Walking horse trainer Larry Wheelon heads to court today in Blount County, Tennessee. The well-known trainer and judge will face charges following his arrest on Friday. As shown in this video from the Humane Society of the United States, horses placed with Wheelon for trained were seized by the USDA, with assistance from the county sheriff and humane society officials, in connection with the charges.
Wheelon may be criminally charged for violations of the federal Horse Protection Act; soring is also a violation of state law in Tennessee. Further charges may be levied against Wheelon's employees or associates.
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Either or both methods may be paired with training the horse to not show pain by flinching during examination by inspectors.
The purpose of soring is to exaggerate the gait of a Tennessee walking horse when performing the coveted "big lick" form of the horse's characteristic running walk. The horse oversteps with the hind legs while throwing the front limbs high into the air in a pumping rhythmic action.
The horses are judged on the extreme action and rhythm they display and the most exaggerated horses often win if they can hold the gait and display rhythm as well as action.
Federal legislation to stiffen the Horse Protection Act has been introduced in Congress this year, with the backing of veterinary organizations like the American Veterinary Medical Association and American Association of Equine Practitioners.
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