Outside, it appears to be a slice of heaven for horses. Inside, it has been accused of being a living hell for the animals. Perhaps ThorSport Farms should be renamed “SoreSport Farms.”
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has announced an undercover investigation into ThorSport Farm in Murfreesboro, Tennessee has resulted in cruelty cases, to include “soring,” The charges are being investigated by the HSUS and Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department. The case remains open.
According to today’s media release by the HSUS, “more than 60 wrapping samples were taken directly from horses (at ThorSport Farms) whose legs had been slathered with caustic chemicals and wrapped tightly to cook the chemicals into their flesh and cause extreme pain (known as “soring”). All samples tested positive for substances banned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.” This is the second time in four years HSUS has gone undercover, exposing illegal practices that create suffering for horses in the Shelbyville area. Shelbyville is the host for Celebration, the two-week Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. The 2015 Celebration begins August 26.
It is not as if the ThorSport Farms persons involved are new to animal cruelty. ThorSport Farm trainers Aaron Self, Chad Williams, and Robert Cortner, and Allison Thorson (daughter of ThorSport Farm owners) all have histories for violating animal abuse laws. But will they be justly punished? Former Tennessee walking horse hall of fame trainer Jackie McConnell pled guilty to a single charge (out of 52 counts) of animal abuse, was fined, and received probation in 2012. This came on the heels of McConnell’s 5-year disqualification in 2006 for violations of the Horse Protection Act (HPA) and violations as far back as 1979. Trainer Joe Cotten was suspended for 7 1/2 years and fined $5,000 in 2012. Cotten’s history includes abuse, falsifying records, threatening a judge, and more.
At this time, ThorSport Farms has one page on their official website. There are no descriptions, photographs, or informational pages. Formerly, the site featured a slide show of gorgeous photos of the new southern facility: an outdoor arena which features dust-control EquiClear. A pristine barn of over 60 stalls. An indoor area treated with ThorTurf. FarmPaint products. Classic horse shows, such as the WHOA (Walking Horse Owner’s Association) Versatility Show. WHOA listed “goals” include “Promote the well-being of the breed so as to ensure humane treatment…aid in the development of standards and rules which will eliminate unfair or unlawful practices affecting the breed.”
Like so many barns that “train” Tennessee’s famous horse, ThorSport Farms is a facility that, from the outside, shows no sign of the abuse, pain, and fear lingering inside. If the allegations of abuse are found to be true, it may be time to use that FarmPaint for a new business sign, replacing lettering to reveal the truth.