Blount County owners want horses back after charge dismissed

Blount County owners want horses back after cruelty charge dismissed

Becky Andrews says she never saw anything suspicious. Becky Andrews says she never saw anything suspicious.
Andrews depends on horse shows to promote her horses. Andrews depends on horse shows to promote her horses.

6 News Anchor/Reporter

MARYVILLE (WATE) - A Blount County horse trainer no longer faces a charge of animal cruelty. Now the owners of the 19 horses seized during the investigation want them back.

Larry Wheelon's training facility on Tuckaleechee Pike in Maryville was raided on April 25. He was accused of soring.

Soring is the practice of using chemicals or painful devices on a horse's leg to produce the high-stepping gait made famous by Tennessee Walking Horses.

A judge found there wasn't probable cause to continue the case against Wheelon. The decision came after the judge ruled that one of the prosecution's experts could not testify because he had been sitting in the courtroom while another witness was on the stand.

Becky Andrews has been breeding and showing Tennessee Walking Horses for 25 years. She started sending some of her horses to Wheelon for training in the early 90s. 

"Larry and his wife Linda are very nice people and he does a good job of taking care of the horses," Andrews said.

She visited the property once a week and says she never saw anything suspicious.

"No, if we had our horses wouldn't be there," Andrews said.

She was shocked when Wheelon was charged with cruelty and devastated that two of her horses, Andy and Laura Kate, were taken.

"Not knowing where they were, what kind of condition they were in," she worried. "I give carrots all the time, so I'm sure they didn't get any carrots."

Andrews learned Thursday night after the charge against Wheelon was dismissed, that the 19 horses seized were being held in Texas. Her attorney is working to get them back.

"For all of us it will be a wonderful relief when we get them back, but also I'm apprehensive to know what they look like," she said.

Andrews' horses missed this show season and probably next year as well.

"It will be a year before we can see if these horses can even come back. It's like putting you in a bed for four months and letting you have no exercise, no nothing," she said.

Andrews depends on the shows to promote her horses. She makes her living selling their offspring. She's not sure yet if she will take more horses to Wheelon.

"I trust him to treat them properly. We just haven't made a decision on that for the future, and I don't know that he has made a decision. His livelihood and his reputation have been greatly damaged," she said.

6 News reached out to Horse Haven, one of the animal rescue groups involved in the investigation. They didn't want to comment at this time, except to say they are disappointed that the charge against Wheelon was dismissed.

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