Trainers who abuse their horses into performing the artificial high-stepping gait known as the "big lick" will go to great lengths to avoid detection and deny their crimes. We expect this from accused horse sorers, who use painful chemicals and devices on horses' legs and hooves to gain an advantage in competitions. And the existing law to prevent soring has proven ineffective at slowing them down. One case in point is that of Blount County, Tennessee, horse trainer, Larry Wheelon, who faced plentiful and disturbing evidence but managed to walk away scot-free.
The stomach-turning evidence was collected when the Blount County, Tenn., sheriff's office, in conjunction with US Department of Agriculture investigators,searched Wheelon's barn in April 2013. The evidence was enough for a grand jury to indict Wheelon under Tennessee's aggravated cruelty to livestock and conspiracy to commit aggravated cruelty to animals laws – 15 felony charges and three misdemeanors. However, in May 2015, based on a technicality, a Blount County judge granted Wheelon's motion to suppress all evidence obtained during the search.
But while Wheelon may have succeeded in hiding the evidence in his state criminal trial, he can take no cover from the federal Freedom of Information Act. Under this act, The HSUS obtained more than 300 pages of sickening photographs and testimony revealing Wheelon's barn to be a real house of horrors for horses.