published Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Horse soring sentence includes order to write

  • photo
    John Mays walk on the sidewalk in front of the Joel W. Solomon Federal Courthouse downtown in March after a hearing in federal court. Mays is charged with violations of the Horse Protection Act along with well-known walking horse trainer Jackie McConnell for allegedly participating in what is known as "horse-soring," an abusive practice which causes walking horses to lift their legs higher for shows.
    Photo by Doug Strickland.
    enlarge photo

John Mays, charged with violations of the Horse Protection Act in connection with soring horses with trainer Jackie McConnell, was sentenced Monday to four months of "time served" in jail and ordered to write a newspaper article about soring.

U.S. District Judge Sandy Mattice ordered Mays to write the article as a "community service" condition of his one-year supervised release, according to attorneys in the case.

Mays had been jailed after he failed to report to a probation officer while out on bond. He had pleaded guilty to a lesser, misdemeanor count earlier this year and was awaiting sentencing.

Mays' article is to describe how widespread soring is, who it is done for and how these training techniques affect the horses.

Soring is the illegal application of caustic chemicals to the horses' legs and feet. Soring causes horses to lift their hooves in the "big lick" for which the breed has become known.

Court documents state that Mays, McConnell, Jeff Dockery and Joseph Abernathy were charged by a federal grand jury on Feb. 29 in a 52-count indictment.

The indictment followed a video made by an undercover agent from the Humane Society of the United States who was employed by McConnell. The tapes show McConnell, Mays and others applying mustard oil and similar substances to the pasterns and feet of walking horses from March to May 2011.

"The video showed the horses, in obvious pain, having trouble standing and being whipped until they did stand," according to the plea agreement entered in court documents.

Sentencing is set for McConnell, Dockery and Abernathy in September.

Contact staff writer Pam Sohn at or 423-757-6346.

about Pam Sohn...

Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...

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