Trainer of winning horse at national Tennessee walking horse show suspended from competition for illegal activity

By on September 12, 2017 with 83 Comments

A few days ago, I wrote about plummeting attendance at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, with the stands thin or bare on the most important nights of the two-week-long event – a resounding rejection by the public of the soring cruelty inflicted on horses in the big lick faction of this industry.

There’s a ready explanation for the fans’ waning interest: many of the participants are crooked and the game is rigged.

And it goes all the way from the top to the bottom rungs of the industry. Bill Callaway, the trainer of Gen’s Black Maverick, the horse named World Grand Champion at the Celebration, began serving an eight-month suspension for violating the Horse Protection Act right after the competition concluded. USDA disqualified Callaway from showing horses and fined him $1,000 for violations that preceded his appearance at the Celebration. So Callaway knew he’d be going on suspension but apparently cut a deal that allowed him to show at the Celebration. In a statement of how widespread and accepted soring is within the industry, the judges didn’t hesitate to give Callaway the top prize anyway. (His brother, John Allan, received the same punishment.)

In terms of his public posture on the juxtaposing of the win and his subsequent suspension, Callaway didn’t show any remorse, didn’t say he’d change his training practices, and did not promise to end his use of illegal tactics in future competitions. He merely claimed he took the suspension because it was a “great deal,” even though he didn’t agree with the USDA’s findings, which he said are “very subjective.”

The USDA purged a good deal of HPA violation data from its website earlier this year, but we’ve managed to dig up quite a bit of Callaway’s violation history as well as the history of members of his family (who all train out of the same barn – Allan Callaway Stables) from historical records. In addition to citations at the 2016 Celebration on which his current disqualification was based, he’s amassed other citations, and the family has a long history of repeat violations – with his father Allan disqualified at least twice over the years.

As if this utter disregard of the law wasn’t bad enough, during the Celebration, the Walking Horse Trainers Association presented its “Pleasure Horse Trainer of the Year” award to one Patrick Thomas, who, along Howard Hamilton, was recently found guilty of soring by a USDA administrative law judge. He appealed the decision (which is pending), so was allowed to show and win big at the Celebration. The association also named as their “Performance Horse Trainer of the Year” Jimmy McConnell (brother of Jackie McConnell, the subject of our 2011 undercover investigation) who himself has received numerous HPA citations by both horse industry organizations and the USDA, and is believed to have his own federal case pending against him. All these are more examples of this industry continually rewarding repeat violators, and thumbing its nose at the law and the USDA.

In the past, I’ve reported on evidence demonstrating that in the big lick cesspool, in order to compete, you have to cheat and violate the law. Last year, Honors, the horse named World Grand Champion, could be shown only because his owners sued the USDA and got a judge to issue a preliminary injunction against the agency from disqualifying the horse. They had previously been cited numerous times by both government and industry inspectors for violations of the HPA.

The body of proof of the widespread and rampant abuse of big lick walking horses is unassailable. Recently released USDA statistics from random testing of prohibited foreign substances used to sore the legs of horses (or mask the evidence of soring) at horse shows in 2016 show that a whopping 75.4 percent of all samples tested were positive, including 89.5 percent at last year’s Celebration. This is an increase over 2015, when 65.1 percent of all samples tested positive, including 87.5 percent at the Celebration.

It’s high time for Congress to step up and recognize that this racket is rotten to the core, with no intention of ever reforming – and that the HPA has some serious loopholes that must be closed in order for soring to be relegated to the dustbin of history. Congress should pass the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R.1847 introduced by Reps. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., without delay. Tell your U.S. representative and your two U.S Senators you want them to do all they can to make sure this bill is enacted in this Congress.

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  1. Ada Fancher says:

    I think maybe it’s time to send out a petition explaining to the public what it is and what it does to the horses and how painful it is and start getting signatures on petitions maybe that will be the only way the government will pay attention so sad!

