Tennessee Trainer Pleads Guilty to Soring Charges

Shelbyville, Tenn., horse trainer Paul Blackburn has pleaded guilty to federal charges that he conspired to violate the Horse Protection Act (HPA) by soring horses. Soring, the deliberate injury of a horse's feet and legs to achieve an exaggerated, high-stepping gait, is prohibited by the HPA.

In March a federal grand jury in Chattanooga, Tenn., handed down an indictment alleging that between 2002 and 2010, Spotted Saddle Horse trainer Barney Davis and two other individuals, Christen Altman and Jeffery Bradford, conspired to violate the HPA by applying soring practices to horses and falsifying forms and other paperwork required to exhibit animals.

On April 26 a federal grand jury in Chattanooga handed down a 34-count superseding indictment also charging Blackburn in the case. The superseding indictment also contains wire fraud and money laundering charges against Davis and Altman not included in the previous indictment.

The superseding indictment also alleges that Davis and Altman defrauded out-of-state clients by collecting payments based on false representations that the training methods applied to clients' horses would be HPA compliant. Davis and Altman then allegedly used these funds to support their training operation that applied non-HPA-compliant training methods including mechanical and chemical soring procedures. The indictment alleges that Davis instructed clients to make checks for training payable to Altman. Altman then allegedly endorsed those checks, which were ultimately deposited into Davis' bank account.

Sharry Dedman-Beard, public information officer for the U.S. State's Attorney's Office, Eastern Tennessee District, said that on Oct. 18 Blackburn pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the HPA.

Blackburn could not be reached for comment.

Sentencing for Blackburn is slated for Jan. 23, 2012, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee in Chattanooga. Blackburn faces penalties of up to one year in prison and a $3,000 fine, Dedman-Beard said.

Hearings for Davis, Altman, and Bradford at slated for Nov. 8 in the U. S. District Court in Chattanooga, according to Dedman-Beard.

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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