Bond Conditions Set in McConnell Soring Case

High-profile Tennessee Walking Horse trainer Jackie L. McConnell, accused of violating the Horse Protection Act (HPA) by soring horses, can only train horses he personally owns while he awaits trial on the charges against him, said a U.S. District Court judge.

In February, a federal grand jury in Tennessee handed down a 52-count indictment accusing McConnell, Jeff Dockery, John Mays, and Joseph R. Abernathy of conspiring to violate the HPA by applying prohibited substances (such as mustard oil) to horses' pasterns areas to achieve an exaggerated high stepping, or so-called "big lick," gait. The indictment also describes the methods allegedly used to sore the horses; train the animals not to react to pain in their feet by causing pain elsewhere; and to otherwise mask evidence of soring.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Neff said that on March 15 all four men appeared in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga, Tenn., where Dockery and Mays agreed to conditions set by federal prosecutors that they not train or care for horses other than their own before their trial on the soring charges. Under a special agreement, Abernathy, a farrier, is allowed to continue providing services for clients' horses but must provide a weekly client-and-contact list to prosecutors and probation officers, Neff said.

McConnell's attorneys, Hugh Moore and Tom Greenholtz, objected to federal prosecutors' conditions that McConnell not train horses while awaiting trial and that he waive his rights under the 4th Amendment of the Constitution, Neff said, which protects Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures. A second court appearance on the bond conditions was set for March 23.

Neff said that during the March 23 appearance that federal prosecutors, McConnell, and his attorneys struck an agreement to not train any horses belonging to others. McConnell also agreed to a weekly inspection process that will include one government entity and one veterinarian of McConnell's choosing, Neff said.

"There will be an initial 'baseline' test of each horse against which the weekly inspections will measure to ensure no soring of his own horses is taking place," Neff said.

In return for McConnell's agreement to submit to the weekly inspections, federal prosecutors agreed not to pursue the 4th Amendment waiver, Neff said.

Neither Greenholtz nor Moore was available for comment on the agreement.

Neff declined to comment further on the ongoing case.

A May 22 trial date has been set for the case.

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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