Guilty Plea Entered in Tennessee Walking Horse Soring Case

Jeff Dockery, who along with high-profile Tennessee Walking Horse trainer Jackie McConnell and two others was indicted earlier this year for violating the Horse Protection Act (HPA), has pleaded guilty to one of the counts against him. The HPA prohibits “soring,” the deliberate injury to a horse’s feet and legs to achieve an exaggerated high-stepping gait.

In February, a federal grand jury in Tennessee handed down a 52-count indictment accusing Dockery, along with McConnell, John Mays, and Joseph R. Abernathy, of conspiring to violate the HPA by applying prohibited substances such as mustard oil to the pastern area of Tennessee Walking Horses to achieve an exaggerated high-stepping gait. The indictment also described 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. The case garnered national attention when it was the subject of a segment of a May broadcast of ABC News’ “Nightline.”

On May 22, McConnell, Mays, and Abernathy pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the HPA in various ways.

Dockery’s attorney Anthony Martinez said that on June 5 that Dockery pleaded guilty to one HPA violation charges against him.

“That is a lesser included misdemeanor (of) conspiracy to show sored horses,” Martinez said.

Martinez declined further comment.

Sentencing in the case remains pending.

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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