Tennessee Walking Horse Farm Owners Suspended

The owners of a high-profile Tennessee Walking Horse breeding farm have been suspended from participating in horse shows and other equine-related activities for one year for allegedly violating the Horse Protection Act (HPA).

According to a consent order signed this past February, a USDA complaint alleges that William B. Johnson and Sandra Johnson, owners of Waterfall Farms in Shelbyville, Tenn., and co-owners of a horse named JFK All Over violated the HPA at a "fun show" in Shelbyville.

The HPA prohibits "soring," the deliberate injury of a horse's feet and legs to achieve a high-stepping so-called "big lick" gait. The USDA Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) enforces the Act. However, the word "soring" does not appear in the consent order.

According to the order, William and Sandra neither admitted nor denied the allegations contained in the complaint, and waived oral hearing and other procedure. Both agreed to terms of the consent order.

Under the order, the Johnsons are disqualified from showing, exhibiting, or auctioning any horse at any equine-related show, exhibition or auction for a period of one year beginning on Jan. 21, 2011, and ending Jan. 20, 2012. Both were also each fined $1,000 under terms of consent order.

Neither William nor Sandra was available for comment.

USDA/APHIS Spokesman David Sacks said the agency is committed to eliminate the practice of soring.

"We will continue to enforce the Horse Protection Act," Sacks said. "We will continue to work with the horse industry to protect against this inhumane practice and thereby ensure that only sound and healthy horses participate in shows, exhibits and sales."

Equine advocate Vivian Grant said the suspension represents a message about HPA enforcement.

"Bill and Sandra Johnson are a major influence in the Tennessee Walking Horse community in both breeding and showing," said Grant, president of the International Fund for Horses. "The penalty and suspension issued against the Johnsons by the USDA is particularly significant, and sends a clear message that soring will be punished, no matter what your stature."

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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