There are approximately 500,000 registered Tennessee Walking Horses in the United States that are just like the sleek animals that a scurrilous trainer in Collierville, Tn., was shown abusing and torturing in a revolting Humane Society video last week. The great majority of these horses are gentle, majestic and gorgeous. What’s more, they are owned, trained and loved by people who, ironically, are a whole like the horses that they laughingly claim “own” them. The overwhelming majority of owners, trainers and riders wouldn’t harm an animal for all the money in the world. Sadly, Jackie McConnell, who now is awaiting sentencing in Federal Court in Chattanooga after pleading guilty on Tuesday to horse abuse charges, has shown he will do darn near anything for money.
McConnell has a filthy 30-year history of soring animals and much worse. His latest atrocities, coming after he has been a known scofflaw for three decades, have viciously branded the entire walking horse industry and it is paramount for the unlearned public to know his actions are, in fact, a poor and misleading view of a now-staggered horse industry.
As I have delved into the walking horse industry this week, since learning “Jackie the Jerk” was coming to Chattanooga for trial, literally hundreds of what I believe are decent and concerned people have written me. Their emails are unanimous in their cry for help, begging for more information to be brought forward that will hopefully educate politicians to stiffen both state and federal laws that will put those who abuse animals in jail.
On Thursday I got email from 23 different states where those who love Tennessee Walking Horses are more determined than ever to clean up soring and related misconduct that has historically been seen anytime big money gets involved with animals. Many who own and ride “walkers” are beginning to connect-the-dots and one from Kentucky even wrote, “You want to know who are the biggest cheaters? Follow the money!” As a result, more and more fingers are being pointed at the walking horse elite who have turned a blind eye to the fact that there are 127 trainers and owners who are currently suspended for violating the federal Horse Protection Act and who have allowed Jackie McConnell – and other men like him – to have virtual free rein in walking-horse circles for four decades.
Seriously, the Celebration camp made a big show out of banning McConnell for life and booting him from the Hall of Fame after he pleaded guilty in Chattanooga, but – please -- for 30 years he and others have piled up violations of the Horse Protection Act like meaningless candy wrappers and the industry has – admittedly -- done very little to police its scallywags.
A quick review of two big shows, including one this weekend in Shelbyville, showed that every judge involved has had what is called “a ticket,” or received a violation notice from USDA, and a closer look at those who control the walking-horse hierarchy is even more unnerving. As one federal prosecutor quipped, “It looks like the foxes are guarding the hen house!”
While this is not to accuse a single soul or cast aspersion on any official, let’s take a look at several of the industry’s board of directors in an effort to show you why today there is some question regarding the leadership in the clearly-tainted walking horse industry – this based on information gleaned from two Horse Protection Act websites:
WALKING HORSE TRAINER’S ASSOCIATION BOARD OF DIRECTORS
President Jamie Hankins, Paris, Ky. – 1 Violation1st Vice President Mickey McCormick, Shelbyville, Tenn. – 12 Violations
2nd Vice President David Landrum, Fraklin, Tenn. – 4 Violations
Jamie Bradshaw, Franklin, Tenn. – 2 Violations
Wayne Dean, Lewisburg, Tenn. – 5 Violations
Philip Trimble, Pulaski, Tenn. -- 3 Violations
Dale Watts, Summit, Miss. – 5 Violations
Billy Gray, Shelbyville, Tenn. – 10 Violations
Brock Tillman, Shelbyville, Tenn. – 4 Violations
Link Webb, Lewisburg, Tenn. – 6 Violations
Larry Wheelon, Maryville, Tenn. – 12 Violations
Derek B. Bonner, Mooreboro, N.C. – 5 Violations
John Allen Callaway III, Shelbyville, Tenn. – 5 Violations
Bill Cantrell, Phenix, City, Ala. (Ex-Officio) – 2 Violations
Total– 76 Violations
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WALKING HORSE OWNER’S ASSOCIATION BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Vice President Tam Brogdon, Panama City, Fla. – 1 Violation
Treasurer Richard Greer, Lenoir, N.C. – 2 Violations
Jean Baum, Ixonia, Wisc. – 1 Violation
Betty Denton, Estill Springs, Tenn. – 2 Violations
Sally Fleck, Shelbyville, Tenn. -- 5 Violations
Darden Gladney, Homer, La. – 3 Violations
Don Hancock, Princeton, Ky. – 10 Violations
Phyllis Langley, Sandpoint, Idaho – 3 Violations
Peggy Moore, Shelbyville, Tenn. – 1 Violation
Andy Rippy, Greenbrier, Tenn. – 1 ViolationIris Schuman, Shelbyville, Tenn. – 1 Violation
Beth Sims, Bell Buckle, Tenn. – 2 Violations
Gail Walling, Wartrace, Tenn. – 1 Violation
Total– 33 Violations
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TENNESSEE WALKING HORSE BREEDERS & EXIBITORS ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
President Marty Irby, Murfreesboro, Tenn. – 1 Violation
Sr. Vice President Margo Urad, Rockwall, Texas – 1 Violation
Equine Welfare Vice President Dr. Linda Montgomery, Hurtsboro, Ala. – 1 Violation
Training Vice President Wayne Dean, Lewisburg, Tenn. – 5 Violations
Secretary Alie Napier, Shelbyville, Tenn. – 1 Violation
At-Large Directors:Curtis Rosemann, Cave Creek, Ariz. – 2 Violations
David Mullins, Good Hope, Ga. – 1 Violations
Sam Sorrell, Lexington, Ky. – 1 ViolationsRobert Stannard, Lebanon, Ky. – 1 Violation
Ronnie Vincent, Lexington, Ky. – 2 Violations
Darden Gladney, Homer, La. – 3 Violations
Tom Kakassy, Gastonia, N.C. – 4 Violations
Ronald Mosley, Mt. Airy, N.C. – 7 Violations
Sally Fleck, Shelbyville, Tenn. – 5 Violations
Ty Irby, Shelbyville, Tenn. – 6 Violations
Nancy Groover, Longview, Texas – 2 Violations
Ann King, Kaufman, Texas – 2 Violations
Sandra Hankins, Tazewell, Va. – 3 Violations
Total: 48 Violations
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The Top 20 Trainers in the Rider Cup program have 164 Horse Protection Act violations in the past two years.
The SHOW (organization) has 140 certified judges who have a combined 312 HPA violations.
The PRIDE (organization) has 100 certified judges who have a combined 182 HPA violations.
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Once again, how about them apples?