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TWH World Grand Champion Tainted by Soring Citations


Information compiled by Nancy Brannon, Ph.D.


Robert McSwain Complaint

The 2016 World Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horse, crowned September 3, 2016, is Honors, trained by Larry Edwards of Dawson, Georgia and owned by Keith and Dan McSwain, also of Georgia. However, according to USDA documents, Honors has a history of being shown when sore, and his owner and trainer both have a history of HPA violations.

In a news release from USDA/APHIS dated August 24, 2016, the USDA filed a complaint against Robert Keith McSwain in federal court on July 25, 2016 (HPA Docket 16-0139) charging him with five counts of soring Honors.

The complaint states: “The nature and circumstances of the prohibited conduct alleged in the complaint are that respondent McSwain on five separate occasions allowed a horse that he owned (Honors), while “sore” (as defined in the Act and the Regulations), to be entered in a horse show or shown in a horse show. APHIS veterinarians inspected Honors and found that Honors was sore on each of these five occasions. On one of those occasions, August 29, 2015, Honors was also bearing on both of his pasterns a substance that the Secretary of Agriculture has prohibited to prevent the soring of horses.

“The extent of the prohibited conduct alleged in the complaint is great. The complaint alleges that respondent McSwain violated the Act on no fewer than five occasions with respect to the same horse (Honors) between August 24, 2013, and July 1, 2016.

“The gravity of the prohibited conduct alleged in the complaint is great. The Tennessee Walking Horse is prized for its high-stepping, showy gait called the ‘big lick.’ Congress enacted the HP A to end the practice of making Walkers “sore” for the purpose of altering their natural gait and gaining an unfair competitive advantage during performances at horse shows.

“Respondent McSwain has a high degree of culpability for the violations alleged in the complaint. Respondent McSwain is an owner of Honors. Owners who allow entry of their horses for the purpose of showing them in a horse show are absolute guarantors that those horses will not be sore within the meaning of the HPA, when the horses are entered or shown. Respondent McSwain allowed Honors, while he was sore, to be entered and/or shown in five horse shows.
“Respondent McSwain chose Gary Edwards and Larry Edwards, notwithstanding their history of violating the HPA, to be Honors’ trainers and custodians, and to enter and show Honors in horse shows.

“Despite having been advised on multiple occasions by APHIS of noncompliance with the HPA, respondent McSwain has continued to employ Gary Edwards and Larry Edwards as Honor's trainers and custodians, and to allow the entry or showing of Honors while Honors was sore.”

The affidavit also mentions two other horses owned by McSwain, named “Victoria’s Secret” and “He’s The Lady’s Man,” who were shown when the horses were sore.

Since the complaint mentions the history of the Edwards violating the HPA, a search of the HPA Database shows that Larry Edwards has a history of 13 separate violations of the HPA, ranging from 1994 and 1999, to 2002-2008.  His violations on various horses include: scar rule, unilateral sore, bilateral sore, and foreign substance. On May 25, 2013, in Case No. TN140063, Larry Edwards was issued a Violation Warning (7060) for showing “The American General,” who was found sore, in the Annual Spring Fun Show in Shelbyville, TN.

Gary Edwards has a record of five violations. He had a 10-year suspension from 8/15/97 to 8/14/07; another suspension from 5/11/92 to 5/10/94; a suspension from 9/1/97 to 8/31/99; and a violation in October 2008 for unilateral sore. A case was filed against him on 7/10/15, TN150053-AC, type 7060, for a violation at the Walking for Angels Christmas in July show 7/03/14, at which the horse Full Back had unilateral sore and foreign substance violations.

Robert McSwain has two past violations at the TWH National Celebration, both with Victoria’s Secret, who was shown sore on 9/5/09 and 8/26/10. Case No AL10001-AC, 4/24/12 and Case No AL11008-AC; Date of Order: 4/24/12. Type: 7060.

The APHIS/USDA has published the show report from the 78th annual Walking Horse Celebration, held August 25 – September 3, 2016. A total of 1466 horses were inspected, out of 1957 total entries, and 190 were found HPA noncompliant. There were 491 scratches – horses who were pre-registered and listed on the class sheets, but didn’t check in for the inspection. Read the full report here:

USDA/ APHIS Enforcement Actions from 2010 to 2016 can be found at:!ut/p/z1/04_iUlDg4tKPAFJABpSA0fpReYllmemJJZn5eYk5-hH6kVFm8T7-Js6GTsEGPhbeniYGjq7mHq5OQU6GBq5m-l76UfgVFGQHKgIADnm4YQ!!/

Link to read the affidavit filed by USDA against McSwain:…/04_iUlDg4tKPAFJABpSA0fpReYllm…/

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