IS THE BLM PLANNING TO KILL 45,000 WILD HORSES & BURROS?
AN ADVISORY BOARD TO BLM HAS RECOMMENDED IT
By Glory Ann Kurtz
Sept. 14, 2016
Horses jammed into pens awaiting their slaughter.
Recently I received a press release regarding the BLM rounding up and removing some 45,000 wild horses from their natural habitat over the last 20 years in the interest of allowing privately owned cattle to graze on the public land due to an unsustainable financial burden of keeping the horses alive in their facilities (which they are bound by law to protect) – $49 million in 2015 alone. Since then, articles have come out on Fox News, CNN and even in the Arizona Republic newspaper.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released a statement condemning the decision, saying, “The decision of the BLM advisory board to recommend the destruction of the 45,000 wild horses currently in holding facilities is a complete abdication of responsibility for their care. The agency would not be in this situation but for their long-term mismanagement. Alternatives to this proposal have been ignored for over 20 years. It was suggested that mass equine euthanasia is necessitated by the overcrowding of holding facilities.
The nine-member advisory board is appointed by the Secretaries of the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture. It is made up of veterinarians and representatives of the public, the livestock industry, wildlife managers and horse advocates. The Board recommends action to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management but does not make policy. Horse advocate and documentary filmmaker Ginger Kathrens cast the only vote against the recommendation of slaughtering the horses.
A visit to SNOPES shows that the BLM itself did not vote to slaughter horses and has yet made a decision on the recommendation that they should do so. They won’t meet again until the spring of 2017. The intent behind the vote was to send a strong message to Washington, D.C., (and horse lovers all over the United States) so that this might happen. Dean Bolstad, Division Chief had been alluding to killing the captive wild horses earlier in the meeting.
As a result, a petition has been originated with signers quickly getting close to 75,000 signatures at press time. The petition says:
“The mass killing of 45,000 wild horses and burros could become reality if the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has its way.
On September 9, 2016 the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board recommended killing of captured wild horses and burros as an “emergency” measure. The agency wants to clear the holding pens so that it can round up 40,000 more wild horses and burros from their homes on the range.
Hours before the recommendation, the BLM cancelled cruel sterilization experiments on wild mares amidst growing public outrage and a barrage of lawsuits. Now the agency is focusing on mass killing of these national icons, but can only do so if Congress and the Administration authorize this lethal and heartless plan.
The American people will not stand for this. Tell the Administration and Congress that we want our wild horses and burros protected and preserved on our public lands, not rounded up and killed or sold for brutal slaughter.
This petition will be delivered to:
United States Department of the Interior
U.S. House of Representatives”
Click for petition>>
WHO’S FOR IT AND WHO’S AGAINST?
In June, a meeting for the House Subcommittee on Federal Lands heard from California Congressman Tom McClintock, who argued that wild horses are overpopulated.
Kathrens, director of The Cloud Foundation, explained, “Current management practices of round-up, removal and warehousing … cause compensatory reproduction – an increase in populations as a result of decreased competition for forage.” In other words, there would not be a surge in wild horses if the BLM hadn’t removed most of them from their land in the first place. According to Kathrens, cattle outnumber horses and burros 47 to 1, and livestock (cattle) are allocated 82 percent of the forage.
PREVIOUS ARTICLES ON THIS SUBJECT:
On July 23, 2015, I published factual article written by Rick Dennis in www.allaboutcutting.com that included astounding statistics. Horse Slaughter – Fact & Fiction, not only has economic statistics; it makes one wonder what the real reasons are for getting rid of the wild horses.
An article from the Daily Pitchfork said that 21,000 ranchers who graze their livestock (cattle) on Western rangelands are estimated to have cost the taxpayers $500 million in 2014 – and every year for the past decade and that a number of them are millionaires, billionaires and multi-billion-dollar corporations.
