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Indictments Made in Maryville, Tenn., Horse Soring Investigation

The Humane Society of the United States commends prosecutions of all perpetrators of soring

A Blount County, Tenn., grand jury has indicted four people suspected of animal cruelty by “soring” Tennessee walking horses by applying acid or other caustic substances to force them to perform the high-stepping “Big Lick” gait. The Humane Society of the United States applauds the Blount County Sheriff’s Office and Tennessee prosecutors for continuing to pursue criminal charges after an investigation into a Maryville, Tenn., training barn earlier this year. 

The grand jury indicted Maryville horse trainer Larry Joe Wheelon, Randall Stacy Gunter of Louisville, Tenn., Brandon Lunsford of Walland, Tenn., and farrier Blake Tanner Primm of Sevierville, Tenn., on 17 counts of aggravated cruelty to animals. 

Stop soring—tell your legislators to support the PAST Act »

Leighann McCollum, Tennessee state director for The HSUS, said: “Anyone complicit in the depraved practice of soring should be held accountable—including owners who may have knowingly put their horses in the hands of abusers. We are grateful for the persistence of the authorities in Blount County on this case, and we encourage them to continue aggressively investigating anyone who participated in these cruel and illegal practices.”


  • The arrest warrants allege that Gunter and Lunsford worked with horses who had suffered serious bodily injuries, were discovered to have had chemicals and other foreign substances applied to their legs, and responded in pain when their legs were palpated by veterinarians.
  • Wheelon, Gunter and Lunsford were arrested in April on felony animal cruelty charges stemming from suspicions of soring. The HSUS, Blount County SPCA and Horse Haven of Tennessee assisted authorities with the rescue of 19 horses from the training barn used by Wheelon.
  • The HSUS encourages Congress to pass the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, S. 1406/H.R. 1518, which strengthens the Horse Protection Act by ending industry self-policing, strengthening penalties and banning the use of certain devices associated with soring. Without these important amendments to the existing law, the “Big Lick” faction within the Tennessee walking horse industry will perpetuate the culture of corruption and abuse.
  • The HSUS offers a reward of up to $10,000 to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of a violator of the Horse Protection Act or any state law which prohibits horse soring. The HSUS will pay up to $5,000 for any tip leading to an arrest and conviction for bribery, intimidation, fraud or other corrupt activities related to the inspection of Tennessee walking horse shows.  Anyone with information on this cruel practice should call The HSUS’ tipline at 855-NO-SORING. The HSUS will protect the identity of all callers.

Media Contacts: Stephanie Twining, 240-751-3943, stwining@humanesociety.org

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