The “Big Lick” is akin to dog fighting and cock fighting

Walking Horse Big Lick. Google image.
Walking Horse Big Lick. Google image.

By CLANT M. SEAY Special to The Daily Herald:

Thanks to the citizens of Columbia and Maury County who boycotted the Columbia “Big Lick” Horse Show last week.

The “Big Lick” is animal cruelty.

Native Tennessean, MTSU Horse Science professor and equine veterinarian Dr. John Haffner said, “The “Big Lick” is a pain induced gait — it is a business built on the suffering and pain of horses. The fact is the big lick can only be accomplished by ‘soring.’

When one soring technique becomes detectable, another one is developed.

The Big Lick is a learned response to pain, and if horses have not been sored, they do not learn it.”

Daily Herald Editor James Bennett referred to Tennessee Walking Horse shows as a “sport.”

Legendary Tennessee sportswriter David Climer said: “For years, many of those involved in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry have yearned for its competitions to be taken seriously as a legitimate sport. Blood sport, yes. Legitimate sport, no. Soring is still in common practice, and everybody knows it. Soring is a means to an end — a high-hooved prance produced via pain and abuse. An irritant is applied here, an abrasive chemical rubbed there. The sadistic trainers even develop ways to keep the tortured horse from reacting when the hoof is inspected.”

In his column Friday, May 31, Bennett blamed the problems of the “Big Lick” on a “few greedy competitors.”

It’s not “a few bad apples; rather the entire barrel of apples is rotten.

The “Big Lick” is no better than dog fighting and cock fighting. All who practice or support it are guilty because animal cruelty is absolutely necessary to create and maintain the “Big Lick” gait.

Bennett suggests an answer might be independent inspections.

The “Big Lick” Tennessee Walking Horse Racket is akin to dog fighting and cock fighting. Imagine using inspections to deal with dog fighting and cock fighting.

Read full article here »

Walking Horse show opens, the protests follow in Columbia

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

James Bennett, writing for the Columbia Daily Herald states:

“The Spring Jubilee Tennessee Walking Horse Show opened a three-day run Thursday at Maury County Park, featuring some of the top horses and trainers in the Southeast.

“And for the fifth straight year, the event will include Friday and Saturday protests from some of the most-determined animal welfare advocates in the region.”

That would be Clant Seay and two very brave women, Alix Nardone and Christina Gray, and they are determined alright. Put them all in your book of heroes.

What are they protesting? Horse soring. Illegal horse soring. So it shouldn’t even be going on. But it is. It’s Tennessee, who have their fair share of citizens who believe they have a right to do what they want with their horses, including abusing them to win a ribbon.

Bennet explains:

“In Tennessee Walking Horse competitions, the illegal practice of “soring” has soiled the sport’s reputation in the last decade. ‘Soring’ is deliberately inducing pain to force a horse to exaggerate [his] gait, called the Big Lick, to impress judges.”

The "Big Lick" pictured here is accomplished from 'soring' Tennessee Walking horses so they will snatch their feet up in a jerky, awkward gait from intense pain, in competitions all in pursuit of a ribbon. Source: Columbia Daily Herald.
The “Big Lick” pictured here is accomplished from ‘soring’ Tennessee Walking horses so they will snatch their feet up in a jerky, awkward gait from intense pain, in competitions all in pursuit of a ribbon. Source: Columbia Daily Herald.

Nardone says:

“I thought the issue of animal cruelty and the Big Lick had been something that had gone by the wayside. I was startled it was still going on, and there’s still controversy going on. It hit me in the heart. I felt very strongly these beautiful animals could be shown in their natural gait, not with irons and chains.”

Gray added:

“This is a great way to advocate and make a difference. The heart of the filth is right here in Middle Tennessee. To me, it’s a moral imperative that we legislate against cruelty. Horses are reliant completely on the owners and trainers for their well-being. If we allow the law to be circumvented, we are sinking to a level that is unacceptable.”

We have not read the number of horses trained in this way, but the article states there are “260,000 walking horses registered nationwide, including over 58,000 walking horses in Tennessee.”

Imagine that much pain and suffering, all to exaggerate their gait, when the Tennessee Walking horse’s gait is already so naturally beautiful. The exaggerated, herky jerky movement the horses have in these competitions from snatching their feet up because of the extreme pain inflicted on them is anything but. It is ugly, cruel and heartbreaking to watch.

Source: Columbia Daily Herald »

Learn more about horse soring at The Horse Fund website »


HR 693

See also to contact your elected representatives.


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.

Read more »

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.

Take action against Big Lick Animal Cruelty

The 75th Walking Horse Celebration in Shelbyville, Tennessee on August 29, 2013.

HORSE SORING — Calling all advocates against horse soring. Please help sored horses by joining a protest, signing a Petition against it and contacting federal legislators to endorse the PAST (Prevent All Soring Tactics) Act which will close the loopholes in the current law exploited by “Big Lickers”.

What is Horse Soring?

Horse soring is a painful practice used to accentuate a horse’s gait in competitions for big prizes. This is accomplished by irritating the feet and forelegs through mechanical irritants or the injection or application of chemicals.

• Chemical Soring

Chemical soring involves using agents such as mustard oil, diesel fuel, kerosene, salicylic acid, crotonal or croton oil, collodion, and others, on the pasterns, bulbs of heel, or coronary band of the horses.

The resultant burning or blistering causes the horse to snatch up his front legs, accentuating his gait.

These chemicals are harmful, toxic and sometimes carcinogenic. Trainers must use a brush and wear gloves when applying them. The area may then be wrapped in plastic while the chemicals are absorbed.

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

• Mechanical Soring

Mechanical soring can be just as painful chemical soring. Stacks up to 5″ high and filled with a variety of substances for added weight, are attached to the front hooves, causing the horse to stand perpetually in an elevated, unnatural position. This type of shoeing causes chronic, constant pain.

Known as “action devices,” chains worn around the pasterns can range from the mildly annoying to the extremely painful. Alone, the six-ounce chains accepted in the show ring may not harm the horse, but horses sored with heavy chains or chemicals prior to the show date can suffer intense pain in the ring as the lighter chains repeatedly bang against the sore area.

Tennessee Walking Horse with stacks and chains, part and parcel of Big Lick animal cruelty.
Tennessee Walking Horse with stacks and chains, part and parcel of Big Lick animal cruelty. Photographer unknown.
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.

New Methods

The above are the most common examples. However, over the years more types of soring designed to be harder to detect have been invented. So the treachery and cruelty surrounding these beautiful and gentle animals continues and all to win big prizes in brutal and ugly competitions.

Horse Soring in Action


If you are willing to protest horse soring at an upcoming event, please text Clant Seay at 662-380-3367 for further information such as locations and meet up times. Contact him right away. There may be one near you soon. Bring your friends. T-shirts for everyone!

Petition and Support the PAST Act

• Go here to sign the Petition »

• Go here to learn how you can support the PAST Act, H.R. 1847 »

The Big Lick performed at the 75th Walking Horse Celebration in Shelbyville, Tennessee on August 29, 2013. HSUS image.