The fee they paid per month for an AUM (animal unit month) in 2014 was $1.35, the lowest price that can legally be charged, as the market prize to graze on private land is $21.60. The majority of this money is spent on range rehabilitation, leaving only approximately $7.9 million going into the U. S. Treasury.
It costs the BLM over $480 million a year to kill predators, $380 per rancher and 10 times that much ($3,809) to get rid of wild horses and burros – with most going to slaughter. In the end, special interest welfare (money going to ranchers, EPA, USDA, Dept of Justice and US Army Corp of Engineers) is estimated between $500 million and $1 billion a year.
In 2014 BLM and United States Forest Service (USFS) permit holders paid an estimated $18.5 million in fees to graze 1.14 million livestock units on the 229 million acres of federal land used for grazing. But only a fraction, between 1/3 and ¼, of that actually went into the Treasury. In other words 2/3 to ¾ of the low fees ranchers pay go back into their pockets. Public land ranchers were paid $376 for what cost taxpayers $6,838 in 2014.
Click for article>>
Another article was published on March 20, 2016 in AllAboutCutting.com, also written by Rick Dennis, entitled “Overbreeding, Over Population, Horse Slaughter: How each affects the Horse Industry.”
Dennis asks if the BLM is breaking the law. “The Wild and Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971” requires protection, management and control of wild, free-roaming horses and burros on public lands.”
Incidentally, the cattle ranchers only contribute approximately 2 percent of the overall beef production in the U.S.A. And how is BLM sidetracking the law? In his opinion, this is done by restricting the available land to wild and free-roaming horses and burros, while at the same time, introducing more cattle to fill the void that was previously available to the endogenous species. In other words, they are creating a mathematical shell game to justify their actions at the public’s expense.
Also, most public land grazers are receiving some type of government subsidy checks from the American Taxpayer. The adverse effect to the economy of the U.S. is that these checks are not limited to individually owned ranches but also include major corporations and millionaires and some from other countries who have tapped into loopholes in the system with their own public land leases. Some of these ranchers have adopted the theory that this use of public land is their individual right as they see fit. In reality, these federally protected lands were set aside for the public taxpayers of the United States and the BLM is the overseer – nothing more.
Another item is predator control, with the BLM spending millions of dollars each year on predator control to safeguard cattle on public lands. One of the adverse effects of predator removal is the non-controlling of wild mustangs and burro populations occurring naturally if left untouched by human hands. Simply put, the BLM has been a significant contributing factor in the removal of mustangs and burros by tampering with the natural balance of nature by caving to the demands of cattle ranchers, the beef industry, as well as lobbyists and special-interest groups. Sound familiar?
Click for full article>>
Also many unscrupulous horse dealers are buying these horses (many from the BLM) at pennies on the dollar and then shipping them to Mexico or Canada, where horse slaughter is legal – as well as to many slaughter houses in the United States that have not been closed down. Personally, I’ve looked in the yellow pages and found some of these slaughter plants listed. Even though they are illegal, they’re not even hiding!
However, one should keep in mind that slaughtered horses are not fit for human consumption because of the vast amount of drugs they have consumed in their lifetime. In fact, many drugs consumed by horses have a label saying that they “cause cancer and are unfit for human consumption.”
IS THE BLM AND USFS VIOLATING THE LAW?
On Jan. 9, 2016, Rick Dennis wrote a letter to the Office of the Inspector General in Washington, D.C., about the BLM and U.S. Forest Service actions regarding “The Wild Free-Roaming Horses ad Burros Act of 1971. On their website, the Office of the Inspector General claims their motto is to help prevent fraud, waste and abuse!
Dennis requested a criminal investigation into the abusive actions of the BLM and US. Forest Service, pertaining to their being in violation of The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. Dennis said a criminal investigation is warranted not only to save taxpayers dollars but also for the protection of America’s wild herbivore populations being born an living on public land and the punishment of ay federal employee found violating this law.
“They are violating their own rules,” said Dennis.
