Hohenwald, TN – Nobody has done more in a short period of time to draw attention to the plight of the institutionalized “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty perpetrated upon Tennessee Walking Horses in Middle Tennessee than Horse Plus Humane Society Founder Ms. Tawnee Preisner.
“There’s no reason any horse should have to suffer for entertainment. The Horses don’t have a voice for themselves. It’s all about educating people. I operate the Horse Plus Humane Society. We saved “Big Lick” Tennessee Walking Horse “Gen’s Ice Glimmer” from going to slaughter. At the very least, remove the “stacks” and chains from these shows. It’s completely uncalled for … “
Saving Gen’s Ice Glimmer – July 28, 2016
Saving Skywatchs Magical Dream – August 30, 2016
Ms. Tawnee Preisner is a difference maker, and truly, she and her remarkable family members “Walk The Walk” where the welfare of Tennessee Walking Horses is concerned.
Speaking Out Against “Big Lick, Big Lie” – Columbia Spring Jubilee – June 3, 2016
Horse-Soring Culprits Hard To Track – The Tennessean Newspaper By Ariana Sawyer – October 20, 2016
“The moment Tawnee Preisner saw the scarred and wounded Tennessee walking horse at a Cookeville auction, she knew she had to act.
If she didn’t, the stallion could end up going to slaughter.
Preisner, the founder of Horse Plus Humane Society, bought Skywalks Magical Dream after finding scars and open lesions on his ankles — a telltale sign the horse had been sored.
Soring is the practice of intentionally abusing a horse to accentuate its gait, causing the animals pain each time they step so they lift their front legs in a high-stepping gait called the “big lick.” The abuse often includes the use of caustic chemicals cooked into the skin but can also involve shoving objects between the hoof and stacked shoes, among other methods. Stacks are tall weights attached to the front hooves of most performance Tennessee walking horses.
Although it’s illegal under federal law to auction, sell, show or transport a sored horse, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said it has not opened an investigation in Dream’s case, brought to investigators’ attention 50 days ago.
Preisner said the last time she found a sored registered Tennessee walking horse, it took APHIS a year to begin investigating. APHIS did not respond to requests for comment.
But trying to track down who might be responsible for what experts call animal abuse is complicated by incomplete documents, missing records and secrecy.
Going once, going twice
Dream, with a fading black coat and fretful eyes, changed hands several times since last January when Sammy Cagle said he and his wife, Gayle Cagle, traded in the horse. Sammy wouldn’t disclose the name of the horse’s new owner, saying his lawyer advised him against speaking.
Federal records show the Cagles have owned and attempted to show at least four horses that inspectors found legally sore in the last 10 years. USDA inspectors reported finding a foreign chemical on two of the horses’ pasterns, and two others were in violation of the scar rule. In 2006, they were suspended twice for a total of five weeks.
Skywalks Magical Dream, a nearly 4-year-old stallion, next appeared on paper at Sterling Equine Auctions at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration on Aug. 27, where a man visiting from Virginia said he bought Dream. The company was having a special auction in Shelbyville at The Celebration — the largest Tennessee walking horse show in the nation.
Jim Roberts got rid of him three days later.
“I shouldn’t have bought him in the first place,” Roberts said. “I bought him in mind to make him a pleasure horse, but he was a little too much horse for what we do down here.”
Roberts said he didn’t notice Dream’s injuries until his purchase was complete. He said the horse’s previous trainer must have been “working on him pretty good” to leave such injuries.
With buyer’s remorse, Roberts took Dream to where he said he knew performance walking horses are easily sold: Triple W Horse and Mule Sales in Cookeville. Triple W holds an auction every Tuesday.
That’s where Preisner spotted the horse.
The day after she purchased Dream for $625, she had a licensed veterinarian inspect him.
Each of the Dream’s pasterns had ulcerated wounds and hair loss and scars in a Y-shaped pattern, according to the inspection report.
“I didn’t see nothing unusual about the horse,” Triple W Manager Buck Wilson said by telephone. He said he didn’t remember the horse having any scars or lacerations.
Dream is the third sored horse Preisner said she has purchased from Triple W.
“He could have been shown except his legs were fried,” Preisner said. She said when the soring goes so far as to leave strong evidence of abuse, the horses lose their value, ending up at Triple W where kill buyers can purchase them for slaughter.
A murky paper trail
Dream is true to his name, making friendly horse noises and submitting to a forehead scratch with heavy eyelids. He nuzzled his head between Preisner’s arm and rib cage before the 870-pound giant began rooting around near her pocket in search of a treat.
Keith Dane, senior adviser of equine protection for the Humane Society of the United States, said unethical trainers take advantage of the breed’s good disposition and trusting nature.
Dane, who is also a former walking horse show judge, said horses may be trained by soring when they are as young as a year old to see what they can take.
“If they perform well, they keep them on,” Dane said. “If not, they dump them.”
