U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield was named Saturday as the first recipient of the "Horseman of the Year" award by The Humane Society of the United States.
The award was presented in downtown Lexington by Keith Dane, director of equine protection for the organization.
Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, represents Kentucky's 1st Congressional District, which stretches from far Western Kentucky to Casey County in Central Kentucky. He faces Democratic challenger Heather Ryan in the Nov. 4 election.
Whitfield was given the honor because he "clearly stood out" in his work to advance horse welfare, Dane said.
"Kentucky is the horse capital of the world and we should be the leader, it seems to me, in protecting these animals who mean so much to our economy," Whitfield told a group during a meeting at the Hunt-Morgan House.
Whitfield is the ranking minority member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee on commerce, trade and consumer protection. In June, that subcommittee held a hearing that looked into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Thoroughbred racing.
Whitfield also co-sponsored a bill that would ban the transport, sale, purchase or donation of horses to be killed for human consumption. And he has sought to protect America's wild, free-roaming horses and burros from commercial sale and slaughter.
"He really has been a truly tireless champion for the horse," Dane said. "We couldn't have thought of a better person to honor, especially with our first award."
Whitfield's wife, Connie Harriman-Whitfield, is employed by the Humane Society to cultivate donors for financial assistance to the organization.
The Whitfields own about eight horses in Kentucky and California.
"There's a couple of Thoroughbreds. There are some draft horses. There's a pony or two," Whitfield said. "These were basically rescue horses that were on their way to slaughter."