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Walking Horse group denied funds over safety

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission blocked renewal of lucrative breeders' incentives for the Kentucky Walking Horse Association after commissioners expressed concerns about safeguards on horses' health.

The commission Tuesday voted to approve eight previous fund-recipient groups and two new ones. Six applicants were turned down. The funds come from the sales taxes paid on stud fees. Almost $1.4 million was paid out to non-race breeds for 2007 by the state. More than 28 percent of that — more than $387,500 — was given to the Kentucky Walking Horse Association's breeders' incentive fund program.

But questions arose last summer about incentives paid to walking-horse breeders. Both Herald-Leader and state investigations found that more than a dozen fund recipients had been cited for violations of the federal Horse Protection Act, which is designed to prevent "soring" — the intentional injuring of walking horses to achieve an exaggerated show gait.

Jamie Eads, director of the state breeders' incentive funds, said that, in addition to new rules approved in October specifically making HPA violators ineligible, the racing commission has requested copies of USDA violation reports from future Kentucky Walking Horse Association shows.

But commission member Alan Leavitt said that might not be adequate. "The pattern is when the USDA examiners show up, half the horses get on the trailer and are shipped out because they don't want them to be examined. And the USDA report's not going to tell you that," Leavitt said.

Commission member Ned Bonnie, who is affiliated with the U.S. Equestrian Federation, also objected, saying he questions whether the rules go far enough to ensure protection of the horse.

"Like Alan, I'm concerned about the soring of walking horses. I'm not convinced that your method of determining who's sored and who isn't is adequate," Bonnie said. "I would not want us to act on this (incentive fund renewal)."

Instead, Bonnie suggested the application be sent to the racing commission's rules committee for review. The application for funds could be resubmitted to the commission at another meeting.

The groups who received approval were Kentucky Appaloosa Owners Association; Kentucky Arabian & Half-Arabian Breeders Association (new); Kentucky Miniature Horse Association (new); Kentucky Morgan Horse Association; Kentucky Paint Horse Club; Kentucky Paso Fino Horse Association; Kentucky Quarter Horse Association; Kentucky Rocky Mountain Horse Association; Kentucky Saddlebred Owners & Breeders Association; and South Central Hackney Association.

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