When Dream ended up at Triple W, his registration records still listed the Cagles as owners, since they did not fully fill out the transfer field on the back of the ownership papers.
“(The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association) requires the seller of the horse to file a transfer of ownership with the registry,” Dane said. “However, there’s a fee involved, and often sellers just sign a transfer slip and give it to the buyer with the horse’s registration papers.”
According to TWHBEA, the buyer is not required to sign the bill of sale or registration papers, but owners are encouraged to execute a transfer properly because it “reduces (the) liability of (the) previous owner with regard to legal actions, such as USDA and other civil and criminal actions.”
The Cagles signed the bill of sale associated with the stallion, jotting down their address, checking the appropriate boxes and filling in the bubbles, but they failed to record the date of sale and buyer information.
TWHBEA Executive Director Rory Williams said he could not verify any information provided about the horse, including name, registration and previous ownership.
“We urge law enforcement to bring to justice the parties responsible for this inhumane act,” Williams said after seeing photos of Dream’s legs. “Our association will be happy to cooperate with authorities in any way possible.”
According to records obtained by The Tennessean, Williams’ organization never processed the transfer of ownership required by the breeder’s association, and the Cagles remained Dream’s registered owners in TWHBEA’s database nine months after Sammy Cagle said the couple sold the horse.
Williams said there is no time limit on when the Cagles can affect a transfer.
The ‘Big Lick’
Roberts said he saw the horse go through and pass inspection at Sterling Equine Auctions at The Celebration in Shelbyville.
Sterling Auction owner Woody Woodruff said he has no record of a horse called Skywalks Magical Dream.
“Very seldom does anything slip through the cracks because we don’t sell horses like that,” Woodruff said, noting that he keeps a Horse Inspection Organization and two licensed veterinarians on staff to check the horses. “They’re not going to put themselves on the line for one horse.”
But Skywalks Magical Dream was sold at Sterling Equine Auctions, according to the receipt of sale obtained by The Tennessean. The receipt includes the horse’s name, registration number, auction catalog number and date of sale.
Woodruff said he still could not explain how the horse was sold at his auction.
Bill Coleman, who owns the Horse Inspection Organization Woodruff employs, said he doesn’t remember Dream. He said he would never have allowed a sored horse to pass inspection.
“The appearance of the horse’s legs in the pictures (The Tennessean) sent is typical of what we find in many horses that have been subjected to soring,” said Dr. Donna Moore, the former coordinator of the Horse Protection Program with the USDA.
Moore has about 30 years of experience as an equine veterinarian and an advanced degree in equine sports medicine.
She said Dream’s scar patterns are always found on horses with a history of soring.
According to Dane, up to 15,000 horses are sored at any given time. That estimate includes flat-shod horses and young horses in training in each of the three main breeds impacted by the practice — the racking horse, spotted saddle horse and Tennessee walking horse.
The issue of soring is back at the forefront. The USDA is considering a rule that would ban the use of stacks and chains at shows. Supporters say the rule will reduce soring, while opponents argue the stacks and chains don’t harm horses and a ban would ruin the performance class of at walking horse shows such as The Celebration.
Both Sammy and Gayle Cagle wrote to the USDA in August, saying they are proud to own five Tennessee walking horses and assuring the government that those horses have never been sored.
They said that if the USDA bans the stacks and chains, the show horses will lose their value.
Sammy wrote: “The slaughter trailers are waiting.”
Skywalks Magical Dream: A timeline
Oct. 24, 2012 – Born and bred by Sammy and Gayle Cagle
January 2016 – Sammy Cagle said he traded Dream in and that it was the last time he saw the horse.
Aug. 27 – Jim Roberts purchased Dream from Sterling Equine Auctions at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville. The auction owner said he has no record of the horse.
Aug. 30 – Roberts sells Dream at Triple W Horse and Mule Sales in Cookeville. Horse Plus Humane Society founder Tawnee Preisner purchases Dream.
Aug. 31 – Preisner picks Dream up and brings him to a horse veterinarian, who notes bilateral scaring and ulcerated wounds on his front ankles.
Sept. 1 – Preisner sends photos and veterinarian report to USDA-APHIS investigators Stephanie Washington and Charles Willey.
Sept. 26 – A USDA-APHIS spokesperson confirms there is currently no investigation of the Cagles or to determine who sored Skywalks Magical Dream.
Oct. 26 – The day the USDA’s public comment period ends. Visit http://bit.ly/2dCOpnp to add to the discussion on whether to amend the Horse Protection Act to ban stacks and chains and require private inspectors to be licensed and trained by the USDA.” #######
Nephew Eugene says nobody speaks for “The Horses” better than Ms. Tawnee Preisner, and for sure, Gen’s Ice Glimmer and Skywatchs Magical Dream, two marvelous ambassadors of the Tennessee Walking Horse breed, “thrown away” by the “Big Lickers” as damaged goods, literally owe their lives to her.
God bless Ms. Tawnee Preisner, and her wonderful family!