  2. JOAN PUDVN says:

    PLEASE HELP US TO UNDERSTAND BY DEFINING “SORING”. WE MAY LOVE THE HORSES, BUT NOT ALL ARE EXPERTS AT DEFINING THE SPORT.

    • Kristen says:

      SORING is a painful practice used to accentuate a horse’s gait. This is accomplished by irritating the forelegs. One method of soring involves using chemical agents such as mustard oil, kerosene, and other caustic substances on the pasterns, bulbs of the heel, or coronary bands of the horses, causing burning or blistering of the horses’ legs to accentuate their gaits.

      • Robert,fitzpatrick says:

        I have seen this on videos and it is animal abuse at it’s worst.-These horse owners and trainers should be banned for this type of abuse to these beautiful horses.

    • M Carnahan says:

      Here is a portion of an article regarding soring and this statement does not cover the horrors completely. In reality it can be far worse than this with people actually using nails to pierce the sensitive portions OF the hoof…wire…anything to inflict pain on the hooves and legs to the point that skin is bare and torn and then the caustic substances causing and being placed on the open skin-the caustic substance is put on and often also wrapped with plastic wrap to cause it to purposely burn the legs-the pain then causes an even more exaggerated (the desired effect) step in the horse due to the pain: Soring involves the intentional infliction of pain to a horse’s legs or hooves in order to force the horse to perform an artificial, exaggerated gait. Caustic chemicals—blistering agents like mustard oil, diesel fuel and kerosene—are applied to the horse’s limbs, causing extreme pain and suffering.

      A particularly egregious form of soring, known as pressure shoeing, involves cutting a horse’s hoof almost to the quick and tightly nailing on a shoe, or standing a horse for hours with the sensitive part of his soles on a block or other raised object. This causes excruciating pressure and pain whenever the horse puts weight on the hoof.
      Look up soring in horses at the pictures…anyone who participates in this practice should be prosecuted.

      • Debbie Lamont says:

        Thankyou for explaining what this is .This is deplorable.I had no idea practices of this nature even existed.This torture needs to be stopped! Those poor animals .I am just shocked .

    • TKaiser says:

      Just make use of google … Wikipedia: “Soring is the use of chemicals, pressure or devices to cause pain to the front feet and legs of horses when they touch the ground. This results in the horses picking up their front feet higher and faster than they would do naturally. It is an abusive and prohibited practice, illegal in the U.S. under the Horse Protection Act of 1970 (HPA). It is closely associated with a unique high-stepping action of the front legs called “big lick” movement in show ring Tennessee Walking Horses.”

    • Abigail L Jes says:

      Google is your best friend. Seriously, it doesn’t take much effort to look it up and educate yourself. Plus, cruelty like this has been going on for hundreds of years, like back in the 1800’s when people would put acid into the frog of the hoof.

    • Georgie says:

      I believe soring is the practice of injecting a substance into the horses legs or hood that make it excruciatingly painful to touch. Therefore the horse will pick up its feet briskly in an attempt to avoid the pain. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong…

      • Tee says:

        You are wrong. Injections into the leg is NOT done. The definition is a causitic substance applied to the leg. It happens in other breeds but is as well known or publicized

    • Vaishali Honawar says:

      Hi Joanne, please follow this link to learn more about soring. http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/tenn_walking_horses/facts/what_is_soring.html

    • Dave Rogers says:

      They use mustard oil, wd40, and other items to irritate the skin so it gets “sore”. Then, when the chains are on their ankles, it hurts worse, thus, making the horse raise their hooves higher. …getting that “big lick”. Then when officials check the horses to check for soring, the owners apply shoe polish to cover up redness and hair missing. Hope this helps.

  3. frank massingale says:

    very unfair to say nothing changed in last few years!! no intentions of changing false statement for industry.

