We've been doing some hard work on the FTTWH Facebook group to help make some changes with the TWH situation. Among those was people writing to the Kentucky Horse Park after learning that they were going to be the location for the Kentucky After Christmas Sale, the sale itself owned by David Landrum, a multiple HPA violator.
John Nicholson of the KHP was kind enough to call me and has been keeping me up to date on what's been going on. Today, an article was released online on the Lexington Herald-Leader concerning this very subject. I've copied and pasted the article below; click here for the link. Really, the article tells everything better than I can. But I have been reassured by John that the HIO WILL be the International Walking Horse Association and that the USDA might also be present. The KHP has made it their highest priority to make sure the law is upheld and the horses are safe. They have a meeting next week to discuss this situation, and have not signed a contract with the sale's owners for this reason.
Horse Park might host sale that could include controversial 'padded' horses
Published: January 12, 2013
By Janet Patton — firstname.lastname@example.org
A controversial breed might be getting a new hoof in the door at the Kentucky Horse Park, and equine welfare groups are not happy.
The Horse Park is in negotiations to allow a sale this month of Tennessee walking horses, possibly including some wearing controversial hoof pads that exaggerate their gait. The Kentucky After Christmas Sale hopes to offer about 300 horses for sale Jan. 25 and 26.
Horse Park director John Nicholson said that legal activities have a right to use the state-run park. Padded horses are legal — although several groups headquartered on the park's campus, including the American Association of Equine Practitioners, are working to change that.
The organizers of the sale say they want to be transparent and will use inspectors that the state specifies.
But questions have been raised about one of the sale's partners, David Landrum, who was accused of abuse last summer involving a horse in his care.
History of the sale
For 25 years, the Kentucky After Christmas Sale was at Tattersall's at The Red Mile, but that facility has been demolished.
State Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, a prominent walking horse advocate and breeder, said she lobbied to keep the sale in Lexington. She said she doesn't see why this should be newsworthy.
"It was either move it or keep it in Lexington," she said. "If I'm going to breed a horse, I want to be able to sell it here."
Webb herself has been cited by North Carolina horse show inspectors in the past year for violating the federal Horse Protection Act.
Renting the Horse Park's Alltech Arena is proving unpopular with horse advocates who argue that a state facility devoted to horses should not provide a showcase for people who might be involved in what they consider abusive practices.
"The Kentucky Horse Park is a public facility. Families go there. We question whether it is appropriate for padded, chained horses to be shown there," said Teresa Bippen, president of Friends of Sound Horses. "That horse was banned from the World Equestrian Games. Nobody wanted to see that horse there."
During the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games at the Horse Park, Games organizers would not allow padded Tennessee walking horses to perform.
Given that and the bad publicity in the past few years concerning padded horses, the Horse Park seems to be going "against the tide," said Keith Dane, director of equine protection for the Humane Society of the United States.
"Kentucky is supposed to be the Horse Capital of the World, supposed to love its horses," he said. "This is a serious problem in the industry that isn't being addressed. Providing new venues for that kind of horse to be shown and sold, particularly the Kentucky Horse Park, which is a top-level, state-run park, is a disconnect."
The question of whether to allow the sale will be on the agenda for the Kentucky Horse Park Commission at its board meeting Wednesday. The contract for the venue has yet to be signed, and the commission could block the sale.
The Horse Park is funded by revenue from events at the park, with supplementary revenue from the non-profit Horse Park Foundation and from the state.
Last year, the park came under scrutiny from the General Assembly when Gov. Steve Beshear requested an additional $3.5 million appropriation for the park despite its drawing a record number of new major events. That could make turning away a paying customer difficult. Rental of the arena and stalls could generate about $10,000 for the park.
Nicholson said he has received numerous calls and e-mails from people concerned about the sale, which usually has at least a few dozen padded horses — animals wearing thick front horseshoes used to help create an exaggerated, high-stepping gait known as "the big lick."
The big lick is often associated with the worst abuses under the federal Horse Protection Act, including "soring," the deliberate injuring of walking horses' front legs.
The painful treatments that trainers sometimes use to encourage the big lick include painting caustic chemicals on the horse's front legs, piling on heavy chains that bounce on tender spots, applying huge padded shoes, or inserting objects (including nails, tacks or golf balls) under the pads to create sore feet, a practice known as "pressure shoeing."
Allegations made online
David Landrum, vice president of the Kentucky After Christmas Sale, and some perennial horse sellers at the sale have been associated with violations of the federal Horse Protection Act.
A database of HPA violations lists five suspensions for Landrum from 1997 to 2010 — for soring, for putting a foreign substance on a horse's leg, for violating show rules and for verbal abuse.
Last summer, Landrum also was involved in a dispute that erupted online involving a horse allegedly abused while at his stables to be trained. It remains unclear exactly what happened to the horse and when.
A mare named Jose's Wine and Roses was brought to a new trainer, Joe Cotten, a Louisville native and a former Landrum employee who now lives in Bell Buckle, Tenn.
