Nineteen sored horses seized; trainer charged with felony animal cruelty

ROY EXUM. Source image.
ROY EXUM. Source image.


by Roy Exum, The Chattanoogan

As the aftershocks of Larry Wheelon’s sensational arrest in Maryville rippled through the Tennessee Walking Horse industry on Friday, federal and state officials were dismayed that the scofflaw horse trainer had allegedly put additional caustic substances on 19 horses in his care, this after enduring a federal search warrant just one week earlier and boastfully denying any evidence was found.

Wheelon, a 68-year-old trainer who has been suspended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at least 15 times since 1993, was charged with one count of aggravated animal cruelty in Blount County on Thursday and, later in the day, 19 of 27 horses were confiscated by state animal control officers and taken to several undisclosed locations.

Eight horses remain in his barn near Maryville.

Tennessee Walking Horse rescued from accused horse sorer Larry Wheelon, Blount County, Tennessee. Image: Kathy Milani/HSUS.
Rescuer washes down the legs of Tennessee Walking Horse to ease the pain of burning chemicals applied by accused horse sorer Larry Wheelon, Blount County, Tennessee. Image: Kathy Milani/HSUS.

All of the horses that were confiscated were said to have exhibited visible signs of soring, where irritants are used to “steward” the noble animals to lift their front legs in an unnatural gait called the “Big Lick.” Some of the horses had painful globs of hardened epoxy under their front hooves, which is akin to walking with a big rock in one’s shoe, and others had wrappings on their legs where the burning chemicals would “cook.”

“The worst symptom was seen in the animal’s eyes. You could tell they were in great pain. The eyes were dull instead of glossy. The mental state of the animals was obviously impaired,” said one equine expert, a fact that was soon proven when one horse literally ran over a veteran handler in a tragic barn accident Thursday afternoon. The woman was released from UT Medical Center on Friday.

It was at first feared the injured handler’s leg was broken but, instead, there was an 11-inch laceration that doctors said was two inches deep from her shin to her lower calf. The handler’s nose was broken and there were several other lacerations on her face. “She was beaten up pretty badly. The animal literally ran over her. She had handled the same horse the week before when veterinarians inspected the horses and took swabs but this time the horse just reacted to the pain and trauma.”

The horse was quickly calmed and sedated before being transported by employees of the Humane Society of the United States and Horse Haven, a rescue operation near Knoxville. Veterinarians and assistants worked into the night Friday removing what is believed to be a mixture of kerosene and cinnamon from the animals. Officials said mustard oil may have also been used but are awaiting lab results from the swabs, which usually takes between two and three weeks. Read more >>


Blount Horse Trainer Accused of ‘Soring’
WBIR NBC Channel 10 News, Knoxville, Tennessee
Read full reports; view video reports >>

Horses with Bolts through Hooves Rescues
Horses heard moaning in pain
View video report from USA TODAY here >>

7 thoughts on “Nineteen sored horses seized; trainer charged with felony animal cruelty”

  1. Thank you to everyone that cared enough to investigate and report this story. I hope to hear follow-up stories. Surely Larry will be stopped this time. It sickens me that this evil torture is still happening to those innocent, beautiful horses. Horses are such wonderful companions – how can anyone inflict such pain on them? What can I do to help make this stop?


  2. Very sad to see this kind of abuse. Cecile A. Schoonover, you are right, it will never end until the officials do something. Not just a little something, they really have to make a stand… until then these poor animals suffer.
    -Danielle Titland


  3. At the risk of being and sounding negative, this will never end, until the officials really want this to come to an end. We all know that with the measley fines these corrupt horse owners are given, they will not be altered, and will continue to abuse these beautiful and innocent animals. .


  4. Now I really understand Scum of the Earth saying ,How can anyone who has any heart at all do that to another living breathing feeling being , for the sake of greed???? this is human >??? in its lowest form !!!!!What you did to those Trusting horses is inexcusable and unacceptable


  5. When will it end?????…….The scum of the earth continue the torturous acts that have gone on for years….When, When will it END? Not until they start shutting these pieces of shit for human beings down they know what they are doing and continue,the law is to lenient on the whole industry because it has so much money behind it and lots of powerful and prominent people…Money talks at the expenses of a poor helpless animal that does not have a say so! I am going to do all that I can to try and talk with whoever will listen I suggest the public do the same …..I’ve seen this first hand as a teenager and witnessed more than any young person should ever have to see.Please speak out….I have two beautiful good nature d Walking Horses that are trail horses not only did one of them endure a year of training before I ever owned her but the also where being sold at auction for kill buyers at the young ages of 2 and 4…..The one that had been in training God Love her she has a bloodline that goes back to the Champion named THE PUSHER and looks just like him…Thank the Lord she is with me now and will never have to endure the torture from these pathetic, cruel, worthless poor excuses of human beings ….I truly pray they either figure it out to stop what they do or they ROT in HELL where they belong at this point!
    To me they are no better than the terrorist that hurt innocent life. We DON’T do that in our country as Americans….It’s not acceptable nor should we stand by an allow these cruel acts continue!


  6. I am so very thankful to ALL the folks who rescued these horses, thank god…… Just shameful what this man has been doing all for what BLUE RIBBONS, MONEY !!!!! I am very very upset with the owners of these horses also, allowing this to happen, cause there is no WAY in H-LL they did not know about this………….


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