Last year a case was opened against Larry Wheelon, who is a “big” figure in the Tennesee walking horse show world. USDA inspectors have examined few horses that were trained by Wheelon during the execution of a search warrant and they delivered still photographs and reports to The HSUS. As they could see from the images horses were intentionally injured and “sored” and it was all because of the “big lick” (artificial, exaggerated gait).
For a long time Wheelon and his associates tried to keep their criminal cruelty away from the public, but this time they won’t get away. As we could see from the video the horse that is examined by the USDA inspector is in big pain, because he violently pulled away as the inspector touched his feet. The inspector was evaluating the injuries and he clearly claimed the damage and cruelty that those people have done in that barn.
Wheelon and his associates were arrested under Tennessee’s animal cruelty law. There was nothing else to be done after the Tennessee law enforcement looked the evidence of abuse. Wheelon’s defense attorney managed to dismiss the first set of charges, but he got another 15 felony charges and 4 misdemeanors- aggravated cruelty to livestock and conspiracy to commit aggravated cruelty to animals.
And after all that felony charges, a Blount County Judge let Wheelon go scot-free, after he suppressed all evidence based on technicality. But, now we all can see the photos and the video thanks to The HSUS and the Freedom of Information Act.
Despite the evidence, Wheelon was welcomed by the horse industry and he continued to train and exibit “big lick” walking horses. After a while he was again accused for breaking the law. But it seems that the law couldn’t do anything against him, because he was in every Horse Industry Organization and he was a AAA-rated horse show judge.
So, now it’s a perfect time for serious reforms in horse industry, because as we can see there is a subculture of cruelty within the “big lick” cadre of trainers. A rule was proposed by the USDA’s and it was about giving more strength to it’s Horse Protection Act regulations. That rule would ban the use of devices such as ankle chains and tall stacked shoes.
Right now, the horse soring crowd is attempting to delay the new rule. They are requesting 60 day extension that would probably put the rule on hold for the next president’s administration to decide and that means that thousands of walking horses will be put in pain for another season by Wheelon. We hope that the rule won’t be delayed and that horse cruelty will end at this point.