"Today, Tennessee Walking Horses are known throughout the industry
as the breed that shows abused and tortured horses."

~ Jim Heird, Ph.D., Do Right By The Horse, February 2010

"If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity,
you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men."

~ St. Francis of Assisi

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

BREAKING NEWS - Larry Wheelon and Three Others Indicted by Grand Jury for Animal Cruelty

**EDITED 12-4-13 to include the final article listed**

I don't think my day could get any better than this.  Click here for the article from The Daily Times.


Wheelon, Gunter, Lunsford, Primm indicted for animal cruelty by grand jury
Iva Butler (ivab@thedailytimes.com)

Four men were indicted by the Blount County Grand Jury Monday with 17 counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, including long-time Blount County Tennessee Walking Horse trainer Larry Joe Wheelon, 68.

All four men turned themselves in at 6:40 p.m. Tuesday and were free on bond by 9:45 p.m.

Wheelon and his employees Randall Stacy Gunter, 44, and Brandon Randall Lunsford, 32, were indicted on charges of aggravated animal cruelty (conspiracy to commit aggravated cruelty to livestock) and aggravated animal cruelty.

They are all three free on $10,000 bond each.

Farrier Blake Tanner Primm, 44, was indicted on aggravated animal cruelty (conspiracy to commit aggravated cruelty to Livestock. He is free on $5,000 bond.

All three are to appear in Blount County Circuit Court on Monday, Dec. 9.


There's also this article from the Tennessean.  Click here to read it.

Tennessee Walking Horse trainer, show judge indicted for animal cruelty 
Dec. 4, 2013

A Tennessee Walking Horse trainer who has served as a show judge and on an industry group’s ethics committee was indicted Monday on animal cruelty charges related to a soring case earlier this year.

Larry Joe Wheelon, a Maryville, Tenn., trainer, along with Randall Stacy Gunter, Brandon Lunsford and Blake T. Primm, are accused of applying acid to walking horses “in a depraved and sadistic manner” for “competition in horse shows,” the indictment reads.

The only horse specifically named in the indictment is Jose’s Happy Feet/Laura Kate.

Similar charges were filed against Wheelon and the others in the spring, but were dismissed after a prosecutor’s misstep during an August preliminary hearing. Wheelon was at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration days later and said that he was innocent of the charges all along and was suffering financially because the horses he had been training were seized as part of the case.

Wheelon formerly sat on the ethics committee of the Walking Horse Trainers Association and was a judge for Shelbyville-based SHOW, a horse inspection and judging group.

Unscrupulous trainers burn walking horses’ pasterns to induce the breed’s naturally longer, higher gait. The process is called soring.

Check with Tennessean.com later today for more on this story.


Here's that "later today" story.  Great stuff!  Click here for the article.  Click here for the video from the April raid.

Tennessee Walking Horse trainer, show judge indicted for animal cruelty
By Heidi Hall
Dec. 4, 2013

Maryville, Tenn., horse trainer Larry Wheelon stood outside the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration stadium in August, days after animal abuse charges against him were dropped on a technicality, upset that horses seized as evidence in the case were not being returned.

He’d been attending the sport’s premier event in Shelbyville for decades — a respected show judge and ethics committee member for the Walking Horse Trainers Association — but with the horses he trained in the hands of animal rehabilitation groups, Wheelon couldn’t compete, only watch and insist that he didn’t hurt any animals.

Now, he’ll get an opportunity to prove it in court.

A Blount County grand jury handed down indictments Monday on felony charges of aggravated cruelty to livestock animals and conspiracy to commit that cruelty in connection with the same investigation that first named Wheelon, 68, in the spring.

Specifically, Wheelon and two other men — Randall Stacy Gunter and Brandon Lunsford — are accused of abusing 16 horses named in the indictments, either chemically burning their legs or irritating the quicks of their hooves.

A fourth man, farrier Blake T. Primm, is named in the case of only one horse. All are due in court on Monday.

The process is called soring, long used by unscrupulous trainers to emphasize the breed’s naturally longer, higher gait because it pains the horse to put its feet down.

After a year-long investigation, workers with the Blount County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other animal protection groups executed a search warrant at Wheelon’s Maryville stables.

What they found was horrifying, said Kellie Bachman, a Blount County SPCA investigator and former police officer who presented evidence to the grand jury. And seeing the charges dismissed against Wheelon for an assistant district attorney’s misstep at a probable cause hearing was devastating.

“The horses were down, they were moaning, they were casting themselves, their legs were all wrapped,” Bachman said. “It was pretty brutal.

“To be able to go before the grand jury and talk to 12 people I didn’t know, to say it in front of (District Attorney General) Mike Flynn, it was therapeutic. Like having a weight lifted off my shoulders.’’

She said 19 horses seized were returned to Wheelon after the initial charges were dismissed. She doesn’t know where they are now.

No one returned a call left at a Maryville listing for Wheelon. Neither Flynn nor Rob White, the attorney who represented Wheelon earlier this year, returned messages left at their offices.

SHOW, the Shelbyville-based horse show inspection and judging group that licensed Wheelon, suspended that license Wednesday — as it had the first time Wheelon was charged.

The Performance Show Horse Association issued a statement pointing out that these were state charges, not violations of the federal Horse Protection Act. The group is lobbying against an amendment to the act, HR 1518, that would lead to tougher penalties against trainers caught soring and ban the tall horseshoes and pastern chains that mark the breed’s elite performance division. The industry is already cleaning up abuse on its own, the group contends, citing figures showing a 28 percent improvement in Horse Protection Act compliance since 2009.

Industry detractors contend that trainers are just getting better at hiding evidence of soring during horse show inspections.

The Humane Society of the United States supports HR 1518. Its equine protection division director, Keith Dane, said Wednesday he was pleased Wheelon will have his day in court.

The HSUS released a stomach-turning undercover video in May 2012 of trainer Jackie McConnell soring a horse in his Collierville, Tenn., stable, which led to a conviction on federal charges and national attention to the problem of soring.

“The public will be allowed to judge for itself whether Jackie McConnell was one bad apple, Larry Wheelon was another, or — with all the trainers with all their Horse Protection Act violations — if the whole barrel is bad apples,” Dane said.


for the horse not the money said...

Its simple why not get rid of the chains if you are trying to clean it up? Everyone with any sense at all knows what the chain does . it allows substandard trainers to take substandard horses and compete withe the better trainer's with better horse's come on how long are we going to fight this fight until they make it to where we can show any of our walking horse's

For the Tennessee Walking Horse said...

You are 100% correct. Heck, even more correct than that, really. Chains equal cheating, which is why they're required in the show ring: so the trainers are free to use chemicals if they want.

You are also right in that these are substandard trainers. I don't even consider them trainers. They are fighting this because they truly know no other way to "train" a horse except out of a bottle.

for the horse not the money said...

Could not agree more.

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