Roy Exum: The Horse Industry Is Livid

Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I am convinced that when Jackie "The Jerk" McConnell appears in U.S. District Court today in Chattanooga, he will do so as perhaps the most despised man in the history of the state of Tennessee. A heart-wrenching video of the despicable McConnell cruelly beating a horse in its face with an electric cattle prod has been shown repeatedly since Wednesday night and has appeared in countless newspapers since it made its debut on ABC's "Nightline" news show.

I am also convinced that the great majority of those who own and appreciate the beautiful horses have finally had enough of vermin like Jackie the Jerk. Since a story I wrote appeared on chattanoogan.com Sunday, I've gotten an avalanche of email from good and solid horse people and, while not one has defended the atrocities that have plagued the walking horse industry for decades, the majority have begged for the sport to be cleaned up once and for all.

Believe it or not, that is still a long way off. Yesterday it was feared a "plea deal" filed in U.S. District court on May 5 - two weeks before the Humane Society's scathing video became available - will dismiss all but one of the of the 48 counts against McConnell today and that is tragic. In the past 30 years he has been suspended no less than 13 times and - at the time the video was taken - the Collierville scofflaw was under a five-year suspension by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

Further, until Governor Bill Haslam signs legislation that makes animal abuse a felony, Jackie the Jerk will presumably plead guilty to just one misdemeanor in Federal court today, admitting he violated the Horse Protection Act, and - in theory - once again giggle at the ridiculous attempts to rein in those like him who will stop at literally nothing to bring a Grand Champion to Shelbyville as Jackie the Jerk did in 1997.

Granted, no legal action has yet been suggested over the graphic evidence in the "Nightline" tape. McConnell's appearance today stems from a Federal Grand Jury finding in February, but when the charges were announced against McConnell and three of his employees in Chattanooga, the Federal District Attorney in Fayette County soon raided McConnell's stables in Collierville. As a result, McConnell and his henchmen were charged with 15 more counts in Fayette County and they will appear in court there in June.

In its most recent session, the Tennessee legislature sent a bill changing animal cruelty to a felony to Governor Bill Haslam, but the deadline was yesterday.

More troubling is the fact the walking horse industry has done precious little to police itself. The Tennessee Walking Horse Trainers Association had to know of Jackie The Jerk's repeated suspensions and probations over a 30-year span, but still allowed him to be a member until the nauseating Nightline video forced "an emergency phone call" to finally oust McConnell.

Shelbyville officials were also well-aware McConnell was under the rive-year suspension order but, according to the Humane Society's Keith Dane, the Collierville cheater was unexplainably allowed to show horses several times last year.

Such revelations are absolutely reprehensible to anyone of sound mind and honest heart and flie directly in the face of claims the walking horse industry has cleaned up. Further, one horseman wrote that when government inspectors pronounced McConnell's horse as healthy and should be returned to him, it was a savage act in itself.

Another said, "When a horse in beaten so badly it can't stand up, it is traumatized. These horses will never, ever trust another human again .... People who say it (the practice of soring) is cleaned up are liars. There is no excuse for abusing animals and I hope they run (McConnell) out of the business."

A lady from North Carolina wrote that soring is still obvious every year at the N.C. state fair. "Watch the padded horses try to canter - a couple of 'licks' and they are done, used up. This is horrible to watch and everybody knows what's going on."

She informed me, "There is a long line of blame here, from the lawmakers who won't step up and make it a felony, to the trainers who still do the soring, to the owners who allow it (and request it), to the judges that pen the horses. If a judge won't pen a horse, there is no reason to sore. That said, a judge has the duty to pen what is in front of him but - let's get real - if the horse is in bad image don't pen him, and if you can't take the heat from the spectators, you don't need to be judging."

A veteran horsewoman from California who has ridden all kinds of horses from polo ponies to endurance racing to dressage, suggested "doing away with the big shows. It only encourages horrific abuse" but a better notion came from Murfreesboro, pointing to a fast-growing association that uses Xrays, thermal testing and flat shoes to guarantee there is no cheating or abuse.

Jackie the Jerk will have his day in court today but it will take months, even years, for the walking horse industry to regain its stature. A poll in the Nashville Tennessean showed more people will boycott this year's show in August than will attend and, while there are many more rules-abiding enthusiasts than not, the damage is immense.

royexum@aol.com


Remembering Those Who Gave Their All

On Memorial Day, we pause to reflect, remember, and honor those who paid the ultimate price to protect our freedom. While we recognize this day every year, every single day is an opportunity to remember and give thanks. Be it on the beaches of Normandy and Iwo Jima, or today in the fight against terrorism, our women and men in uniform have always shown they are the best of ... (click for more)

Hope The Large Friendly White Dog With A Black Spot Made It Home Safely

A large friendly white dog with a large black spot on his back and smaller ones over much of the rest of his body came by to visit today. He looked really thirsty with his tongue hanging out when he walked straight int the house, so we gave him a small snack and some water.   There was a collar, but before we could check it, he seemed in a hurry to leave. He walked straight ... (click for more)

Sources Say Domestic Incident Involving Mayor's Aide Came After Husband Confronted Her And Mayor Behind Restaurant; Berke Says Charge "Absolutely False"; Fletcher Says Gave Shelter To Lacie Stone; Case Handled Like Any Other

A domestic disorder involving a top female aide to Mayor Andy Berke was sparked after her husband recently confronted the aide and the mayor in a parked car behind a Mexican restaurant, several sources said.   Mayor Andy Berke said late Tuesday night, "Last weekend a member of my senior staff was the victim of a domestic assault involving her husband. Upon being arrested ... (click for more)

Attorney For Bobby Stone Hits Berke, Fletcher For Commenting On Pending Case

The attorney for Bobby Stone on Wednesday said it was "fundamentally wrong" for Mayor Andy Berke and Police Chief Fred Fletcher to comment on the case in which Mr. Stone is charged with domestic assault against his wife, Berke advisor Lacie Stone. Attorney Lee Davis said the comments were unfair and "a disservice to the court." Mayor Berke denied any inappropriate contact ... (click for more)

Steventon, Cady Lead McCallie To 1-0 Division II-AA State Baseball Win

LEBANON, Tenn. – Rested and ready, McCallie junior Palmer Steventon pitched like the game’s outcome depended on his strong left arm. It did. Steventon, who nursed a slight shoulder problem through an idle final weekend to the regular season, fired a five-hit shutout, teammate Ethan Cady produced the only run with a fifth inning RBI double and the Blue Tornado posted a ... (click for more)

Spring Fling XXIII Tennis: Baylor Girls Win D-II AA Title

"Everything we do, conditioning, competing in tournaments such as DecoTurf and the Chattanooga Rotary points to winning the state and we did that again this year.” -- Baylor Girls Tennis Coach Dustin Kane   MURFREESBORO - Another state tourney for the Baylor School girls and another state championship trophy. The Red Raiders posted its second, 4-0, win in ... (click for more)