The long-time cutting horse owner accused of animal abuse after repeatedly shooting an “unruly and aggressive” stallion with a BB gun is expressing regrets for his actions and settling a $1 million lawsuit against the sport’s governing body.
Tommy Manion of Aubrey was caught on video in July shooting the stallion Smooth Maximus with a BB gun, drawing a two-year suspension from the National Cutting Horse Association and a $15,000 fine. The incident also spurred a criminal investigation. Manion sued the association challenging the penalties as too harsh.
In a statement issued Thursday as part of the settlement, Manion doesn’t mention using a BB gun but says he regrets the “method” he used to calm the horse that created so much controversy. Manion did not admit any guilt.
“I am sorry that the method I subsequently used caused such controversy. I deeply regret that this event took place,” Manion says in a statement, released to the members of the Fort Worth-based National Cutting Horse Association.
“I am committed to the NCHA and will endeavor to continue to conduct myself in a professional manner for the remainder of my career,” the statement reads. “I join with the Association in continuing to take a strong stance against animal abuse, and in protecting the animals we all love so dearly.”
The NCHA agreed to reduce its suspension to six months — backdated to August — put Manion on probation for one year and fine him $10,000.
“The NCHA is pleased with the settlement and remains committed to its Zero Tolerance policy,” said Albon Head, one of the group’s attorneys. The deal was reached after a day-long mediation session Wednesday ahead of a scheduled court hearing on Friday seeking an injunction to block the sanctions.
Manion’s attorneys had accused the NCHA for punishing him for what they said was a common method of discipline horses, what one of his attorneys called the association’s “dirty little secret.”
But others in the cutting horse community denied that the use of BB guns is widespread and called it abusive.
“Everybody I know in the cutting horse business would find that appalling, to shoot a horse with a BB gun. Where in the hell did that come from? Who would do that?” said cutting horse enthusiast David McDavid.
On July 15, Manion had already performed with Smooth Maximus at the competition in Whitesboro and had the horse tied to a fence while he worked with two others. The stallion began squealing, kicking and rearing up. It tried to “savagely bite” one of Manion’s employees and attacked a woman trying to calm it.
“When I observed the horse, I immediately became concerned about the safety and welfare of the individuals in attendance that day,” Manion says in his statement. He had similar concerns about the horse’s safety.
Manion got a BB gun from his truck and shot it three to four times, hoping that the sting of the BBs would bring the horse under control. While it had the desired effect, others protested his actions.
The Grayson County Sheriff’s office and the SPCA of Texas investigated but found insufficient evidence to seek any charges against Manion, although the SPCA said it did not condone Manion’s actions.