" and also falsifying entry forms and paperwork. The Horse Protection Act charges are misdemeanors, while the fraud and conspiracy charges are felonies.

Articles in the Chattanooga Times Free Press and The Shelbyville Times Gazette spotlight the horse soring practices that are said to be prevalent in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry. The Times Free Press describes the practice of soring in which some “trainers use chains, bolts, acid, kerosene and other techniques to make a walking horse’s feet . . .  and legs so tender, they’re forced to change their gait. The pain causes them to lift their front feet higher and land with less force, exaggerating the high step that’s prized in walking horse competitions.” Other disturbing allegations include the practice of “stewarding” the sored horse where the trainer basically hits the horse in the head and nose when it displays reaction to the pain of soring.


This is the second case prosecuted in the Eastern District of Tennessee federal courts related to the practice of soring. The first case ended in guilty pleas for all defendants who were sentenced last month. Only one defendant was sentenced to imprisonment - one year. The other three defendants received probated sentences. Those cases marked the first convictions in 2 decades under the Horse Protection Act.

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