At a press conference on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015, the subject of the latest investigation by the Humane Society of the United States [HSUS] presented further evidence that the pathetic, torturous abuse of Tennessee Walking Horses continues unabated in the hellish “Big Lick” barns. The persistence of Walking Horse trainers and some of the horses’ owners to coerce the ridiculous and exaggerated Big Lick by soring their horses goes against all humanity. Heaven help the poor horses selected good enough for the big shows because they face a continuous, brutal existence, one without reprieve.
The investigators of the HSUS have caught soring abusers numerous times and once again during the latest undercover sting. After all, the National Celebration which counts as the greatest show for the Tennessee Walking Horses requires the Big Lick, and horses must be “properly sored” to be competitive with other show horses. So preparations begin – chemicals and diesel is poured and wrapped on the horses’ legs, shoes are reset and often with embedded nails, feet are loaded up with leather pads to a length of 6 to 8 inches, truck chains or double chains are put on the sored leg surfaces to further hurt and maim, and all the other dirty tricks “professional Tennessee Walking Horse trainers” use to get their horses ready for shows. Horses groan, lie down, try to escape the pain. Just to know this occurs and to expose human involvement is an embarrassment and an abomination!
The particular investigation for this latest case by the HSUS was at ThorSport Farm in Murfreesboro, Tenn. It took place over several months and observed, documented and accurately detailed everyone around the horses, especially grooms and top trainers. No doubt about it – chemical and caustic substances were liberally rubbed into the horses’ legs, which were then wrapped tightly in paper towels followed with thick cotton wrap, and then leg wraps. Often owners watched as their horses were abused, doing and saying nothing. This deliberate infliction of excruciating pain to the horses’ legs to force that heinous, exaggerated Big Lick happened at ThorSport Farm but it is disgustingly common at far too many Tennessee Walking Horse stables.
The HSUS sleuth amassed undeniable, damning evidence of intense soring. The investigator collected 75 wrap samplings from the legs of horses at ThorSport Farm and 63 had confirmed soring chemicals on them that are banned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Horse Protection Act. Other samples, numbering 12, are still under testing.
ThorSport Farm makes its own caustic mixtures. One of the concoctions uses mustard oil which is a vicious blistering agent used for soring – along with “camphor, methyl paraben, methyl salicylate, and hydrocarbons, which are all USDA-prohibited substances.”
Horses showed the results of the soring by their distress and obvious pain. One horse in particular was in grave agony, groaning in pain 40 minutes after chemicals were applied and wrapped to his front legs. And the payoff is what? A few measly bucks and the pursuit of ribbons?
The HSUS investigator accurately documented everything including the frequent discussions about the illegality of what was being done – that included talk about getting caught and especially the use of butylated hydroxytoluene. This prohibited substance is a proven carcinogen that is toxic to a horse’s blood, liver and central nervous system. The three ThorSport Farm trainers [Chad Williams, Aaron Self, Robert Cortner] have all been ticketed for Tennessee Walking Horse soring. With this investigation their soring days should be over.
As a result of the HSUS investigation, federal and state authorities are again called upon to aggressively probe, investigate and closely scrutinize the conduct and methods used by ThorSport Farm and prosecute accordingly. Everyone at the Murfreesboro facility has denied soring the horses.
This is the first of three Tennessee Walking Horse soring articles with the second due in about a day.