Why do Kentucky lawmakers appear to despise horses?

Horse in profile silhouetted against a night sky. Unattributed Google search image.

LOUISVILLE, KY — Why do Kentucky lawmakers appear to despise horses? It’s not simply having little to no regard for horses. These people seem to out and out despise them and want nothing to do with helping them in any way. How can this be?

Kentucky Lawmakers in Washington D.C.

The first politician’s name that springs to mind when it comes to horse hating lawmakers from Kentucky is of course U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who is also Senate Majority Leader and a huge power broker in the nation’s capital.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Photo by Drew Angerer / Getty Images via Politico.com.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Photo by Drew Angerer / Getty Images via Politico.com.

From where we stand McConnell is top of the list in terms of intensity of destructiveness concerning our nation’s horses and their wellbeing.

Whether it’s interfering with legislation and other federal measures that would virtually eliminate horse soring and Big Lick animal cruelty, or his reported holds on bills session after session that would protect horses from slaughter at home and abroad, McConnell has proven to be a vicious enemy to horses.

Cruelty, horse soring and horse slaughter are intrinsically linked. The scale of the pain and torment meted out to horses by  sorers and slaughterers is extensive and horrific. It is truly unconscionable. McConnell not only supports but also uses his power to maintain both the soring and slaughter of horses.

Why? It may be as simple as this — McConnell loves the money he gets for working on behalf of those who spitefully use and perpetrate cruelty against horses, and peddle their flesh for profit. McConnell probably doesn’t give a thought to the horses at all.

What about the rest of the legislators representing Kentuckians in Washington?

Since legislation addressing horse soring and horse slaughter are pending in the U.S. House alone at the moment, so we will focus on the Kentucky lawmakers there.

Plus, we do not think it any mystery how Kentucky Senators McConnell and Paul will act when the companion bills are introduced in the U.S. Senate.

U.S. House Members for Kentucky

• Rep. James Comer (R-KY-1) https://comer.house.gov/, 202-225-3115
Committees: Agriculture; Oversight and Government; Small Business

• Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY-2) https://guthrie.house.gov/, 202-225-3501
Committees: Education and the Workforce; Energy and Commerce

• Rep. John A. Yarmuth (D-KY-3) https://yarmuth.house.gov/, 202-225-5401
Committees: The Budget

• Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY-4) https://massie.house.gov/, 202-225-3465
Committees: Oversight and Government; Science, Space, and Technology; Transportation

• Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY-5) https://halrogers.house.gov/, 202-225-4601
Committees: Appropriations

• Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY-6) https://barr.house.gov/ , 202-225-4706
Committees: Financial Services

(Source: http://www.house.gov/representatives/)

Let’s do a little exercise. Let’s see if any House members representing the good folks of Kentucky have co-sponsored either H.R. 113 (the SAFE Act) introduced on January 3, 2017 or H.R. 1847 (the PAST Act) introduced on March 30, 2017.

H.R. 113 — H.R. 113 (the SAFE Act) currently has 86 co-sponsors. Not a single co-sponsor from Kentucky as of yet banning horse slaughter.

H.R. 1847 — H.R. 1847 (the PAST Act) currently has 220 co-sponsors. We see a glimmer of hope. Rep. John Yarmuth is an originating co-sponsor of the anti soring bill called the PAST Act. Other than Yarmuth, no one from Kentucky has co-sponsored H.R. 1847.

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) representing the 3rd District home to Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby. Image: KET.
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) representing the 3rd District, home to Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby. Image: KET.

Rep. Yarmuth and Rep. Ed Whitfield were the only two Kentucky members in the U.S. House who co-sponsored the SAFE Act’s previous incarnation, H.R. 1942, in the previous or 114th Congress. So we expect Rep. Yarmuth will do the same for H.R. 113 this time around in the 115th.

What can we say about Rep. Hal Rogers?

In July 2015, Rep. Hal Rogers, did not use his powerful position to protect horses from slaughter.

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee failed to adopt an amendment to prevent the slaughter of horses for human consumption on U.S. soil. The amendment to the agriculture appropriations bill, offered by Rep. Sam Farr, D – Calif., resulted in a tie vote, with the Chair of the Committee, Hal Rogers, ultimately failing to adopt the provision.

(Source: HSUS)

At the end of the day Rogers’ betrayal did not matter.

In December 2015, H.R. 2029, the U.S. Omnibus Bill for FYE 2016 budget, became Public Law No. 114-113 effectively preventing the return of horse slaughter on U.S. soil until September 30, 2016.

