Former Hall of Fame walking horse trainer Jackie McConnell has been sentenced to one year of house arrest and received a $US25,000 fine after admitting animal cruelty offences under Tennessee state law.
McConnell’s house arrest will be followed by four years of supervised probation and he is prohibited from owning and training horses for 20 years.
The charges resulted from a seven-week undercover investigation in 2011 by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) that disclosed McConnell and several associates were involved in soring walking horses at his stables.
Soring is the use of mechanical or chemical irritants to sensitize the lower legs of horses, encouraging the high gait known as the “big lick”.
The society continues to care for horses seized following the investigation.
McConnell and two associates entered guilty pleas to charges of abusing horses in violation of the Tennessee cruelty to animals statute.
McConnell admitted 22 counts of animal cruelty. Co-defendants John Mays and Jeff Dockery pleaded guilty to 17 counts of animal cruelty and will be subject to supervised probation.
The state is seeking forfeiture of eight horses seized from McConnell’s training barn to ensure the animals are permanently rehomed and retired from the show industry.
At the state’s request, the HSUS has been providing the horses with intensive rehabilitative care for more than a year.
A Fayette County grand jury indicted McConnell and his co-defendants in March 2013.
Those charges, along with McConnell’s federal felony conviction for charges related to conspiracy to violate the Horse Protection Act (HPA), stemmed from an investigation that revealed McConnell and his associates beat horses and used painful chemicals on their legs.
McConnell is already serving three years’ probation and has been fined $US75,000 on the federal conviction under the HPA.
Leighann McCollum, the Tennessee state director for the HSUS, said: “The abusive training methods used by McConnell and his associates are appalling and a clear violation of the law.
“He fully deserved the stiff sentence handed down as justice for the horses who were beaten over the head, shocked with a cattle prod in the face, or sored so painfully just to win a blue ribbon.”
The society applauded District Attorney Mike Dunavant and Assistant District Attorney Mark Davidson for vigorously prosecuting this case, the help provided by the US Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General and APHIS Animal Care employees, and support for the state’s request to protect the victimized horses from being returned to their owners, who placed them in McConnell’s care.