Humane Society's new horse video kicks at Celebration (with video)

Humane Society's new horse video kicks at Celebration (with video)

August 30th, 2012 by Pam Sohn in Local Regional News

A frame captured from video of a Humane Society of the United States investigation show the measures taken to produce the exaggerated stride of Tennessee Walking Horses. In the video, horses are struck with clubs, shocked and have their hooves treated with chemicals and mechanical devices.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Watch the Human Society's video

The Humane Society of the United States is kicking back at Tennessee walking horse industry criticism of its effort to end soring.

The animal rights group has released a new video in which convicted horse sorer Barney Davis talks about the walking horse industry.

"The only way to win at the Celebration is to sore," Davis, 39, says in the video. "I've shown at the Celebration three, maybe four, times. I trained them myself and they were sore. I'm not going to lie."

But the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration officials, who also say they want soring stopped, claim the video is false.

And they've accused the Humane Society of letting horses suffer for 11 months before they released another recently aired video -- that of Collierville, Tenn., trainer Jackie McConnell striking a horse as a new poster for fundraising.

"They allowed horse abuse to continue for 11 months in order to fuel their fundraising and public relations machines," according to a press release from the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.

Keith Dane, director of equine services for the Humane Society, bridles at that statement and calls it "a totally baseless if not actionable statement."

"There's a lot of inconsistencies in the messages and actions of these folks who say they want to reformers," he said.

That first video was made in the spring of 2011 of McConnell, and it was presented within weeks to federal authorities, Dane said.

Prosecutors asked the Humane Society not to release the video while they shaped a case, and McConnell and several of his stable hands were indicted on Feb. 29, 2012, in a 52-count federal indictment charging them with violations of the Horse Protection Act.

After McConnell pleaded guilty, a portion of the video was released, and it electrified the public in a prime-time news show. McConnell will be sentenced Sept. 10.

But when the Humane Society released the new video of Davis on Tuesday, Purple Strategies crisis management consultant Jennifer Baker labeled it "defensive" because the horse industry had labeled it a fund-raising ploy.

Purple Strategies, a group that helped BP Oil with public relations following the Gulf Oil Spill, was hired by the horse industry shortly after the hidden-camera videos aired.

On Tuesday in Shelbyville, Baker and Celebration officials tried to distance Tennessee walking horses from Davis, saying he was a Spotted Saddle Horse trainer.

Both breeds are walking and gaited horses, and both are trained to make the "big lick" in the same way.

Davis, a Lewiston, Tenn., trainer who was indicted before McConnell in a separate case, was showing a horse at a Tennessee walking horse event when he was cited by the Celebration's lay inspectors for violations that eventually led to his prosecution after a USDA investigator brought the case to U.S. attorneys.

Davis pleaded guilty in November 2011. He cooperated with prosecutors, and part of his sentence was that he must participate in an educational video about soring -- the abuse of a horse with caustic substances and foreign objects to shortcut training to achieve the "big lick" of naturally gaited Tennessee walking horses.

Davis said soring is rampant in the industry, and all walking horses are sored at some point in their lives to learn the high-stepping big lick gait.

During his sentencing in February, Davis described mechanical devices and chemical irritants that are used to sore horses. He also showed examples of chains, bolts, blocks, and eight-pound tungsten shoes used to cause a gaited horse to adopt the exaggerated gait for the show ring.