Animal Welfare Group Sponsors Alternative Tennessee Horse Show

Source: By Tim Ghianni of

The alternative show this weekend does not include the controversial “Big Lick”

Tennessee Walking Horse SoringNASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) – An animal welfare group fiercely opposed to what it calls cruel treatment of famed Tennessee Walking Horses is backing an alternative show that does not judge horses on the high-stepping gait they say is a result of an abusive practice.

The Humane Society said it contributed the maximum $1,000 to the World Versatility Show under way through Saturday in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to highlight a better way to train and show the horses known for their exaggerated steps.

The owners and trainers of Tennessee Walking Horses, a popular breed in the American South, have been criticized for decades over a practice called “soring” – slathering the lower legs with caustic chemicals to induce pain that causes the horse to step higher. While chemical soring is officially banned, it is suspected that some trainers still use it.

In 2011, the Humane Society produced an undercover video of a celebrated walking horse trainer, Jackie McConnell, abusing horses at his stable. The video, broadcast on ABC television last year, showed the animals being beaten with sticks and poked with electric cattle prods. It also exposed that soring was used in their training.

McConnell, 61, pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges this month, and was banned from owning and training horses for 20 years. He also was fined $25,000 and sentenced to a year’s house arrest and four years probation.

Eight horses were removed from McConnell’s training barn and are being kept at an undisclosed location, authorities said.

The alternative show this weekend does not include the controversial “Big Lick,” an artificial movement in which the horses raise their forelegs up and forward.

The Big Lick is produced by “padding” a horse with thick front horseshoes that animal rights groups say are abusive. The alternative show will restrict the horses to light shoes, or barefoot without shoes, and the animals are judged by natural talent in events such as jumping, reining and driving.

If a horse can perform the Big Lick naturally, it is allowed at the alternative show.

“We do want to help the Tennessee Walking Horse to be the horse of the future and move away from the reliance of abusive training practices and devices that the breed has been associated with,” said Keith Dane, director of equine protection for the Humane Society of the United States.

The Humane Society, along with other animal welfare groups, has been aggressive in recent years in exposing cruelty to animals. They have used controversial undercover operations to expose abusive farming practices at chicken, beef and pork facilities. Some Midwestern state legislatures have banned undercover operations at agricultural facilities.

The alternative show is taking place one month before the prestigious 75th annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, where the Big Lick will be performed.

Mike Inman, chief executive of the National Celebration, said the event does not condone soring, but allows the use of thick shoes.

“The difference in equipment and shoeing accentuate the natural ability of the athlete, it doesn’t provide the ability,” he said.

Mike Dunavant, Fayette County district attorney general, who prosecuted trainer McConnell, praised the alternative show as highlighting better practices.

“(It) promotes people who engage in the humane treatment and training of Tennessee Walking Horses,” he said.

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8 comments on “Animal Welfare Group Sponsors Alternative Tennessee Horse Show

  1. This alternative Tennessee Walker show sounds like a BIG STEP in the right direction to fight against abusive treatment to horses.


  2. If i hsd a walker now id do alternative show, i was young and despised the horrible industry underground, the Celebration was coveted and when i was younger and rode there, only a few years in walking horse, because i really was outspoken to them even lost a,camera. But in the shadows were the great trainers, the ones who trained natural walkers who were not given a chance to show their stock and win. Those people needed a place to market the Real Walkers, They were unable to bring themselves to be abusive, so they slowly backed out. I think what they hide, whicheventually i began to see, trust me they didnt like strangers finding out all this. So when i saw they had a flat foot show in Anna,Illinois we took the Walkers from Grassy Lakes and did really well, but flat footed natural shows didnt draw screaming crowds and the pushed the gat footed s


  3. Shows out. Sorry two posts phone buggered up. Walking horses are amazing rides without the garbage done to them. I went back to quarters and appaloosa, grandpas mustangs and paints, and missdd the softhearted gaited horses.


  4. Now dont gete wrong ive been humane training for years, no abusive practices, but im grateful for all the bad expiriences. Those expiriences speak volumns to what doesnt work /not to do in any case. If we go through things that are uncomfortable then we can talk to the opposite side on their terms. I talk to walker trainers i ask hard queastions like doesnt this make you feel guilty? Because anyone else says its wrong. I get to their heart and mind. I ask dont you have sympathy for the horses? Why you ask….because they dont like demands you have to get inside the bad trainers soul to bug them after its over. Ive perfected this technique, gets people to stop abuse, learn new ways. You cant change people but you can ask why theycant change and get a real response from their heart. Its like a horse you abuse it get one result, you ask it, get a tremendously different result. An abuser told me see i ASK My horse but he dont listen hes stupid. I asked how horse was she said 12 years so i asked her not the horse, if hes been abused told not think for himself for 12 Years and punished when he used to think for himself, why are you expecting a quick answer to a new question. He knowz you have not changed. So i explained change yourself, ask, wait for response, allow it to happen, then reward him. So we have to ask the questions within the horse industry tgat make change. I coined this practical approach to horses after witnessimg tremendous amounts of abusive practices rampant in the industry regardless of breeds. This is what needs to change so abuse and kill buyers no longer can exist.


    • I love your stories. It is so true, thes are truuly softhearted gaited horses. So sweet. Thannk you for speaking of them so welll and your experience with training. Many who love horses don’t understand how to get there – but they know there is a way.


  5. The Humane Society is doing the right thing. I hope we all encourage sponsors and participants to breathe the life into it. There is nothing mpoe beautiful than seeing one of these gallant beings striding over the ground, its eyes alive with joy de voie! No pain, no fear. The riders also full of themselves astride such gentle power. Like driving a Bentley.


  6. ask is not lost Waller trainers and breeders. the humane society is trying to help the good honest people in the industry.


  7. What a awesome thing !!! T Walkers are beautiful the way nature intended their beautiful gaits, to see NATURAL ,Poetry in Motion !!!!! BRAVO!!!!!! They are works of Art !!!!


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