FRANKFORT — State Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, has filed legislation to take away control of some breeders' incentive funds from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.
Webb's Senate Bill 221 would create an Equine Breed Authority, made up of representatives of quarter horse, walking horse, saddlebred and other horse breeds.
The move comes as the racing commission is reconsidering which walking horse groups will be able to inspect shows that qualify for state incentive money.
"The non-race breeds need a voice. They're stakeholders," Webb said of the bill. "Any time you've got the racing commission making decisions ... it's just an industry fairness issue with me."
She said the racing commission, which regulates Thoroughbred, Standardbred and quarter horse racing, has been "heavy-handed" in dealing with the other breeds. "They've exceeded their jurisdiction," Webb said. "It's evolved into more than it was set up to be."
Webb, who supports the Kentucky Walking Horse Association, spoke in favor of the group at a recent hearing in Lexington.
The KWHA faced harsh questioning at the February hearing from racing commission members after the group put trainer Gary Oliver back on its board. Oliver was implicated in the death of a walking horse in his care in 2004. Oliver admitted using banned substances on the horse, which had to be euthanized. Oliver was ordered to pay its owner $3,500.
KWHA president Denzil Allen defended Oliver, saying he is a longstanding member of the KWHA and has its support.
The KWHA was rejected last year as the sole breeders' incentive fund affiliate. Instead, the racing commission ruled that to be eligible for incentive money, walking horse shows have to be inspected by one of three specific groups with reputations as advocates against soring.
Soring is the use of illegal training methods to deliberately injure a horse's feet through chemical or mechanical means to achieve an exaggerated high-stepping show gait known as the "big lick."
One of the three anti-soring groups has shut down temporarily for personal reasons; another group, the International Walking Horse Association, has stepped forward to take its place. The racing commission allowed that group, the KWHA and another group, SHOW (Sound Horses, Honest Judging, Objective Inspections & Winning Fairly), to make presentations last month.
The rules committee is scheduled to make a recommendation Tuesday to the full racing commission on which group or groups may inspect walking horses.
Thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded incentives are at stake. The non-race breeds split a share of the sales tax paid on stud fees. In 2008, the non-race breeds got more than $1.3 million in incentives; more than $372,000 was allocated to walking horses.
Webb's bill has been sent to the Senate Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee.