Joe Cotten, a Tennessee Walking Horse trainer from Bell Buckle, Tn., was suspended by the SHOW Horse Industry Organization for 7 ½ years and fined $5,000 over the weekend for all the wrong reasons. After he posted pictures of a badly-maimed horse that had been brutalized by another trainer on Facebook, he was promised by incensed SHOW officials that they would “drop the hammer” and his immediate suspension is the longest in the organization’s history. The Facebook pictures, which graphically show dramatic and prolonged damage to a horse named Joe’s Wine and Roses, were quickly taken down but not before copies were hurriedly sent to advocates who are against the longtime practice of soring and abusing the magnificent animals.
(I received copies on Tuesday with an explanation why Cotten would not accept the horse in such bad condition.)
Undaunted, SHOW President Dr. Stephen L. Mullins announced on Friday that Cotten would be suspended until Dec. 21, 2019. “This is one of the longest suspensions ever issued to a Tennessee Walking Horse trainer, even longer than what is required by the federal government. We take these violations seriously and we are relieved to put the very troubling incident behind us.”
Cotton’s penalty is not from soring but – in theory – because he knowingly filed false entry information while on suspension from one violation and probation for another. But industry insiders say that’s not the truth, but that by exposing the graphic pictures Cotton cast further cause for alarm in a tainted performance horse industry that is now reeling from animal abuse, alleged corruption, and literally hundreds of violations of the federal Horse Protection act.
The SHOW press release goes as far as to blatantly point out that Cotton’s violations are the same that caused the notorious Jackie McConnell and three of his employees to enter guilty pleas in a Chattanooga Federal Court and said Cotton sent a vulgar text message to SHOW president Dr. Stephen L. Mullins.
What actually happened was that Cotton sent Mullin pictures of the horses and demanded to know how the mare had passed SHOW inspections in such terrible condition. Equine experts agree the damage to Joe’s Wine and Roses did not occur in Cotton’s stables.
There was further pandemonium over the weekend when SHOW inspectors, stressing a swab test, caused a huge uproar that effectively shut down the Georgia Walking Horse Summer Classic Show in Buckhead Saturday. It seems SHOW discourages licensed trainers from participating in shows that do not endorse and include the new initiative. SHOW, of course, is part of FAST, which provides money for horse shows.
Last week the Tennessee Veterinarian Association joined a consortium that is eager to eliminate action devices to achieve “the Big Step” at Walking Horses shows and a growing outcry from the public sector is beginning to gain momentum into the cruel and illicit quest for the blue ribbons.
While horse followers acknowledge Cotten violated probation at the Liberty Lions Club Show, there is huge sentiment he is being “hammered” for the Facebook pictures and for speaking out in an industry where the last 10 “Trainers of the Year” all have past violations of the Horse Protection Act.
State charges will he heard this week in Fayette Co. against Jackie McConnell, who has already pleaded guilty to federal charges in Chattanooga and will be sentenced on Sept 10. Animal cruelty will become a felony in Tennessee in July.
Soring injury to Joe's Wine And Roses as posted to Facebook by Joe Cotten