(THE TENNESSEAN) A Tennessee Walking Horse trainer who has served as a show judge and on an industry group's ethics committee was indicted Monday on animal cruelty charges related to a soring case earlier this year.
Larry Joe Wheelon, a Maryville, Tenn., trainer, along with Randall Stacy Gunter, Brandon Lunsford and Blake T. Primm, are accused of applying acid to walking horses "in a depraved and sadistic manner" for "competition in horse shows," the indictment reads.
The only horse specifically named in the indictment is Jose's Happy Feet/Laura Kate.
Similar charges were filed against Wheelon and the others in the spring, but were dismissed after a prosecutor's misstep during an August preliminary hearing. Wheelon was at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration days later and said that he was innocent of the charges all along and was suffering financially because the horses he had been training were seized as part of the case.
Wheelon formerly sat on the ethics committee of the Walking Horse Trainers Association and was a judge for Shelbyville-based SHOW, a horse inspection and judging group.
Unscrupulous trainers burn walking horses' pasterns to induce the breed's naturally longer, higher gait. The process is called soring.