“They put diesel oil, mustard oil, right in a very sensitive area. They actually cook these chemicals into the leg…”
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) – The Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration is gearing up for another night of showcases, but one horse won’t be in the spotlight.
Earlier this week, a champion breed horse was found bleeding and with signs of chemical burns.
Animal cruelty activists say the burns and scars on the horse’s legs and feet are all signs of soring, an illegal method used to make horses perform with an exaggerated gait in competition.
Most trainers say they don’t practice soring anymore, but one rescuer says she has proof that’s not true.
Tawnee Preisner, president of the Horse Plus Humane Society, said the horse, Skywalks Magical Dream, was on his way to a slaughterhouse until she stepped in to purchase him.
Video recorded at an auction in Cookeville Tuesday shows the horse. Preisner said he was the only horse there in stacked shoes and chains on his ankles.
“We’ve got hair loss right here. These are actually open wounds,” Preisner said as she inspected the horse in front of Channel 4’s camera.
Preisner said those are signs of a show horse that has been sored and injured.
“They put diesel oil, mustard oil, right in a very sensitive area. They actually cook these chemicals into the leg,” she said.
That makes the horse flinch, she said, causing an exaggerated high-stepping gait known as the big lick.
“They’re actually flinching when those chains hit the pasterns, when it hits the tender burnt skin, and it causes them to flinch, which gives them that big lick,” Preisner said. “And people in the crowd start cheering for animal abuse and that’s wrong.”
Channel 4 looked at the horse’s registration paperwork to determine who might be responsible. The owners are listed as Sammy and Gayle Cagle.
Channel 4 contacted the Cagles about the soring allegations.
“It’s kind of surprising because we traded him off in January for another horse. That’s the last I’d heard from him,” Sammy Cagle said.
The couple said they traded the stallion in January to another local breeder. They received the horse Extra Special Jose, who just won the top prize in the celebration last weekend.
Sammy Cagle said they had not seen Skywalks Magical Dream since he traded him in. He insisted the paperwork should’ve been changed to reflect the trade. He added he had nothing to do with the alleged soring and insisted his horse is not injured.
Channel 4 called the Triple W Horse and Mule Auction to see if they had record of the last owner. A manager said he thought the horse had been sold at The Celebration last weekend, but later said he wasn’t sure.
“We don’t know exactly who owned him. When horses are consigned in the auction, we don’t get the consigner’s information. That’s why we’re hoping the USDA will get involved and fully investigate this case,” Preisner said.
Animal cruelty activists want greater accountability in paperwork, auctions, and inspections.
“This is horrific for the state of Tennessee,” said Clant Seay with Citizens Campaign Against Big Lick Animal Cruelty. “The state of Tennessee is better than this.”
Seay, who rallies activists to boycott The Celebration, is hoping the USDA will get tougher laws passed.
The USDA is currently in the process of gathering comments on the controversial issue. If legislation passes, chains, stacked horseshoes and other action devices could be banned at competitions.