Video of horse abuse pushes Pepsi sponsorship pullout; Tennessee trainer due in court next week

Video of horse abuse pushes Pepsi sponsorship pullout; Tennessee trainer due in court next week

May 17th, 2012 by Todd South in Local - Breaking News

Horse trainer Jackie McConnell, right, leaves the Joel W. Solomon Federal Courthouse downtown with his attorney Hugh Moore.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

A recent report by the ABC News program Nightline prompted Pepsi to pull its sponsorship of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, Tenn.

The report focused on a practice known as "horse soring" where trainers use chemical or mechanical items such as kerosene and metal bolts to exaggerate the natural walking horse gait.

The exaggerated gait, known as the "Big LIck" is prized in competitions.

The U.S. Humane Society released video footage and held a press conference in Nashville this morning showing undercover recordings of noted horse trainer Jackie McConnell soring a horse.

McConnell faces charges along with three other men who worked for him in a 52-count federal indictment filed here.

He and three of the men are scheduled for a hearing in federal court Tuesday in which, court documents show, they could change their pleas to the charges to guilty.

Keith Dane with the Humane Society discussed the footage and the undercover work of one of the group's agents in a 7-week operation last year to provide evidence to federal prosecutors against McConnell, 60.

During the alleged incident McConnell was on a 5-year suspension from competitions due to similar violations.

In the conference Dane answered questions from reporters and complimented the work of U.S. Attorney Bill Killian and his staff for pursuing charges.

Three other defendants pleaded guilty and were sentenced earlier this year on horse soring-related charges. Those were the first criminal convictions under the 1970 Horse Protection Act in at least 20 years, according to prosecutors

For more details see tomorrow's Times Free Press.