SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. (AP, abc24.com) - The Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration has permanently banned trainer Jackie McConnell, who pleaded guilty in a horse soring case.
The Shelbyville Times Gazette reported the celebration Board of Directors voted Tuesday to suspend McConnell for life from entering the National Celebration Grounds for any event. The board also voted to remove McConnell's name from the National Walking Horse Celebration Hall of Fame inductees.
Celebration CEO Dr. Doyle Meadows' sought to distance the celebration from the disgraced trainer.
"This is the strongest action we can take and it clearly reflects our disgust with the actions of Mr. McConnell," Meadows said. "His actions are not reflective of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry, and we in no way want him associated with our show."
McConnell has a stable in Collierville at which the Humane Society of the United States took undercover video of horses being beaten and sored with chemicals to make them take exaggerated steps - the "big lick" - treasured by the Tennessee Walking Horse show.
McConnell, 60, and two men who work at his Whitter Stables entered guilty pleas on Tuesday in federal court at Chattanooga. They were charged with violating the Horse Protection Act of 1970. McConnell; John Mayes, 50, of Collierville; and Joseph R. Abernathy, 30, of Olive Branch, Miss., are scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 10.
The Humane Society publicly released the video after it first aired on ABC's "Nightline" last week.
Federal prosecutors said McConnell could receive as much as five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000. The others could get up to a year and a $3,000 fine.
The board also will permanently remove McConnell's name from the list of Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration Hall of Fame inductees, along with any use of his name or image.
Community leaders were quick to support the industry while condemning McConnell's actions.
"The key thing is that we in no way have supported or condoned the harming of horses, and anyone that does that should be banned from ever showing a horse," said Walt Wood, Shelbyville-Bedford County Chamber CEO.
Information from: Shelbyville Times-Gazette, http://www.t-g.com