Cotten said that when she arrived he was shocked at the condition of the horse's feet and posted photos on Facebook. He also demanded to know how she had passed previous inspections by officials from the USDA-accredited horse-industry group called SHOW, an acronym that stands for "Sound horses, Honest judging, Objective inspections, Winning fairly."
In an interview with the Herald-Leader, Cotten said L.M. Murphy, husband of owner Deborah Murphy, told him the mare had been in Landrum's barn.
Cotten said the horse also was examined by a veterinarian who took separate photos of the horse's front feet. Copies of those photos — obtained by the Herald-Leader, labeled "Jose's Wine and Roses" and dated June 18, 2012 — appear to show scars and injuries.
Deborah Murphy said Friday that she thinks the injuries happened while the mare was with Cotten.
"She was fine. ... I was there every week, and she was fine," Murphy said. "When this fiasco on Facebook came out, my husband picked her up. ... She was fine when she went there; after a week, she wasn't. I know it had to happen at Joe Cotten's. ... Why Joe Cotten put this on the Internet is beyond any of us."
Murphy said there are no photos with the report she got from the vet who examined the mare at Cotten's barn. She declined to release the report to the Herald-Leader. Murphy later said that the veterinarian has told her no photos were taken.
"It's none of your business. None of this is," Murphy said. "I want to close the book on this. I don't want to go through this again."
The veterinarians, Dr. John Bennett and Dr. Belinda Mendenhall, did not return calls from the Herald-Leader.
Landrum told the Herald-Leader that Jose's Wine and Roses had not been sored. He said she had been shown in 2011 at the National Futurity in Shelbyville, Tenn., and was inspected at the time by the USDA.
"I don't know what horse those photos were of," Landrum said. "The horse left my place in great shape."
Cotten insisted the Facebook and vet photos are of the horse Murphy brought him that day from Landrum's stable and that the injuries did not occur in the days she was under Cotten's care.
Cotten, who also has multiple HPA violations according to an online database, said no industry investigators had ever contacted him about the incident but he wrote online in June that he had been warned that walking horse insiders would "drop the hammer" on him.
Within days, Cotten was handed a 7½ -year suspension and fined $5,000 by SHOW inspectors. "It's a classic whistle-blower case is what it is," Cotten said.
SHOW is accredited by the USDA to license designated qualified persons to inspect walking horses at shows and sales for signs of soring, including scars, tender legs or foreign substances.
Landrum said SHOW officials investigated Jose's Wine and Roses and found no problem.
That is not entirely accurate.
SHOW interim leader Mike Inman told the Herald-Leader that the group stepped in and took the horse to a vet for at least two weeks of care.
"It needed medication attention to get its feet back in proper condition," Inman said. "I was not here at the time, but I know the horse was taken, at SHOW's expense, and given treatment. This was done as a goodwill gesture for the good of the horse."
SHOW did not establish how or when the horse got in that condition.
Inman said the group doesn't have the authority to examine records related to the horse's circumstances outside the show ring.
"Joe Cotten claims one thing, David Landrum another, and the owner claims another. We can't decide what's right or wrong," Inman said.
SHOW had previously been the inspecting horse-industry organization for the Kentucky After Christmas Sale but will not be this year, because the USDA is attempting to decertify SHOW, which would strip the group of the authority to inspect shows or sales.
Protecting horse, park
Landrum and the sale's president, Jerrold Pedigo, both said that USDA standards are upheld at the sale.
"We've never conducted a sale without inspectors certified by the USDA," Pedigo said.
There have been horses that failed inspection, he said.
"They're seldom ... but they have occurred," he said. "That's the whole purpose of having the inspections. We have to make sure they don't get in the sale."
To ensure that there are no sore horses at the Horse Park, director Nicholson said, the state specified which horse industry organization will supply the inspectors.
The International Walking Horse Association — one of three accredited to inspect walking horse shows that want to be eligible to receive funds from the taxpayer-funded Kentucky Breeders' Incentive Fund — will do the inspections.
Nicholson said he has urged the USDA to send federal inspectors, something that often causes trainers and riders to flee horse shows in Kentucky and elsewhere to avoid that scrutiny.
Pedigo said he would welcome USDA involvement and wants the sale to be transparent.
"I would hope the main goal is make sure the participants follow the law," Pedigo said. "So long as we do that, the system put in place protects the animal. I can certainly appreciate, respect and agree with those individuals who don't want to see an animal sored."
Nicholson said the state has taken steps to ensure that all walking horses at the sale are protected. Walking horses are popular for trail riding as well as other kinds of sports and have sweet dispositions, he said. The Horse Park's Parade of Breeds includes some Tennessee walking horses that are "flat-shod," meaning they do not have padded hooves.
The Horse Park "is a public facility, publicly supported," Nicholson said. "Law-abiding people who love and properly care for their horses have the right to utilize it. Soring of horses to enhance performance is abhorrent, repugnant, immoral and, thankfully, illegal.
"Illegal practices will not happen at the Kentucky Horse Park."
Landrum said that the Kentucky After Christmas Sale could be an important move to rehabilitate the image of the Tennessee walking horse and bring it back into the mainstream.
