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


The Toughest Job You Will Ever Love

Why Have Milne Street Duplexes Not Been Fixed Up As Promised?

Wake Up, America - And Response (2)


“I hope you find whatever it is you are looking for,” I tell people who can never seem to find joy in life. They look at me curiously. It was the response I wanted. Sophocles said, “Look and ... (click for more)

During the 6 p.m. City council meeting on Tuesday, I read into the public record that three properties located on 2005, 2007, and 2009 Milne Street in the Avondale community in District 8 were ... (click for more)

I grew up in the ‘60’s and started a family in the early ‘70’s. I was a Democrat back then because I was raised by a Democrat father who told me we would have to live in a tent and only have ... (click for more)



Opinion

The Toughest Job You Will Ever Love

“I hope you find whatever it is you are looking for,” I tell people who can never seem to find joy in life. They look at me curiously. It was the response I wanted. Sophocles said, “Look and you will find it - what is unsought will go undetected.” Keep on seeking, and you will find it, or something will find you. I am a seeker at heart. I have an innate appetite for adventure. ... (click for more)

Why Have Milne Street Duplexes Not Been Fixed Up As Promised?

During the 6 p.m. City council meeting on Tuesday, I read into the public record that three properties located on 2005, 2007, and 2009 Milne Street in the Avondale community in District 8 were promised to be revitalized by Mayor Berke and former Councilman Anthony Byrd on February 25, 2019. That same year council persons approved the rezoning of the properties to R-2 by May 13, ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Coppinger Says Over $1 Billion In Development, Including $70 Million New Lookouts Stadium, To Be Announced At U.S. Pipe/Wheland Site

County Mayor Jim Coppinger said Wednesday that over $1 billion in development, including a new Chattanooga Lookouts stadium, will be announced on Thursday morning at the U.S. Pipe/Wheland Foundry site. He said the development includes 120 acres and about nine acres will be for the $70 million stadium, which he said will not be just for the Lookouts but for community use. He ... (click for more)

County Commission Approves $1 Million Toward Getting Officers In Every County School

The County Commission on Wednesday voted to spend $1 million toward providing officers in every Hamilton County public school. The appropriation will go along with $950,000 approved recently by the School Board toward the school safety goal. Currently there are 32 School Resource Officers approved with 28 now hired. Sheriff Jim Hammond said four SROs "are in the pipeline" ... (click for more)

Sports

Homer-Happy Lookouts Bounce Back To Win

Oh, the difference a day makes. The Chattanooga Lookouts were shocked and stunned on Tuesday night when the Birmingham Barons scored 10 unanswered runs for a come-from-behind 12-9 victory at AT&T Field. There was no such late comeback on Wednesday as the Lookouts took advantage of four home runs to post a 5-4 victory to even their second-half record at 1-1. Relief pitching ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Kayakers Compete At World Championships

Two kayakers from Chattanooga are representing the United States of America in the Kayak Freestyle World Championships in Nottingham, England, UK from June 27 to July 2. Taft Sibley, 35, and Bennett Smith, 25, were both selected to represent the USA in the men’s squirt boat and men’s kayak category respectively. They are now both stalwarts of the US Freestyle Team in their ... (click for more)