NC State Fair cancels Tennesseee Walking Horse show after protest

Leaders respond quickly to fight of painful ‘big lick’ tactics

Jackie McConnell winning on Santana in the 90's. Tennesseean File Photo.
Santana, ridden by Jackie McConnell, won the Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Championship in the late 1990s. A Humane Society video showing horse abuse was filmed in McConnell’s barn.

RALEIGH — After more than 30 years, the N.C. State Fair will no longer offer the show featuring performances by the high-stepping Tennessee Walking Horse.

The decision comes in the wake of a protest at the fair during the October show and a petition with 19,700 signatures demanding the State Fair ban the performance category for the breed. Protesters claimed that the training methods to prepare a horse for this type of show are cruel and inhumane.

The protest, the petition and many emails calling for its cancellation were all factors in the state Department of Agriculture’s decision to ban the performance category, said Chief Deputy Commissioner N. David Smith. But he added, “It was a culmination of many factors including a lack of horses that participated, and the added cost of those particular shows when we had to bring in vets to certify the horses.”

Tennessee Walking Horses will still be welcome at the fair’s non-trotting, open-horse shows, but the breed is known for its unique high, quick-step gait. During performance category shows, the horses trot around the ring raising their feet as high as possible, a gait nicknamed the “big lick” that has drawn criticism.

“The big lick is a pain-induced gait. You cannot have a big lick without pain,” said Clant Seay, spokesman for the All American Walking Horse Alliance, a national group of professional horsemen and owners of Tennessee Walking Horses.

The high step is achieved by stacking the horse’s shoe, making it heavier to exaggerate the steps.

Advocates to end big lick shows allege some trainers use what are called soring techniques to sensitize the hooves and ankles to pain, resulting in more dramatic steps.

Horse soring radiograph. USDA image.
Horse soring x-ray. Some 49 nails were used to hold the pads together on this Tennessee Walking Horse. USDA image.

They also claim that some trainers use chemicals such as diesel fuel and kerosene to create blisters on the horse’s ankles and attached chains to the stacked shoes designed to irritate the sores.

They say some trainers will even stick sharp nails or tacks into the sensitive area of the hoof to increase pain.

Cross-posted from Charlotte News-Observer »

Note: Photographs used here not part of source report.

Congratulations to Sound Horse Advocate Michelle Disney who brought the attention of America and the world on the animal cruelty associated with the “Big Lick” Tennessee Walking Horse with her Change.Org Petition.

Congratulations also to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture for joining the University of of Mississippi Medical Center for severing ties with “Big Lick” competitions.

Huge thanks to everyone who took part in these protests via Petition and social media.

Horse Soring Fact Sheet »
Horse Soring FAQ’s »
Horse Soring Images »

3 thoughts on “NC State Fair cancels Tennesseee Walking Horse show after protest”

  1. Thank you to all of those who took the time to gather the petition names and thank God there was NO show…..Maybe one day everyone will enjoy this beautiful horse for what they are ….And that is truly beautiful and a wonderful horse to view without all the garbage….The people doing this are the garbage!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Thank you to all that want to stop this horrific act of torture……God bless those that don’t have a voice we all need to step up and protect them!


  2. Horse soring and stacking is blatant animal abuse similar to putting African-American slaves in chains. Not only is this blatant animal abuse, but also modern day slavery. Thank you to all who are speaking out about this blatant animal cruelty. Tradition should never justify pain , suffering, and abuse of animals or people.


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s