Bill and Sandra Johnson suspended by the USDA for violation of the Horse Protection Act


Champion Tennessee Walking Horse breeders fined and suspended from competition for one year by the USDA for soring and showing JFK All Over

SHELBYVILLE, TN (March 31, 2011) – The Int’l Fund for Horses report that William B. (Bill) Johnson and Sandra Johnson are suspended from being involved in “any show or event” for one year by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for violations of the Horse Protection Act in connection with the “soring” and showing of Tennessee Walking Horse champion “JFK All Over” at the 30th Annual Spring Fun Show in Shelbyville, Tennessee, in May of 2000.

The Horse Protection Act is a Federal law that prohibits horses subjected to a practice called soring from participating in shows, sales, exhibitions, or auctions.

Soring is the illegal practice of deliberately causing pain on the front legs or feet of a horse to create an exaggerated, high-stepping gait to gain a competitive edge and win ribbons in the show ring. A variety of cruel and devious methods are used to sore horses. Soring includes painting caustic chemicals on a horse’s pasterns and then wrapping the legs in plastic to “cook” into the flesh or pressure shoeing with a foreign object, such as screws or bolts, or half of a golf ball.

In addition to the one-year suspension by the USDA that began January 21, 2011, Bill and Sandra Johnson each are ordered to pay a $1,000.00 fine.

As CEO of W. B. Johnson International, Bill Johnson, made his fortune as the largest Waffle House franchisee in the US. Johnson also acquired the rights to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company name in 1983 and expanded the hotel throughout the world, eventually selling those operations to Marriott International.

As the Ritz grew, Johnson poured equal passion into a new hobby, Tennessee Walking Horses. “In the early ’90s, he purchased a horse or two, and the next thing you know, he went on a run and he wanted to own the finest,” said David Kranich, advertising director at Voice of the Tennessee Walking Horse magazine, in 2002.

Bill and Sandra Johnson are currently owners of Waterfall Farms in Shelbyville, Tennessee, where they breed world class champion Tennessee Walking Horses such as 1999 Two-Year-Old World and Reserve World Grand Champion “JFK All Over,” the horse at the center of the Johnsons’ one-year USDA suspension and penalties. “JFK All Over”, who has 10 Championship career wins, entered the breeding shed for the Johnsons where he is in stellar company. According to Waterfall Farms’ website, they have 18 Stallions who altogether account for at least 182 world class champion Tennessee Walking Horse titles.

“Bill and Sandra Johnson are a major influence in the Tennessee Walking Horse community in both breeding and showing,” states Vivian Grant, President of the Int’l Fund for Horses. “The penalty and suspension issued against the Johnsons by the USDA is particularly significant, and sends a clear message that soring will be punished, no matter what your stature,” she adds.

The latest enforcement of the Horse Protection Act involving Bill and Sandra Johnson by the USDA is not the first. Waterfall Farms and the Johnsons each were fined $6,600.00 in February 2009 for entering and showing sored Tennessee Walking Horse Champion “John FK’s Pusher” in the 33rd Annual National Walking Horse Trainers Show, but not suspended from competing. The Johnsons were, however, ordered to “cease and desist from violating the Act.”

Proceedings against Bill and Sandra Johnson for the soring and showing of Tennessee Walking Horse “JFK All Over” were instituted following a complaint filed by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Agency (APHIS).

“APHIS’ ultimate goal in enforcing the Horse Protection Act is to eliminate soring,” states Dave Sacks, spokesman for the agency. “We will continue to work with the horse industry to protect against this inhumane practice and thereby ensure that only sound and healthy horses participate in shows, exhibits and sales.”

For more information on APHIS’ enforcement of the Horse Protection Act, please go to

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The Int’l Fund for Horses is the single most influential lobbying and horse industry watchdog organization dedicated to equine welfare. Founded in 2003, the Int’l Fund for Horses works for the protection of horses through intervention, education and legislation.

Read coverage of this story

“Tennessee Walking Horse bigwigs suspended on abuse claims”, by Brandon Gee, The Tennessean, Apr. 1, 2011

“Waterfall owners suspended over alleged violations”, by Brian Mosely, Shellbyville Times-Gazette, Mar. 31, 2011


USDA – APHIS Horse Protection Act Fact Sheet

Int’l Fund for Horses Horse Soring Fact Sheet

USDA Horse Protection Act Disqualifications and Civil Penalties List as of March 2011

Consent Decision and Order HPA 01-0127; William B Johnson and Sandra Johnson, Respondents; Feb 2, 2011

Consent Decision and Order HPA 01-0030; William B and Sandra T Johnson, Respondents; Feb. 2, 2009

“Bill Johnson – From From a Franchisee of Waffle House to Owner of Boston Ritz-Carlton”, by Caroline Wilbert, The Atlanta Constitution-Journal, Dec. 15, 2002

List of Stallions with Career Wins, Waterfall Farms

5 thoughts on “Bill and Sandra Johnson suspended by the USDA for violation of the Horse Protection Act”

  1. I second what Arlene says. In the plantation days, these “Turnrow Horses” were beautiful to watch moving across the field and there was no other comfortable saddlehorse as far as many were concerned- and they still are. Why they’d alter a gait and cause horrific pain to the horse to live an oppressive life of misery limping around a showring “up in the bridle” is VERY VERY sad. To win hundreds and thousands of dollars, of course. Heck I’d pay whatever I had to reverse the damage man has done and I have. All of the animals on my farm were unwanted and two of them are gaited horses~and they are naturally barefoot.


  2. The Tennessee walker has a magnificent gait all given by Nature, his gait can differ amongst each one , but is no less beautiful to see………………..and much nicer to experience…………… his gait will be all over his entire body , even his teeth will gait along with the rest of him, to alter this is a crime and should be addressed to the full extent of the Law, No horse needs to be alter into pain and agony……….This is why Laws need to be served to the full extent………………………. Judges must realize those altered are in pain forever because of soring……………. What is the Judges name maybe he needs to be informed on this fact, before making judgments without full realization of the pain and agony suffered by every horse this is done too. Next time maybe his Judgments will be stiffer…………………….. and fit the crime!!!!!!!


  3. Well if USDA concludes there has actually been a violation of the Horse Protection Act and gets to the fining stage enough times – maybe, just maybe – justice can eventually be served closer to the date of the crime! Is there any real punishment 10 years later? Were they in jail this whole tme? Was their business on hold until charges were cleared or determined? This is in my opinion flaunting of the law by law enforcement and the offenders. But at least they have been brought out publically and flogged – even if with a wet noodle.


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