    • M Carnahan says:

      What is unfair exactly…are you saying it has changed? Progress was finally being made against this disgusting practice and then all was rolled back and we are back to square one. This should not even be open for debate as it should not be allowed period-anyone caught participating in this evil should be prosecuted immediately! I have owned horses for 50 years-the face of the horse you see accompanying this post is a face of sheer pain and stress.

      • Helen Daniels says:

        I agree.Anyone with one ounce of decency and sensitivity can see the despair pain anguish and hurt in the horses face Look at the terror in the horses eye.some people are disgusting and those who attend the shows are equally guilty.We as humans are surely better then this.Sickening to the utmost degree

  4. Tara L Couch says:

    Force the TWH Association to abolish The Big Lick!!! No ckass, no soring, no reason to continue this barbaric practice. Shame, shame, shame! Laws don’t matter if they aren’t enforced. Stop the madness!!!

    • Rebecca says:

      You are so right, Tara. What good is any law if there’s no enforcement. It’s a dead law! Stop the spectacle

    • Sharon Sites says:

      I agree. It shouldn’t take a Congressional Act to stop something that the TWH association should take care of. TWH and Animal Human activists organizations should stop this immediately. You can’t kick a dog or abuse a cat but you can sore a horse or run them to death on a track. A good example of a weak structure when it doesn’t protect All animals.

    • EARL BROWN says:

      Suspension, and a $1,000 fine, they should be banned from the sport for life!!!

  5. Valerie Neilson says:

    I had a Tennessee Walker. They are the most beautiful, kind being that I have ever owned. There is no need to put them through this horrendous torture for what they call Sport. My Mare would go into her paces on her own, no pressure from me & I never trained her in any way for her gaits. Callaway should wear chains & nails in his shoes. He deserves jail time, not a suspended sentence & The Bick Lick banned.

    • Barbara Marold says:

      I did also. He was Big lick when i purchased him and as soon as he came down from NY…i pulled the big shoes and pads. We won almost every plantation class! This is a mellow breed. No need for hurting them for a piece of ribbon.

    • Lynn says:

      Well said. Agree 150%. xxxx

  6. Shea says:

    Horse soring isnt right and must stop

  7. Susan Trout says:

    Don’t let up, Wayne! If we can get Congress to act, these morally bankrupt “so-called” horse people will be forced to end their love affair with the horrific “big lick” torture. Anyone who can honestly say they find these classes exciting and entertaining needs psychiatric help. No educated true horse person would ever knowingly participate in such cruelty. My heart aches for these beautiful, intelligent horses. They don’t deserve to be treated so miserably.

  8. Jill Stanford says:

    It is very hard to understand why, with all the evidence presented, this form of cruelty to Tennessee Walking Horses is still allowed? What began as a lovely breed of horse with a pretty and comfortable gait has turned into a travesty of pain and abuse. Shame on the trainers. Shame on the breeders. Shame on the EXHIBITORS who, for a ribbon, would put a horse through this. And finally, shame on spectators who clap and yell for The Big Lick. It sickens me and I believe it sickens all the other horse lovers of ANY breed. It needs to STOP – NOW.

  9. Mary says:

    Where was Wayne pacelle?

  10. Emily says:

    I guess the next thing you’ll write about is that whips used while riding should be outlawed too. Or that riding a horse hurts the horse and we shouldn’t do that either.

    I assure you that the issue of soring isn’t limited to the TWH breed. I’ve shown Saddlebreds, as well as walking and racking breeds. EVERY TRAINER does some sort of soring. They’ve been doing it for decades. So lay off the TWH breed and focus on the problem as a whole.

    • Julyblue says:

      Emily your Ignorance is shining thru!

    • Heather Pow says:

      Bullshit. You have just admitted that you use illegal methods. Are you a lemming? Because another does it does it change the illegal status?
      Stop treating the public with such arrogance and deceit.

