Probation for admitted horse soring offence

December 13, 2011

An Alabama man has been sentenced to two years of probation involving a Tennessee Walking horse soring case.

Chris Zahnd, 45, of Trinity, Alabama, pleaded guilty to a violation of the federal Horse Protection Act.

Zahnd was the owner and operator of Swingin' Gate Stables, located in Trinity, Alabama, and trained, boarded, and showed Tennessee Walking Horses.

On July 4, 2009, at the Woodbury Lions Club Horse Show, a horse trained and stabled by Zahnd was discovered to be wearing a nerve cord in its mouth and was determined to be bilaterally "sore" by an inspector.

Nerve cords are plastic zip ties that are often applied around a horse's upper gum to distract the horse from any pain it might experience due to soreness when an inspector is checking a horse's legs for such soreness.

At a plea hearing, Zahnd admitted to soring violations of the act.

As part of his sentence, during his two-year probationary period, probation officers and representatives of the USDA are allowed to visit Zahnd's barn to monitor the welfare of the horses.

Additionally, Zahnd will be required to supply information on all horses under his care.

"The use of illegal soring techniques undermine the equine industry while giving unfair advantage to those who engage in such cruel, painful, and inhumane training methods," said Jerry Martin, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee.

"This office is committed to prosecuting such abuses that are in violation of the Horse Protection Act," he added.

Special Agent-in-Charge, Karen Citizen-Wilcox, with the Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General, said her agency would continue to aggressively pursue violations of the Horse Protection Act in order to protect horses and competitors from illegal and unfair acts and practices."

Tennessee Walking horse show judges value a high-stepping gait called the "big lick" - a high-reach of the front legs with a long, gliding stride behind.

Winning horses can be sold for significant amounts of money.

Properly training a horse to walk in this manner, however, takes significant effort and time. Therefore, some trainers use illegal soring techniques to quickly accentuate a horse's gait in order to gain a competitive edge in horse shows.

Soring is a technique used to create soreness and pain in a horse's feet, which causes the horse to lift its front feet quickly in order to relieve the pain.

The Horse Protection Act prohibits the practice, which also includes the application of irritating or blistering agents on a horse's legs.

The irritating or blistering agents causes the horse to suffer physical pain or distress, inflammation, or lameness, when walking, trotting, or otherwise moving.

The Horse Protection Act also bans the use of certain devices, such as nerve cords.

The United States was represented in the case by Assistant United States Attorney Carran Daughtrey.