Roy Exum: Senator ‘Just Like Lance’

Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Robin Webb, a Democratic state senator from Kentucky, just became “the Lance Armstrong of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry”  after it was revealed two of her horses were ticketed with violations of the federal Horse Protection Act at a North Carolina horse show in October. There was evidence of scar-rule violations on both horses, which means the horses had been sored and, in the Walking Horse world, to sore is to cheat.

As unbelievable as it may appear, Senator Webb (D-Grayson) was even lauded as the 2012 Performance Horse Ambassador by the industry’s Breeders and Exhibitors group in December ,but now she has been shown to be “just like Lance” after two of her horses, Showstopper and Air Force One, were found in violation of the scarring rule and banned from competition last fall in Creedmoor, N.C.

In a scathing story that appeared 10 days ago in the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, Webb was portrayed as a typical “Big Lick queen” who still favors the scurilous padded hooves and action devices that the American Veterinarian Medical Association, the American Association of Equine Practitioners and many other animal rights organizations want to ban.

Of course, Senator Webb denied everything at first, telling writer Janet Patton, “I don’t sore my horses.

I love my horses, and they love me.” But as she was interviewed, Webb called pending Congressional legislation to end soring as “extreme” and even defended the horrifying tape that showed Jackie McConnell, who is now a felon, beating and torturing horses.

Webb had the audacity to tell the newspaper the tape that has now been viewed by millions of horse advocates around the world “was taken out of context” and that Tennessee Walking Horses are “dangerous” animals. “You don’t know what happened five minutes before or five minutes after the tape was made. These are animals that are very dangerous. Every breed has training techniques that animal rights groups find offensive.”

And this woman was just chosen as the Performance Horse Ambassador of the Year? Sweet mother of pearl! Lance wouldn’t have said something that stupid to Oprah! Asked about the violations, Webb said “the scar rule is very subjective,” but her trainer, Donald Stamper of Richmond, hung up on the reporter rather than demonstrate his ignorance. But he was also ticketed for violating the Horse Protection Act.

Asked why she didn’t challenge the tickets, Senator Webb said she was unaware she had been ticketed and, as far as she knows, she has not been suspended. But the Lexington newspaper article left no doubt she is a proponent of the padded, or “performance,” horse and that her Ambassador award was for her work in the discussions with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Webb, now a lawyer at age 52, worked as a coal miner until the age of 25 before obtaining her degrees. She claimed that the many groups calling for bans on the action devices were “agenda-driven entities” and heavily criticized the veterinary groups in particular that are trying to stop the sale of performance horses in Kentucky.

Needless to say, the Kentucky state senator has quite suddenly made a name for herself. Walking Horse blogs are now whirling across the country and proponents of a “sound” Tennessee Walker are livid. In an Op-ed piece that appeared in Tuesday’s editions of the Lexington newspaper. Pam Rogers of the Humane Society of Kentucky blasted the senator.

“Webb has taken the path most traveled by many in the Big Lick industry — deny, deny, deny. She has also made an appalling attempt to defend the actions of an admitted violator of the Horse Protection Act, Tennessee walking horse Hall of Fame trainer Jackie McConnell.

“The real demons are trainers like McConnell, and he is not alone. There is no question that the cruel practice of soring is widespread in the Big Lick horse show industry. Unscrupulous trainers apply caustic chemicals to horses' ankle area, then ride them with chains on their ankles that hurt their sensitized skin with every step.

“’Stacks’ — like high-heeled horseshoes — are nailed to the horse's front hooves to add weight and height, and are frequently used to conceal objects and methods used to inflict pain to the soft tissue of a horse's hoof," she explained.

She added, “These practices force the horse to snatch his feet off the ground in an attempt to relieve the pain, creating the Big Lick that is rewarded by judges. Major veterinary groups, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Equine Practitioners and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, have called for a ban on these devices.

“Instead of defending horse abusers like McConnell, Webb should be working to protect horses by supporting stronger laws to crack down on such criminals. Soring has no place in Kentucky, the Horse Capital of the World and the heart of Tennessee walking horse country.

“A December 2012 Mason-Dixon poll indicates that the majority of voters support federal legislation to strengthen the Horse Protection Act and state legislation making soring a felony offense.

“Soring also has no place at the Kentucky Horse Park, which Webb is lobbying to host a sale later this month that would showcase Big Lick Tennessee walking horses. Horse advocates are disturbed that this state-run park would provide a venue for a horse show discipline frequently associated with such extreme cruelty,” she also wrote.

Meanwhile, the movement to end cruelty to the Tennessee Walking Horse moved on unabated. Pending legislation will make it tougher and tougher and – in Tennessee – soring is now a felony punishable with up to five years in prison.

Somebody better tell Senator Robin Webb not to bring those horses she “loves” to Tennessee.

royexum@aol.com

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