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Tennessee Walking Horse trainer indicted for horse soring cruelty

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Larry Joe Wheelon and three other men were indicted by a Blount County Grand Jury in Maryville, Tenn. on Monday and collectively charged with 17 counts of aggravated animal cruelty reported Wednesday's The Daily Times.com.

Wheelon, 68, a Tennessee Walking Horse trainer, Randall Stacy Gunter, Brandon Lunsford, and farrier Blake T. Primm who was charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated animal cruelty, have been accused of applying acid in a "depraved and sadistic manner" for "competition in horse shows" stated The Tennessean.

Horse soring is an abusive practice used by unscrupulous trainers to achieve the high stepping, exaggerated gait known as the "Big Lick."

The Humane Society states:

The lives of many Tennessee walking horses trained in this manner are filled with pain, suffering, and fear. Most are kept in stalls the majority of the time. Fitted with tall, heavy shoes, their legs covered with caustic chemicals meant to cause pain, these horses are subjected to extreme cruelty, all for the sake of a ribbon. The HSUS is working to increase the enforcement of the federal Horse Protection Act and other laws that are meant to protect these majestic animals.

The only horse named in the indictment was Jose's Happy Feet/Laura Kate.

In May 2013, Wheelon was ordered to vacate the barn where he had been training horses at 2743 Tuckaleechee Pike after being charged with illegal "soring practices." Nineteen horses were seized on April; some horses in egregious pain and hardly able to stand.

Read the full story by clicking here.

The case was dismissed in late summer at a preliminary hearing when the judge dismissed the aggravated animal cruelty case for prosecutors failing to prove probable cause. A witness for the prosecution from the U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinarian was not allowed to testify in court after having sat in the open courtroom during testimony.

"Let's hope this time Wheelon gets punished after what he has done to all of these horses," stated Corinne Gallagher, a horse owner from Miami. "I saw the photos of the horses' feet when the original indictments were handed down, and it's no wonder those horses were in excruciating pain. It's just all for the money and their greed. This time I pray the horses get some justice."

Wheelon is a former Walking Horse Trainers Association judge and sat on the ethics committee for the organization.

The men are out on bond and are due back in court on Dec. 9.

Support legislation to end horse soring by clicking here.

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