Horse Soring Exposed: Results Show 100 percent of Samples at Major Stable Test Positive for Illegal Substances
Two days ago I announced on A Humane Nation our latest undercover investigation – this one, providing incontrovertible proof that a major stable in Murfreesboro, Tenn., called ThorSport Farm, is knee-deep in the practice of horse “soring” – the deliberate injuring of horses’ legs and hooves by chemical or mechanical means. We’ve been campaigning aggressively against soring ever since we released the results of a prior investigation three years ago. That investigation led to criminal charges against a former Hall of Fame trainer named Jackie McConnell. The ThorSport investigation put an exclamation point on our exposing of soring practices, and makes the case that reform is long overdue for a scofflaw industry
Today, I want to add to the details of our investigation – more test results have come in since Tuesday, showing that the final 12 samples of wrappings from horses’ legs all tested positive for illegal chemicals. In short, our investigator took portions of towels or cloth wrapped around the animals’ legs, after the trainers applied substances to them, and we sent those samples to a highly accredited lab. Every sample tested positive for USDA-prohibited substances – 75 of 75 samples.
Late Tuesday, ThorSport denied there’s any soring going on at its barns, even though the three trainers there had previously been cited for soring. “ThorSport Farm has a well-earned reputation for operating ethically and legally, and we emphatically reject the HSUS’s charges of soring,” said the statement released by the stable.
Someone who knows Duke Thorson, the owner of the stable, laughed out loud when the individual read this line and said that Duke always instructed his people to use the word “reject” because “deny” sounds like you’re guilty.
This is like a crack dealer denying possession or sale of cocaine when there are 75 pieces of evidence at his home. I mean, you can make the argument, but is anybody going to believe you when the preponderance of evidence is so damning?
ThorSport’s reaction is standard practice for the players in the industry. After all, Jackie McConnell denied – or better yet, rejected — involvement in soring before we caught him red-handed.
- At the 2014 Celebration, USDA testing results revealed that 52 percent of the horses tested were found to have illegal foreign substances, including many utilized in the soring process, according to the USDA — substances used to cause pain or to numb or mask it.
- At the 2012 Celebration, USDA testing revealed that 145 horses out of 190 tested, or 76 percent, were found positive.
- An analysis of the violation history of the top 25 trainers in the industry’s 2014 Rider’s Cup award program found those trainers have collectively amassed more than 500 citations for violating the HPA.
Let’s face it, the Big Lick segment of the Tennessee walking horse industry injures horses as a routine matter to generate a ludicrous, hyper-extended gait, so they can win ribbons at shows. In practical terms, those involved in this fraternity have taken the oath of omerta – denying the facts even as they exist in incontrovertible form.
“ThorSport Farm continues to work vigorously to end abuse and clean up the industry,” continued the ThorSport statement. Yet, Mr. Thorson was one of the key parties to file an ethics complaint against Congressman Ed Whitfield after he introduced a bill in Congress two years ago to crack down on soring. Why would Mr. Thorson take such an active interest in the matter if he’s not involved in soring? Presumably, if no one at his stable were involved in injuring horses’ legs, he would want to root out the activity in other barns and see that his sport is cleaned up.
According to our investigator, the owner’s wife, Rhonda Thorson, walked into ThorSport’s soring chemical storage room, with our person present, and said “Oh, this is the scary room.” She made a comment about the numerous WD-40 cans (another soring chemical) on the shelf and then admitted that her husband knows about the soring at ThorSport. “He’s afraid,” she said. “He knows it’s here, he’s dealing with it but on his own time because it’s a Catch-22 kind of thing.”
No one who cares about horses should be cowed by these denials. This is a rotten industry, and only a strengthened Horse Protection Act and vigorous enforcement can stop these lawbreakers from continuing to hurt horses.