"We believe we can bring a product that will be accepted. We have faith in the consignors and the horses they're bringing," Landrum said. "I think this could be a breakthrough and people could realize what a nice animal we have. We want people to come out. I think it can all be a very, very positive thing. It's important to give this breed a chance. We're coming in the right way."
Whether that will be enough is unclear. Groups including the National Walking Horse Association, which is headquartered at the Horse Park, are skeptical. The NWHA promotes flat-shod Tennessee walking horses and prohibits the use of pads in all events.
"I feel like if the International Walking Horse Association does the inspections, only sound horses will show," said Jason Crawhorn, NWHA president.
Will that include padded performance horses?
"If the performance horses still show up at the sale."
In other news, both Rate My Horse PRO and the Lexington Herald-Leader have picked up on the story that Senator Robin Webb was cited for soring horses. I've copied and pasted the Lexington article below.
Rate My Horse PRO article
Lexington Herald-Leader article
State senator cited for violating Horse Protection Act
Published: January 12, 2013
By Janet Patton — email@example.com
A high-profile walking horse proponent and padded horse rider, Kentucky state Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, has suffered an equine black eye.
At the North Carolina Walking Horse Association championships in October, Webb was cited for violations involving two horses.
"Senator Robin Webb Busted" read the headline Dec. 4 on an anti-soring blog called "For the Tennessee Walking Horse."
According to the USDA's database of Horse Protection Act violations, Webb was ticketed for violating the "scar rule," which establishes criteria to look for certain scars on the horse that are considered evidence that a horse has been "sored" and is ineligible to compete. Webb, as owner, was cited as a responsible party for two horses, Air Force One and Showstopper.
In an interview last week with the Herald-Leader, Webb denied soring either horse and said she did not see anything wrong with the animals at the time of the competition.
"I don't sore my horses," Webb said. "I love my horses, and my horses love me."
She said Showstopper is a young horse whom she bought not long before the show; Air Force One is a prize-winning horse she has ridden in shows for years without incident, including a week after he failed the inspection.
"They were turned down on a scar rule and sent back to the barn," she said. "The scar rule is very subjective."
She said she did not appeal because she never received paperwork on either violation and, as far as she knows, she was not suspended.
Her trainer, Donald Stamper of Richmond, also was cited. Stamper confirmed Webb has horses in his barn but said he did not recall the incident.
"Where was this at, now?" Stamper asked in response to a reporter's question. He hung up when asked for comment on his role.
Webb also has been a vocal opponent of federal legislation, filed by U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, to ban the use of pads and chains, called "action devices," on horses.
"The Whitfield bill is extreme," Webb said last week.
Whitfield said in a statement Friday that his bill "eliminates the self-policing system currently employed, allowing for a more uniform enforcement. ... It is far from 'extreme,' which is why it carries the support of the American Veterinarian Medical Association, the American Association of Equine Practitioners and numerous others."
The American Association of Equine Practitioners, headquartered at the Kentucky Horse Park, has said the ban is necessary to end soring.
Dr. René A. Carlson, president of the American Veterinarian Medical Association, said in June that her group is asking for a ban on "the use of action devices and performance packages in the training and showing of walking horses, because they appear to be facilitating soring."
The U.S. Equestrian Federation, also headquartered at the Horse Park, also does not allow the use of action devices in the show ring.
At the annual meeting of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association in December, Webb criticized the AAEP and other veterinary groups who have called for a ban, dubbing them "agenda-driven entities."
Webb was honored by Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association as its 2012 Performance Horse Ambassador for her participation in USDA discussions.
Last week, Webb told the Herald-Leader that the Tennessee walking horse has been "demonized," particularly in light of a video, shot by an undercover investigator from the Humane Society of the United States, showing top walking horse trainer Jackie L. McConnell abusing horses in his Tennessee barn.
Webb said the footage, in which McConnell was shown striking tied-up horses in the face, was taken out of context.
"You don't know what happened five minutes before or five minutes after. ... These are animals that are very dangerous," Webb said. "Every breed has training techniques that animal-rights groups find offensive."
While Webb has not received any type of fine or suspension as of yet, these articles are still very telling of her stance toward the horse itself. It certainly says a lot about her trainer that he hung up on the reporter. But at least he didn't run his mouth and basically say he approves of what McConnell does. Case in point: first she says she loves her horses and they love her, but later on she claims that they are "dangerous" and implies that they deserve to be beaten to be punished. "Every breed has training techniques that animal-rights groups find offensive." Actually, I think most people would find stewarding offensive, which is the training technique McConnell is using in that video to force the horses to stand still and take the pain of the inspection. Except for you, of course, since you clearly support what he's doing to those horses in the video. It sickens me that someone can blatantly support such heinous and wicked acts against another living being. Webb, I cannot figure out how you sleep at night knowing your horses are probably going through the same torture. May you get what you deserve.
"Today, Tennessee Walking Horses are known throughout the industry
as the breed that shows abused and tortured horses."
~ Jim Heird, Ph.D., Do Right By The Horse, February 2010
"If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity,
you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men."
~ St. Francis of Assisi
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