Horse sorers drop lawsuit against Blount County animal welfare group

Image from 2015 HSUS Horse Soring Investigation.
Image from 2015 HSUS Horse Soring Investigation.

BLOUNT COUNTY, TENNESSEE (Horse Soring) — You can’t make this stuff up. Who could believe it?

The Daily Times reports:

Caslon Quote Left Black Several horse owners suing a nonprofit Blount County animal welfare group over the seizure of their horses from Larry Wheelon Stables in 2013 have decided to drop their lawsuit.

Maryville attorney Rob White filed the $2.1 million lawsuit against the Blount County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BCSPCA) on April 25, 2014 — exactly a year after the organization seized 19 horses from a Maryville barn as part of an investigation into allegations of illegal soring practices.

The horses were returned to their owners in late 2013 after a Blount County judge threw out the original case against Wheelon and several stable workers. They were later indicted by a Blount County grand jury, but the cases were dismissed yet again.

Larry Joe Wheelon. Photo: The Daily Times.
Larry Joe Wheelon. Photo: The Daily Times.

One was thrown out due to insufficient evidence, one because the defendant died in a car crash and the two remaining cases — including the case against Wheelon — were tossed by a Blount County judge who found constitutional rights violations in the investigation.

White said his clients moved to dismiss the BCSPCA lawsuit without prejudice, meaning they have the option to refile the litigation within a year’s time.

“We’re basically wanting to back off right now and assess where we’re at and decide what action we want to take, if any,” White told The Daily Times on Wednesday.

One of the seven horse owners, Kenneth Smith, dropped his case against the BCSPCA in December. White filed a notice of voluntary dismissal July 6 on behalf of the six remaining plaintiffs, Rebecca and William Andrews, Rodney Koger, Bobbie Jo Koger, Dwight Brooks and Joe Barnes.

Wheelon and Rodney Koger were arrested earlier this year in Fentress County on numerous animal cruelty charges. The two were indicted by a Fentress County grand jury in June on 26 counts each of animal cruelty.

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This is horse soring.

Related Reading

Go here for more on Larry Wheelon »

Horse Soring

Soring is the use of chemicals, pressure or devices to cause pain to the front feet and legs of horses when they touch the ground. This results in the horses picking up their front feet higher and faster than they would do naturally. It is an abusive and prohibited practice, illegal in the U.S. under the Horse Protection Act of 1970 (HPA). It is closely associated with a unique high-stepping action of the front legs called “big lick” movement in show ring Tennessee Walking Horses.

Under normal circumstances, “big lick” action is normally created by horseshoes that have added pads and weight (sometimes called “stacks”), usually combined with additional weighted chains or rollers placed around the pasterns to create dramatic, high-stepping flashy action of the horse’s front legs, desired in the horse show ring.

Both criminal and civil penalties can be assessed against individuals who engage in soring.

10 thoughts on “Horse sorers drop lawsuit against Blount County animal welfare group”

  1. Is there any way for the horse to be taught this action without causing it harm? Is the fact that the horse is behaving this way in the ring proof of abuse (in my mind, at least), or are there horses that do this naturally and some humans just helping others along? There have been so many things done to horses/animals that are harmful in the name of fashion/to make them look pretty or fancy. Is this one of them? It seems incredibly cruel, but moreso if this is just part of some kind of human fantasy in the first place.


  2. I hate the fact that justice is not served based on some dumb technicality. It does not take way from the fact that these poor horses were being abused for the purposes of what – winning another ribbon???? you’ve got to be kidding me. A horses long term welfare is worth less than a piece of printed plastic.


  3. The Blount County animal welfare group seized these horses from the Larry Wheelon Stables. Why the hell were these horses returned. Sounds like the “good old boy” narrative, the pay to play. No justice for the horses. Are they even alive.


  4. Damn it! The horses went back to that SOB.. I’d bet Whelon has something on the judge-like he knows about some hanky-panky going on, gambling debt, corruption somewhere. These local county judges get into stuff like that-I know. Several around me have had to step down for sexual harassment, frequenting strip clubs and using substances, gambling, and all kinds of stuff. They’re people, too. I’d bet you that some investigation would reveal some nastiness there. Move that trial to a different county and you probably would get a better result.


  5. Im sick of the courts playing nice with these so called people. Its abuse plain and simple in my book.


    1. The first Judge had sympathy for Wheelon because he was old and supposedly in bad health and worried he wouldn’t survive jail time. What? He didn’t look old and sick when he beat and abused those horses with such force and violence. Judges need to be taken off the bench.

      People capable of this type of violence against animals are serious criminals. Any law enforcement officer will tell you that.


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