Trio Sentenced in Horse Soring Case

Tennessee horse trainer Barney Davis indicted last year in a high-profile Horse Protection Act (HPA) violation case will serve time in prison and help produce an anti-soring video according to a sentencing order handed down in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Monday (Feb. 27). Two other individuals indicted with Davis, Christen Altman and Jeffery Bradford, were also sentenced on Monday.

In April, a federal grand jury in Chattanooga, Tenn., handed down a 34-count superseding indictment charging Spotted Saddle Horse trainer Davis and other individuals--Altman, Bradford, and Paul Blackburn--with conspiring to violate the HPA by applying soring practices to horses and falsifying forms and other paperwork required to exhibit animals. All four later pleaded guilty to various HPA violation charges. Davis also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit witness tampering in the case. In January, Blackburn was sentenced to serve probation, pay a fine, and write a detailed description of soring practices and their prevalence in the gaited horse community

Sharry Dedman-Beard, public information officer for the U.S State's Attorney's Office, Eastern Tennessee District, said that on Feb. 27 U.S. District Court Judge Harry S. Mattice sentenced Altman and Bradford to 12 months probation and ordered each to pay a $1,000 fine. Both were also ordered to write an article describing methods used to sore horses and the immediate and long-term effects of soring on the animals. Mattice ordered that the article describe the types of individuals who seek out trainers known for soring horses and how widespread the soring practice is in the gaited horse industry.

Davis was sentenced to serve 12 months and one day in prison and to pay a $4,000 fine, Deadman-Beard said. Upon his release from prison, Davis was ordered to serve three years supervised release. Davis was also ordered to either write an article or to cooperate in the production of an educational video depicting horse soring methods, their effect on horses, and how inspectors can better detect sored horses.

Attorneys for Davis, Altman, and Bradford were unavailable for comment.

Deadman-Beard said that during sentencing Davis displayed mechanical devices including chains, bolts, blocks, and weighted tungsten shoes used to cause horses to perform an exaggerated gait for the show ring. He also described chemical irritants used in the soring process, she said.

"He stressed the pervasiveness of soring in the gaited horse industry and testified that horses 'have got to be sored to walk,' referring to the exaggerated gait displayed in the show ring," Deadman-Beard said.

Teresa Bippen, vice president of Friends of Sound Horses was not surprised by Davis' statements, but said the practice would continue without vigorous prosecution of HPA violation cases: "Until the United States Department of Agriculture undertakes serious enforcement measures to eradicate the cruel abuse of soring under the Horse Protection Act, soring will continue to be a plague upon the Tennessee Walking Horse and Spotted Saddle Horse industries."

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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