McConnell admits one count, expected to avoid jail

Painting on caustic substances to sensitise the skin on the horse's legs.
Footage from an undercover video revealing horse abuse in the walking horse show industry.

Trainer Jackie McConnell has admitted one federal felony charge over horse soring, but reports suggest he is unlikely to be imprisoned.

McConnell admitted one of the charges in a 52-count indictment in the federal court building in Chattanooga on Tuesday, under a deal reached with prosecutors. The plea agreement has yet to be approved by a judge.

McConnell and other individuals were charged after an undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States, in which video footage was obtained showing abuse of horses in a bid to develop the high-stepping gait so desirable in the walking-horse industry.

The state’s largest newspaper, The Tennessean, weighed in on the issue in an editorial, saying McConnell had walked from the federal court after entering his plea, and will continue to walk free if the case follows its current course, with a September sentencing hearing.

“The very name of this beautiful, gentle breed has become a twisted joke, thanks to the Jackie McConnells who populate the show-horse industry,” the newspaper said.

“These horses limp from having searing chemicals applied to their flesh and suffer from years of beatings by trainers as a way to condition them to hide their pain from inspectors.”

It continued: “Despite the public outrage over what these individuals have done, prosecutors plan to let them off with no time served.

“This coddling of sadists is a disgrace to the state of Tennessee, and it represents a failure of accountability on the part of the federal court system; federal and state policy makers; and the show-horse industry.”

The newspaper called on walking-horse industry leaders to weigh in over McConnell’s case, noting that his plea deal still must be approved by a US district judge.

“The only way soring will end is if these abusers are made to pay with prison time and automatic lifetime bans from ever handling horses again.”

Meanwhile, on the day McConnell enter his plea, the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration slapped him with a life ban. It denounced and condemned McConnell’s training methods.

The Celebration’s board of directors voted to suspend McConnell for life and suspended him for life from entering the Celebration grounds for any and all events, regardless of the event’s affiliation or ownership.

The board voted to permanently remove McConnell’s name from the list of Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration Hall of Fame inductees.

It said any picture, plaque, image or other mention of his name from Hall of Fame data will be permanently removed and his name will be forever erased from Hall of Fame rolls.

It voted to permanently remove any and all pictures and signage on the Celebration grounds carrying either the name of Jackie McConnell or the likeness.

A ban was imposed on entry to the Celebration grounds of any horse under the custodianship or presumed to be under the custodianship of McConnell.

“This action is the strongest we can take and it clearly reflects our disgust with the actions of Mr McConnell,” Celebration chief executive Doyle Meadows said.

“His actions are not reflective of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry, and we in no way want him associated with our show.”

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4 thoughts on “McConnell admits one count, expected to avoid jail

  • May 25, 2012 at 10:55 am

    This whole charade should be shut down, by that I mean the whole industry of Walking Horses, until they show enough integrity to police themselves. Sadly, we cannot expect any better from this State, one only has to review their human rights record, along with it’s continual corruption in areas of government. Training horses can never be perfect but this is outright cruelty.

  • May 25, 2012 at 11:17 am

    It all stops NOW!
    From here on out all spectators, riders, horses, trainers, owners, and everyone right on down to the custodians who clean the toilets will be filmed and the videos shown on UTube for all the world to see.
    We WILL NOT go away. We WILL NOT turn our backs on these innocent animals and allow this abuse any longer.
    Stop “Soring” and the “Big Lick” NOW!
    Please join protest planned outside of the 2012 Tennessee Walking Horse “Celebration” in August & Sept in Shelbyville, TN.

    • July 24, 2012 at 9:22 am

      They’ve been getting away with this for years. All for the first place stud of the year to make big bucks on breedings! There is no Walking Horse market anymore so why do they keep breeding! I’m sure he will get slapped on the wrist! Why do they pick the hottest, most humid month of the year to hold the Celebration? They don’t give a crap about the beaten, sored horses being forced to limp around the ring! It’s all about MONEY!

  • May 25, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Everyone needs to write to Judge Mattice asking him that McConnell gets the fullest punishment by law. This has been going on for years with him; and he continues this abusive horrific behavior..why…because nothing ever happens to him. 52 counts reduced to 1..I think a public records request needs to be done my major newspapers and news media to check out political contributions made by McConnell. Judges are up for re-election, Tennessee residents need to make it clear if Judge Mattice and Judge Walker feel this is okay, their seats needs to replaced with someone who doesn’t tolerate 3rd world behavior.


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