    • Kristine says:

      Oh Miss Emily, most of us are aware that trainers of other breeds are also committing acts of cruelty, and there is nothing wrong with you wanting attention brought to them as well, but to come off as though you are defending what goes on in the TWH industry, and to be sarcastic toward those speaking up for them when you should be equally upset about what happens to these horses is pretty appalling!! Many bad things happen to horses at the hands of greedy people, but the TWH industry has gone beyond the extreme, wanting more, and more from these horses as years progress, and their gaits are now SOOO far beyond their natural gaits that it’s become freakishly unattractive to look at, and anyone who isn’t delusional can see the physical distress these horses are enduring as they’re forced to perform in such an unrealistic manner for the pleasure of people, so if you have issues with trainers of other breeds, certainly spread the word, create petitions, speak up for them, but do NOT attack people who stand up for ANY horse of ANY breed that is being treated as poorly as the TWH’s are!!!!

    • Tee says:

      You are correct! Thank you for saying so!

    • Michelle says:

      Saddlebred trainers do not sore. A sored/lame ASB cannot trot square, and a square trot is paramount to every class a saddlebred shows in…please take your ignorance elsewhere

    • Annice says:

      I know of no Saddlebred trainers who would be dumb enough to sore a horse. Every discipline has bad trainers, Thoroughbred, Quarter Horses, Arabs, Walking Horses, Saddlebreds, Hunter/Jumpers. No one has cornered that market but tarring Saddlebreds with the same brush as WH is just wrong.

    • Linda Staffulani says:

      You are a very sick person. If you think this is OK. How about we do this to you ? Let’s see if you like it.

  11. Laura says:

    As a former owner of two wonderful TWH’s I rescued and kept on the farm for pleasure riding, I know the soring procedures are rampant and vital to “big lick” competition. After visiting one of the most prestigious TWH show barns in middle TN while attending the Celebration in the 1990’s, we made a complaint to the humane society for malnourished mares kept in a separate area from the main show barn I guess we weren’t supposed to see. The TWH is a wonderful benevolent breed who is able to tolerate this kind of mistreatment and still strive to perform and please the trainers. Is a pathetic form of abuse I am very surprised is still allowed to go on.

  12. Tracy says:

    I would just like to say that the punishment is a joke. The horses go through years of torture and torment by these people and the only way to beat this is to give a life time ban and the horses be re-homed under the animal safety program. The animals should be seized. No bartering no begging that he will never do that again is the worst joke of it all. These people are repeat offenders and have done this to all the horses since he owned them. these horses go through beating on a daily basis, they are in pain from the beatings and from the caustic substances that they use on the horses to make them produce the big lick under jurest. the big lick should be banned from any competition as being inhumane. Take away the reason to produce this inhumane Big Lick you take away the pain that the horses have to produce the Big lick. Its not rocket science people ban the Big lick. Ban the people who are repeat offenders of cruelty to the horses in the industry. They spend thousands of dollars to produce the Big Lick make the fine much much bigger. $1,000 dollars is a joke. if you are caught you have to pay for the animals rehabilitation after they are seized, plus court costs. in the region of $20,000 + If you are caught doing this you should make it worthwhile $1,000 dollars is not enough money to stop this Big Lick nor to stop the people resorting to this kind of torture or torment these horses have to endure.. A Life time ban from owning a horse or any other animal, all animals to be seized, The Big Lick to have a Life time ban. The person caught Helping in any way including fraudulent ownership on behalf of the person causing this torment or torturous behavior will also receive the same penalty. A fine of $20,000 be the minimum fine. plus the rehabilitation fee’s plus Court costs to be implemented. this was just someone saying dont do it again, we will see you in the competition next year oh and by the way here’s your trophy for this year too. What is the point of fining this person for the pain and suffering of this animal only to give him the trophy anyway. Why are there Vets that are in place to make sure the horse is not suffering under the animal cruelty act if their findings are nodded at them thrown out the moment the vet has left the building. that is just bull shit. not only are you wasting the vets time but you are ignoring the findings. the 8 month ban is also a waste of time he will use that time to inflicted the horses he owns more pain and suffering to get ready for next years events. This is a freaking joke nothing more nothing less.