Note: A subsequent spending bill for FYE 2017 became Public Law No. 114-259 continuing the defunding of horse meat inspections necessary to slaughter horses in the U.S. until September 30, 2017.

H.R. 1338

In the meantime, the following four U.S. House members of Kentucky, together with Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and five others (four also from Tennessee; the other from Mississippi), are originating co-sponsors of H.R. 1338, filed March 2, 2017:

Rep. Andy Barr
Rep. James Comer
Rep. Brett Guthrie
Rep. Harold Rogers

H.R. 1338 is another horse soring bill, however this one intends to help horse sorers, not eradicate them.

H.R. 1338 seeks a new inspection system set up by the USDA by establishing a single horse industry organization (HIO). “The Commissioners of Agriculture for Tennessee and Kentucky must appoint individuals to the HIO. Those individuals must appoint individuals” representing the Tennessee Walking Horse industry”.

This is a horrible piece of horse related legislation for Kentucky lawmakers to be involved with.

We oppose H.R. 1338. This is nothing more than a renewed legislative attempt at getting a “fox guarding the hen house” inspection system into place where anything goes for the continued horrific abuse of these gentle horses.

No horsing around for Rep. Massie

This leaves Rep. Thomas Massie who Politico named “Mr. No”.  Massie voted “no” at least 324 times in the 113th Congress – opposing one of every three measures that came to the House floor. This year he co-sponsored a bill to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. He doesn’t seem to be for or against bills good or bad for horses. That’s something I guess.

Kentucky Lawmakers at Home

What about politicians at the State level in Kentucky? In our view, they have taken total lack of care concerning Kentucky’s horses to a baser level.

In March, a Kentucky State bill (SB 139) reclassifying horses as livestock instead of as a domestic animal was introduced and pushed through by a lawmaker with a documented history of horse cruelty.

Sen. Robin Webb. Source: The Paulick Report.
Sen. Robin Webb. Source: The Paulick Report.

This lawmaker whom the USDA slapped horse soring violations on is none other that Robin Webb (above), a member of the Kentucky State Senate.

Webb’s horse trainer Donald Stamper was also ticketed for multiple violations.

If that’s not enough here’s more.

The gaited horse industry came under scrutiny after undercover video of Jackie McConnell hit the national airwaves showing him soring, beating, and shocking horses with a cattle prod. McConnell pleaded guilty last year to a federal charge of conspiring to violate the HPA. His first violation was in 1979.

Webb told the Herald-Leader that the Tennessee walking horse industry has been “demonized,” in light of that video. “You don’t know what happened five minutes before or five minutes after. … These are animals that are very dangerous,” Webb said.

In other words Ms. Webb views horses trying to evade or protect themselves from abuse as dangerous and deserving of being cornered and mercilessly beaten into submission.

This individual’s bill no doubt calculatingly conceived, reduced their status to livestock, putting Kentucky horses further in harm’s way by removing what few protections they had, and they weren’t much to start with.

At the same time Webb’s bill opens the door to horse slaughter in Kentucky whether intentional or not.

Sadly, despite protests from Kentuckians not a single Kentucky legislator cast a vote against Webb’s bill. SB 139 had unanimous support throughout the entire process.

Governor Matt Bevin then signed it into law.

What does this say about Kentucky lawmakers?

Sen. Robin Webb’s horse soring violations made big headlines. How could any Kentucky State lawmaker fail to be suspicious of a bill concerning horses pushed through the way it was by someone like Webb?

See also http://www.chattanoogan.com/2013/1/23/242756/Roy-Exum-Senator-Just-Like-Lance.aspx

Kentucky Livestock Derby

It won’t be long now until the eyes of millions will be on Louisville, Kentucky and millions of dollars will be wagered on what is called the “Two Most Exciting Minutes in Sports”, a sport by the way where they think it’s funny to name racehorses Gourmet Dinner and Prime Cut.

Here’s a joke for those folks.

Perhaps they should name it the Kentucky Livestock Derby. After all, they are not racing anything special — just a bunch of livestock, usable, replaceable, dispensable. And anyway, what’s in a name?

Gourmet Dinner earned more than $1 million before retiring to New Vocations Racehorse Adoption this week. The gelding will be given a big rest before training for a second career. Image: Off Track Thoroughbreds.
Gourmet Dinner earned more than $1 million before retiring to New Vocations Racehorse Adoption this week. The gelding will be given a big rest before training for a second career. Image: Off Track Thoroughbreds.

