Trainer Filmed Abusing Horses Fined $75,000, Given Probation

By Tim Ghianni of Reuters

McConnell faced 52 counts of transporting and showing abused horses

Former Tennessee walking horse hall of fame trainer Jackie McConnell was fined $75,000 and sentenced to three years probation in federal court on Tuesday for using a banned and abusive practice on show horses that was caught on video.

McConnell faced 52 counts of transporting and showing abused horses and had pleaded guilty in May to a single charge of animal cruelty in an agreement with prosecutors that called for probation and a fine.

U.S. District Judge Harry Mattice Jr. accepted McConnell’s plea, imposing the fine, which could have been up to $250,000, and probation at a federal court hearing in Chattanooga on Tuesday. McConnell faced up to five years in prison if the agreement had not been accepted.

McConnell was banned for life from the Tennessee Walking Horse organization’s biggest event and stricken from its hall of fame along with written and photographic mentions after ABC News showed the video in May of him abusing horses.

The federal charges stemmed from a banned practice called “soring” in which the front legs of walking horses, known for their high-stepping gait, are slathered with caustic chemicals to induce pain that causes them to kick even higher.

An animal rights activist working undercover in a horse barn secretly recorded McConnell and some colleagues abusing horses in March and April 2011. The video was used as a basis for the prosecution and shown by ABC more than a year later in May 2012.

The video showed horses being beaten with wooden sticks and poked with electric cattle prods. The horses’ ankles were covered with caustic chemicals and then wrapped with plastic to increase their pain.

Keith Dane, director of equine protection for the Humane Society of the United States, said he wanted a tougher sentence but that McConnell’s case still would send a message that soring would not be tolerated.

“It was our hope that McConnell would do prison time for these terrible crimes but there are gaps in the federal law that need to be strengthened,” Dane said.

Two other men pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in the case and were sentenced to probation as well.

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26 comments on “Trainer Filmed Abusing Horses Fined $75,000, Given Probation

    • the judges always give probation, for some reason the hateful person kinda gets away with it. he should have gotten 3 years and paid tons of money, those poor horses that suffer at the hands of those that are in it for the money

  1. For the rest of my life I will remeber the viedo of the people abusing the horses. probation , is a slap on the wrist. Our Federal Courts care little for animal abuse. This is just another example.

    • It’s not just the Tennessee Walker Horse Org.
      or the people that train them…it’s pretty much ALL the horse clubs in some way shape or form where money comes before the horse. Finally someone did something about it!!

  2. Shame on the justice system. Probation is a joke, and simply a license to do it again. Every state in the union needs to increase and enforce animal cruelty laws. On another note, Tennessee Walking Horses are not known for their “high-stepping gait” as this reporter states, unless they are “Big Lick” performance horses, and that ridiculous crab-walk is only caused by artificial means, such as soring, along with pads, chains, etc. Tennessee Walkers are prized for their smooth, ground-covering running walk

    • (darn smartphone has a mind of its own)
      Anyway, these magnificent horses should be treasured, not beaten or sored, especially after what they have silently tolerated at the hands of those evil, money-grubbing monsters. Probation, my foot. Any and all convicted animal abusers should do time behind bars, plain and simple.

      • Thank you, R.T., for keeping us updated. As always, your heart is in the right place, on the side of the animals :)

  3. From the USDA, state ag authorities and ultimately the judicial system….it becomes so sad to realize that those in charge of enforcing and regulating our laws and food system are missing in action.

    This is our greatest problem.

    I don’t mind paying taxes….I mind paying taxes for people and agencies that get my dollars and don’t do their jobs.

  4. Big deal..probation.. He should have been put in prison and banned from ever training or owning a horse for life. I believe in corporal punishment so maybe they should do to him what he does to the horses so he could have first hand experience in how it feels. Personally I want his head on a stake.

  5. Animal abusers never seem to get their just punishment but he will forever be known as the once great trainer who really wasn’t… because he tortured his horses. That’s gotta hurt a little I hope.

  6. They need to investigate all types of horses …how they are trained.. and what is done for the sake of a ribbon.. its sad.. horrible.. and without merit…

  7. The trainer is bad.

    The situation that is so sickening is the enforcement folks (law enforcement, courts, etc) that let them ride into the proverbial sunset.

    Law enforcement is the failure……most importantly the courts.

  8. Probation is a BIG deal. If you violate the terms you do go to jail. Amd 75,000 dollars–well I don’t have that kind of money lying around. So yeah, that would be a HUGE hurdle for me. Let’s also not forget he was banned for life and had his name stricken from the HOF.

    It might not have been enough in some people’s opinion and that’s fine. I think probation also depends on his personal record–if he ever broke the law before.

    I ABSOLUTELY agree with what he did was not only wrong but EXTREMELY cruel to the horse. I personally hate the “big lick” it just isn’t a normal looking gait. I think everyone involved will think twice before “soaring” again or they should. And others had better wake up to the fate that awaits them if they continue “sorting” horses.

  9. Margaret, I agree with you totally. The courts could have done nothing. This incident has finally brought attention to this cruel practice. Reps Ed Whitfield from Kentucky and Steve Cohen from Tennesse have introduced HR 6388 which addresses “soring” and will amend the Horse Protection Act of 1970. Small steps are better then no steps at all.

    • Its NEVER enough!!! Judges…lawmakers just dont want to be bothered with anything animal. ALL creatures have feelings ! THEY HURT THE SAME AS U OR I OR ANYONE…Make people who do the horrific things to animals get a much higher sentence. An eye 4 an eye…& if they kill an animal unjustly…judge them as thou theyve just killed a relative of urs…

  10. Watching that video should have been enough to wake people up – but I guess the people who show these poor horses dont care about the animals – just the fame & ribbons. Its time to go after the judges who place these horses. Walkers are such great smooth riding horses – they have made them a travesty.
    I posted a comment on the reuters site – but not sure if it was accepted.

  11. His name will just go on the long list of trainers that have been identified abusing horses and their family/coworkers will continue it for them. Money is the motivation , so it will take bigger fines than that and jail time to stop it. Closing padded classes needs to happen and let the horse be natural like all other breeds

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