    • Terry lomas says:

      I agree completely.

      • Nick Large says:

        I have had Tennessee Walking Horses for forty years. In 2010 I rescued two horse from a sore horse trainer. I have attended the Celibration for many years. Just resent years I have stopped going. My horses are all for pleasure and trail. How could you be in love with an animal and hurt that animal for profit.

    • M Carnahan says:

      THANK YOU Tracy!! Amen

    • Brenda A. Smith says:

      I totally agree with Tracy. I had a TWH that was the best riding horse ever. This type of treatment of the horses should be banned and the fines should be enough to hurt their pockets and I certainly agree with the ban for life.

  13. Mark Nolan says:

    Suspending the trainer has no impact. S/he will continue as the trainer in all but name, and continue to make his/her living “touching up” horses for an unfair advantage. The answer is suspend the horse from competition for 2-3 years, which hurts the owner. If owners lose the use of enough expensive horses, they will insist on clean horses and shows.

  14. Kathy says:

    This obvious cruelty needs to be stopped! Good for the Humane Society for coming down on this practice! However, I agree with what someone said above, the penalty is a joke! They need to be completely put out of business and people need to quit attending these events!

  15. Bobette Ash says:

    One look at this photo is all it takes to know this horse is in indescribable pain. Look at his eyes, they are bulging, red, that indicates he’s in pain. He’s frothing at the mouth. This horse has been beaten, forced to stand on concrete blocks for days after chemicals have been applied to his sensitive hoofs & skin, wrapped with chains to rub on his skin creating pain. In order to make this horse stand on the elevated blocks, as this is extremely painful, they use ropes, chains around his neck & shoulders & apply pressure, they make sure he can’t bend his knees, they keep him in this position for days & he screams as his pain is horrific! If this horse is caught laying down, he will lay down on his back so his hoofs are not touching anything, they will beat him severely forcing him to stand. It’s unnatural for a horse to pick up there front legs the way they force him to, it’s all due to the hellish pain people like Bill Callaway & John Allan inflict on horses. These people are monsters, they are sadistic. A normal human has compassion for animals. The people who torture horses are deranged. The horses need to be removed from the facility’s that practice soaring. Why aren’t they removed & given a good home? A pasture to graze in, a place where they are loved. They will never loose there fear of humans. Why doesn’t the USDA & the Humane Society remove these horses to better homes? How much proof do you need? Soaring is illegal therefore do your jobs. Allow these horses to have a pain free life as they deserve that much. Please help these horses, they deserve better.

  16. Renee says:

    I think if someone use this soring to make a horse move this way then put it on the person hands make them ride with this on their hands with gloves , and run them around hitting them with crops and kicking them with spurs ,and then ask them how it feels

  17. Connie Barnes says:

    About time, they don’t care about the horses, just the status and money they bring in. DESPICABLE.

  18. Gloria says:

    Soring is inhumane, should be prosecution for humans that do this

  19. Jim Hart says:

    He should never be allowed to own horses again. Anyone who participates in industrial cruelty should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

  20. Hollandia Mass says:

    Stop thus now

  21. Alie says:

    some people are just so mean like these horses are beautiful the way they are and some people don’t see that and try to make them more beauty full and that is like saying oh you are not pretty I am going to make your more pretty how would you feel and the worse part is they are suffering like if you look at Xrays the nails are so big that some of them touch their bone I feel so bad for these poor horses

  22. Louise Ball says:

    I’ve seen this so many times..These people ought to be put behind bars for abusing these animals, they will do anything to make a freakin dollar!
    Something has got to be done for these poor animals, they cant defend themselves!!
    Just makes me Sick!

