Tennessee Soring Case Expands

The soring case involving Tennessee Walking Horse trainer Larry Wheelon expanded with the arrests of two men who allegedly worked with sored horses at Wheelon's training barn in Maryville, Tenn.

Soring is the deliberate injury to a horse's feet and legs to achieve an exaggerated high-stepping gait. On the federal level, the Horse Protection Act forbids soring; the practice is also unlawful under Tennessee animal cruelty statutes.

Earlier this year, a visitor to Wheelon Stables complained about the condition of the horses there. On April 18, acting on a warrant, investigators from the USDA, along with Blount County Society for the Prevention to Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and Blount County Sheriff's Department personnel, examined the barn and the horses inside. Authorities determined that all of the examined animals were apparently sore; the allegedly sore horses were removed to an undisclosed location for rehabilitative treatment.

Law enforcement authorities subsequently arrested Wheelon and charged him with felony animal cruelty. He is free on bond.

On June 7 two other men were arrested in connection with the case. Gino Bachman, president and cruelty investigator for the Blount County SPCA, said that Blount County Sheriff's Office arrested Randall Stacy Gunter of Louisville, Tenn., and Brandon Lunsford of Walland, Tenn., for allegedly working with allegedly sored horses at Wheelon's barn.

“Both men were charged with aggravated animal cruelty, the same as Wheelon was,” Bachman said.

Neither Gunter nor Lunsford was available for comment.

Bachman said the case remains under investigation.

Leighann McCollum, Tennessee state director for the Humane Society of the United States, said that the agency is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in connection with the case. Anyone with information should call the HSUS tipline at 855-NO-SORING. All tipline callers remain anonymous.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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