McConnell Pleads Guilty to State Charges

Former high-profile Tennessee Walking Horse trainer Jackie McConnell has pleaded guilty under Tennessee's anti-cruelty statute to maltreating 22 horses by soring them.

Soring is the deliberate injury to a horse's feet and legs to achieve a high-stepping gait. The Horse Protection Act (HPA) forbids the practice on a federal level, and Tennessee state anti-cruelty laws also prohibits the practice.

Last year, under a plea agreement McConnell pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the HPA. He is serving three years' probation and was fined $75,000 in connection with that federal case.

On July 9, McConnell appeared before Tennessee Circuit Court Judge J. Weber McCraw to face the state charges against him. According to a circuit court clerk, McConnell pleaded guilty to 12 of the misdemeanor animal cruelty against him.

McCraw sentenced McConnell to serve one year of house arrest followed by four years probation. McConnell was also sentenced to pay a $25,000 fine and is prohibited from owning and/or training horses for 20 years.

Neither McConnell nor his attorney David Douglas was unavailable for comment on the verdict.

Terry Dotson, chairman of the Performance Show Horse Association, said that the sentencing provided closure.

“Now we can get it out of the newspapers and get on with doing positive things (with the breed),” Dotson said.

Equine welfare advocate Teresa Bippen, president of Friends of Sound Horses (FOSH), said the finding enhances Tennessee's image within the equine industry.

“It is FOSH's opinion that a strong message is being sent that Tennessee wants to shed its image of being a haven for people who sore horses," she said.

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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