As of 2014 Prime Cut seems to have been taken care of following his retirement too. We hope so. See OTTB Spotlight: Prime Cut. We are trying to get an update on both.


Support federal bills H.R. 113 and H.R. 1847. Guarantee your voice is counted at PopVox.com »

See also Take action against horse slaughter in the Nation’s Capital with HR 113 »

Tip: Don’t bother with pre-prepared, automated messages. They have very little if any impact at all and often not counted.


• Supporters of Kentucky SB 139 respond to their critics in Blood-Horse article »

So happy together — Supporters of Kentucky State bill SB139 reducing horses to livestock status »

• Off the Menu: Gourmet Dinner and Prime Cut survive Thoroughbred racing »

• Despite a Triple Crown all that glitters is not gold in American horse racing (Part 3) »

Horse in silhouette. Unattributed Google search result.



Sale of Tennessee Walking Horses at Kentucky Horse Park proceeds quietly


Cross-posted from The Lexington Herald-Leader at Kentucky.com

Tennessee Walking horse watches worriedly during horse soring inspections. Photo: HSUS.
Tennessee Walking horse watches worriedly from his stall during horse soring inspections following an undercover operation by HSUS that exposed some of the gross cruelties perpetuated on these gentle animals for the sake of human greed and ego. Photo: HSUS.
After online drama and official angst, the Kentucky After Christmas Sale of Tennessee walking horses opened quietly at the Kentucky Horse Park on Friday.

Jerrold Pedigo, president of the sale, said the crowd was a little lighter and the early prices were a little lower than had been anticipated.

Some sellers were unable to get their horses to the sale because of winter weather. Would-be buyers also said they had difficulty driving into Lexington. That might have affected prices, which seemed to mostly be under $1,000. About 220 horses were cataloged to be sold.

After a delay due to the weather, dozens of horses began to make their way into the Alltech Arena to go before a crowd of a few hundred potential buyers looking mostly for trail horses.

Tennessee walking horses are Kentucky’s third-most-populous breed, behind Thoroughbreds and quarter horses.

Anti-soring advocates had expressed concerns before the sale that sore horses might be part of the sale, but that appeared not to be the case. USDA veterinary medical officers were on hand to inspect horses before the sale, alongside paid inspectors from the International Walking Horse Association.

By late afternoon, all the horses going to auction had passed inspection.

There appeared to be no padded horses at the auction. Pads have become controversial; the American Association of Equine Practitioners and the American Veterinary Medical Association have called for them to be banned because vets say they facilitate soring. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, has filed legislation to beef up the Horse Protection Act and ban pads.

Almost all of the horses offered for the sale appeared to be flat-shod, but “performance” or padded horse enthusiasts point out that they can be sored as well.

In the world of Tennessee walking horses, padded horses wear thick front horseshoes used to help create an exaggerated, high-stepping gait known as “the big lick.” The big lick is often associated with soring, the deliberate injuring of walking horses’ front legs. 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.”

An analysis of the sale catalog by the Humane Society of the U.S. found that about half of the horses were entered by owners previously cited for Horse Protection Act violations; a third of the owners had multiple violations. Two horses in the sale were previously cited as being sore at horse shows, including one cited twice in 2012.

Read full report >>

Thank you Ms Patton for your unbridled coverage of this issue. — Ed.

Rachel Alexandra, foal taken to equine clinic

Rachel Alexandra and her Curlin foal.

Cross-posted from The Blood-Horse via the Associated Press

Rachel Alexandra and her Curlin foal.
Rachel Alexandra and her Curlin foal. Image: Stonestreet Farm

Rachel Alexandra, the 2009 Horse of the Year, and her newborn colt have been taken to an equine clinic for pain management related to the birth, according to a spokesman.

Spokeswoman Caroline Shaw said in an e-mail Jan. 27 that Rachel Alexandra and the colt are expected to return to Stonestreet Farm in a couple of days, barring unforeseen issues.

They were taken to Rood and Riddle Equine Clinic in Lexington “as a precautionary measure,” the e-mail said.

Continue reading >>

In a press release issued by the owner, it says the mare and foal are expected to return to the farm in a couple of days.

“Rachel has proven to be an extraordinary mother and taking to her feisty colt right away,” said owner Barbara Banke. “I’m a Rachel-chondriac. We are taking every precaution to ensure that Rachel and her colt are healthy and happy.”

The Paulick Report >>

Racing executives remain complacent and clueless while horses suffer and die


After meeting for two days in Lexington to discuss horse safety and welfare, racing executives remain complacent and clueless while horses suffer and die.