  23. Matt says:

    Wow if you people had as much compassion for people as you do putting these show horses out to pasture this country would be a much better place!
    These show horses are treated better than most of you complaining treat your own children!
    Take your trail horses and go ride on your trails no one tells you or says anything to you riding it for 6,7,8 hrs in a day’s ride but that’s ok tho.
    Guess that’s not abuse either huh?
    You do your thing let the folks wanting to show their horse be it big lick as you call them or not, you have no right stopping them, these folks love there horses just as much as you do,and spend as much money taking care of them as you do yours.

    And these trainers you speak so badly about are probably the very people that broke your horse to ride
    To start with.
    Lay off these guys. Lay off the industry!

    • Annice says:

      This remark shows sad ignorance of facts. Of course some of the horses are well treated but many WH are not. Try “soring” yourself and get back to us after a few days.

    • Linda Staffulani says:

      Oh, you are sick person . if you think this is alright. Went they are done with them and can’t do this anymore. They are send to slaughter house. You are that Dumb. Go look this up or are you one of these people who does this to your horse .

  24. CJ says:

    If you ever see these TWH Trainers, then you know they work for Doctors, Lawyers, & Wealthy People that Demand their Horses WIN! So, they tell the Trainers to do ALL… So it’s not All the faults of the Trainers. Also ALL the other breeds that have a Fancy Step do this too. ALL Classes and Anything Related to the “Big Lick” & Fancy Step Classes for other Breeds would have to be completely DELETED FOR GOOD in order to Stop this procedure that has been here a Very Long Time!

  25. Robert Gill says:

    I have lived in Tennessee all my life and been around horses and I think that the trainers that sore the horses should be banned from handling them or brought to some good ole time about is fair play the inhumane treatment of these beautiful animals is just about as bad as mistreating a child just for the sake of a trophy and a money the hobbling and beating of these animals should be treated the same as child abuse . So look for new laws to be enforced on this terrible thing and I know a lot of people do not know the severity of the actions of these trainers but I hope every animal lover and horse person will contact the proper authorities and get this stopped and if enough of us call and get enough signatures on a petition either stop it or stop the celebration and don’t give the owners and the trainers a place to commit the crime then it will slow it down but it has been let go so long and there is so much money changing hands it will be hard to stop now but all we can do is try .My statement to the people that are doing this is that there is a place for you when you leave this old world and its really HOT where you will be going ! THINK ABOUT IT👍👺

    • Matt says:

      The TWH industry just like every other has there own bad apples, not all horse trainers train there horses in that manner. There are good trainers out there. And just because these horse has a more animated gait doesn’t mean this horse is sore! Contrary to what folks say these stacks as you call them, if you will look at these horses on these shoes there body weight is more toward the stronger legs of the horse. That’s the reason these horses can and do perform longer and later in there lives, they don’t have the bad tendon problems of other performance hoses have. So there are so advantages to the shoeing of these horses.

  26. Mary weber says:

    I think any trainer who is caught so ring ANY breed of horse needs to go to court, have a heavy fine … $20,000 sounds good…and then some jail time during which the same nasty, caustic chemicals they applied to the horse are applied to their legs and arms more than a few times…so it burns and burns and eats their flesh just like what they did to the poor horse…just might teach them a good lesson….

  27. Ellen Feld says:

    Is there any way to go after the owners of these horses? After all, they’re the ones paying the bills. Can the owners be fined for animal cruelty? Perhaps if their names were publicized, or as somebody else mentioned, the horses were suspended for 2 or 3 years, making them useless as show horses.

  28. Roxanne Anderson says:

    Wow, this is the most unnatural thing so see these horses do this big lick. The riders are hunched over….nothing pretty about it. All involved should be punished…owners, trainers, etc. This is just sick. Why would you do this…disgusting!!!! These people are missing some component!!! This should not be allowed!!!!!!

  29. Debbie says:

    Lifetime ban…simple as that. Thin the cruel herd.

  30. Sharon says:

    Any animal cruelty has to be SEVERELY punished full stop. And many activities with animals need to be bannef.

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