State senator cited for violating Horse Protection Act

jpatton1@herald-leader.comJanuary 12, 2013 

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."

Janet Patton: (859) 231-3264. Twitter: janetpattonhl

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