The third Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit ended June 29 in Lexington with a commitment to create a national rider injury database, something that Keeneland president and CEO Nick Nicholson said was his No. 1 priority going into the meeting.

Not another database.

“I think we need it, and I was going to be very disappointed if we didn’t get (an agreement to pursue) it,” said Nicholson, whose track has hosted all three of the summit’s editions. “Personally, I think our No. 1 objective should be to prevent injuries to people, so we’ve got to track how and where they are getting hurt. Our No. 2 priority is the safety of the horses, and it all goes together. If you provide safer racing facilities for horses, one of the consequences of a safer racing environment for horses is fewer injuries to people.”

Source: Rider Injury Database a Summit Priority, Deidre Biles, Blood Horse (Jun. 29, 2010)

The summit, according to its title, is supposedly about the welfare and safety of racehorses, not the jockeys. Stating that the safety of people comes first and the safety of racehorses second is putting the cart before the horse. Not that having an injury database for jockeys is a bad idea. However, if you put jockeys up on racing fit, drug free horses, there would be little if any need for a rider injury database.

In 1978, injuries to jockeys and even a death generated no reforms to improve horse or jockey safety.

“Butazolidin is the brand name for the drug phenylbutazone, a medication that can reduce swelling and inflammation, which in turn eases pain. It’s the most widely used drug in the horse racing industry, yet, on the heels of a series of recent accidents, its very mention generates emotional sparks.

And jockeys—including Rudy Turcotte, who broke his collarbone in a horrendous four-horse spill at Pimlico earlier this month that killed one rider, Robert Pineda—are questioning its use. Jorge Velasquez, one of the nation’s top jockeys, says, “In my opinion, these places that use Bute are really not in control of it.” And Steve Cauthen says, “The thing I don’t like about Bute is the horse tries to overextend himself. The horse is better when he knows how he feels.”

Indeed, a big knock on Bute—albeit a much refuted one—is that it does make a horse feel better than it really is, thus making it possible for the animal to put too much pressure on a bad ankle or knee. The newest question raised about Bute is whether the drug adversely affects healing of an injury, and whether bone density is subsequently weakened. This question arises because of a feeling that serious breakdowns are increasing, that instead of horses coming back lame after a race, too many are snapping their legs and going down during it. Studies are under way.”

The Bute goes on.

Source: New Uproar Over A Controversial Drug, Douglas S. Looney, Sports Illustrated (May 22, 1978)

Earlier this year, more than 30 years later, a group of jockeys took a stand at Penn National refusing to ride in races where Michael Gill owned horses were running because of safety concerns.

On Saturday night, during the fifth race at Penn National Race Course, Michael Gill’s third place finisher, Laughing Moon collapsed and was euthanized in front of a crowd of onlookers. It is no mystery that horses are known to break down on the tracks as they race, but Gill’s reputation has jockeys, owners, trainers and outside observers accusing Gill of an unusually high rate of horse injuries and deaths.

Just before the sixth race, about 25 jockeys gathered together to take a stand and refused to ride in the next race unless a Michael Gill horse was scratched. Jockeys feared for their own safety, and this seemed to be an unprecedented decision when jockeys refuse to ride because of an owner. Jockey Emilio Flores claims he had too many close calls and even took a spill riding another one of Gill’s horses that fell during the past week.

Only then did racing authorities take any action because the headline making event forced their hand. Gill eventually sold his horses and walked away. End of story. Issue buried.

Source: Racing and slaughter controversy consumes Penn National Race Course, Cheryl Hannah, The Examiner (Jan. 26, 2010).

The Biles article also contains a laundry list of objectives put together by attending horse racing executives. There was only one item that directly mentioned racehorse welfare.

Creation of veterinary guidelines, in conjunction with the American Association of Equine Practitioners, to determine potential and appropriate second careers for racehorses based on physical condition.

Since the American Association of Equine Practitioners is historically and irreversibly pro horse slaughter, the second careers for racehorses based on their physical condition may be as someone’s dinner.

The slaughter of racehorses is no longer the sport’s dirty secret it used to be. Yet horse racing executives appear to believe if they ignore the issue, it will simply disappear from public consciousness. That is highly unlikely and continues to damage horse racing’s reputation.

At the end of the Biles article Nicholson states:

“Coming into this third summit, I thought it was very important for us not to be complacent, an[d] we had some real successes because the participants rose to the occasion and challenged themselves to reach out even further,” Nicholson said.

Not nearly far enough.

Read full Blood Horse article by Deidre >>