Larry Joe Wheelon and Jackie McConnell are as different individuals as day and night.
Jackie McConnell was always a “Peck’s Bad Boy” type of character.
Who had one helluva knack for showing a horse.
From West Tennessee, Jackie burst upon the Tennessee Walking Horse scene in 1979
He became famous for Threat’s Black Power owned by E.B. Tanner
If there was a speed record for a THW going around the Celebration oval, Jackie and Threat’s Black Power held it.
And probably still do.
E. B. Tanner was a wealthy fellow from Union City, Tennessee.
His son, John S. Tanner, was a U.S. Congressman from Tennessee, 1989 – 2011.
But I digress.
Stuck off up in East Tennessee, Larry Wheelon started a lot of young horse and sold them.
But Larry has never been known as a top Trainer showman who won World Grand Championships.
Larry was more of a Trainer net kind of guy who worked well with other trainers in the every day coming and goings.
A Mr. Insider, if you will.
One of the good ole boys.
Jackie McConnell on the other hand was the top of the top in the show world.
Hall of Fame.
Jackie’s secret was getting customers with money who would buy him top stock that suited his style of jockeying and that he could win with.
Jackie’s list of horses over the years was stunning.
From I’m in Command to Skillsaw to Generator’s Santana to Moody Star and all in between.
Truth be known, Jackie was probably better training people than he was training horses.
Floyd Sherman liked him and is loyal to him.
So were lots of other folks with money
And Jackie was one helluva walking horse jockey … if he had his kind of horse under him.
One with speed and style.
Larry Wheelon is a WHTA insider.
Wheelon judged the 2011 Trainer’s Show.
Wheelon was the Dean of the East Tennessee Walking Horse Trainers.
Terry Dotson’s trainer Brent Coburn is a Larry Wheelon protege’.
Now approaching 70 years old, Wheelon has quietly operated up in Maryville, Tennessee outside of Knoxville for decades.
Judging important horse shows throughout that time.
Larry Wheelon was one of three judges for the 2011 Walking Horse Trainers Show.
Larry Wheelon is close to David Howard.
They are the same age group and have known and worked with each other for over 40 years.
Wheelon in Chairman of the Walking Horse Trainers Ethics Committee.
So Jackie McConnell always operated on the edges of the Trainers organization.
While Larry Wheelon has been Mr. Inside.
Jackie was busted by an insider who got the goods,
Then went to the U. S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee and a case was built and Jackie was pled guilty to a felony.
Wheelon who has always been confrontational with the USDA was charged under the law signed in 2012 making animal cruelty a felony.
Apparently someone went in Wheelon’s barn, saw the shape the horses were in, and reported it to law enforcement.
My guess is they actually worked with the District Attorney General in Blount County and law enforcement knew going in that the D.A. was serious about stopping cruelty to Tennessee Walking Horses in his county.
The observer filled out an Affidavit stating what was observed, and then the D.A. and law enforcement went to a Blount County Judge who found there was probable cause to believe Wheelon was soring horses, signed a Search Warrant, and Wheelon’s barn was raided, 9 hours of investigation was done, and Larry Joe Wheelon was busted.
It really doesn’t look good for Larry Wheelon, but he has the presumption of innocent until proven guilty and convicted.
Jackie had lots of assets and powerful friends and excellent legal representation, and thanks to a weak HPA, was able to avoid jail time.
If Blount County proves the case it appears to have and everything was done properly in putting it together, then in all probability, Larry Joe Wheelon most likely will be the first Tennessee Walking Horse trainer go to jail for soring a horse.
It’s all a sad state of affairs for the Tennessee Walking Horse.
Something needs to be done before there’s nothing left.
Colored chains and sham swabbing ain’t it.
Note: Larry Wheelon is presumed innocent until proven guilty and convicted.