(WBIR-Maryville) The man at the center of a horse abuse investigation said he did nothing wrong, days after charges were dismissed in Blount County court.
Last week, a dismissed a charge of aggravated cruelty to livestock against Larry Wheelon, 68, of Maryville. In April, authorities seized 19 horses in Wheelon's care, after allegations of "soring," or injecting chemicals into the hooves of Tennessee Walking Horses to accentuate their gait.
The practice is used to improve performances in shows.
The charges were dropped because of a technicality in one expert's testimony. Defense attorney Rob White said the judge stated there was not enough evidence for the case to continue.
Wheelon called the charges false.
"We love this industry and these horse(s) and we're not going to do nothing to abuse this horse," Wheelon said Tuesday. "You got $50,000 and you're going to go out and abuse it? I don't think so."
While the case is over, legally speaking, Wheelon said he still is facing a court of public opinion.
"For me, my family, which has been through a lot," Wheelon added. "I got an older son who lives here- his family has had to listen to all this news media and the paper, which is false. But it's hard on them."
However, other horse trainers say the images speak for itself.
"I know they were able to show the evidence, that they had gotten and it would've gone forth to the grand jury," trainer Gail Monahan said.
Even though the charges were dismissed, the Blount County D.A. could file charges in circuit court. That means Wheelon could face more legal hurdles.
The trainer said the four-month ordeal has cost him financially, forcing him to consider retirement.
"Been waiting on this to be cleared, what to do and go back in training or what. Been damaged so much, I don't know," he said.
The horses were ordered by Judge Robert Headrick to go back to their original owners. Wheelon did not own the 19 horses seized; he only trained them.