When asked if he got a response from his letter, Dennis said, “Yes, they called and said ‘They’d look into it.’ ” Rick suggests that the Inspector General be bombarded with calls, letters and e-mails regarding this matter at: Office of the Inspector General, 717 14th Street, N.W., 5th Floor, Washington, DC 20005. phone 202-727-2540, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click for copy of letter to Inspector General>>
With the poor economy and current overpopulation of horses driving down prices all over the country, it’s becoming more of a problem to find rescue facilities or individuals to take these mustangs. But to take away the sight of wild horses from the public to me is criminal. Many people go on vacation to the Western states just to get a sight of these magnificent animals; to me it’s a big part of our Western Heritage! And since it is public land that they are on, as American taxpayers, we should have the right to see them.
But the saddest fact of this whole situation is even worse – but typical: “It’s politics in motion and is all about the money!”
DR. MARLIN C, BAKER PASSES AWAY AT 78
A LEGEND IN THE EQUINE INDUSTRY WITH ROOTS IN COLORADO, MINNESOTA AND TEXAS
By Glory Ann Kurtz
Aug. 31, 2016
Dr. Marlin Baker
Photo by Kurtz
Dr. Marlin Clinton Baker passed away quietly on Saturday, Aug. 6, with his family by his side, at his home in Granbury, Texas, at the young age of 78. He wasn’t done with his work in the veterinarian field, but we had to give him up. He was the kindest, most patient veterinarian that I knew and when he took my stallion from me and led him to the barn with his right arm over his back, I realized how much he loved the horses he cared for and how much they trusted him.
Although I had used Dr. Baker previously, I first realized about his caring and deep interest in the horse industry, when he called me one day when I was with Quarter Horse News and had just published the first article written in the industry about HERDA. Dr. Baker told me that he had studied the disease for years and had kept pedigree records on the horses that had been brought to his clinic and had determined it was a genetic disease coming from the Doc Bar line.
Before Baker’s call, I had interviewed Nena Winand, a veterinarian and researcher for Cornell University, who after years of study had come to the educated conclusion that the disease was genetic and came from the line of Poco Lena. I told Dr. Baker about her work, and asked him to go back and check his records, and see if the horses he had seen with the “skin” disease went back to Doc O’Lena, who was by Doc Bar and out of Poco Lena, on their pedigrees, rather than Doc Bar. As it turned out, he checked the pedigrees, and discovered that they all went back to Doc O’Lena.
That was the beginning of a great friendship, as he had been reading my articles about spending the summer at my cabin in the Tarryall mountains in Park County, Colo. Dr. Baker shared with me that he was born and raised just a few miles from my cabin.
Dr. Baker was born on Oct. 24, 1937 in Boulder, Colo., to Victor and Helen Baker. He grew up in the Fairplay, Colo., area, often reminiscing with warm memories about the family homestead. In 1966, he obtained his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., and married Marilyn “Kay” Popino. The two of them built a very successful equine veterinary practice together and a family whom they raised to share their love of horses and rodeo.
Dr. Baker was the Instructor of Large Animal Medicine at the University of Minnesota, where he stablished Alpha Equine Clinic in Maple Plain, Minn., in 1969 and went on to develop Minnesota Equine Associates with five other veterinarians in 1972.
He came to Weatherford, Texas, in 1977, where he established Alpha Equine Hospital in 1978. It became the first All-Equine group practice and hospital in Parker County
In 1997, he developed a separate entity in Granbury, Texas – Alpha Equine Breeding Center. In 2015 he sold his interest in the Weatherford Hospital to two young veterinarians he had mentored and added a full veterinarian equine clinic at the breeding farm location. During this time, his son, Clint, managed the breeding farm and Kay took care of the books.
Dr. Baker was a 50-year-member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), a member of the Texas Veterinarian Medical Association (TVMA), a member of Society of Therogeneology, as well as a member of the AQHA and NCHA.
The year 2016 marked his 50th anniversary of practicing as an equine veterinarian and also was the 50th wedding anniversary of he and his wife Kay. His legacy was that being a vet was not a job to him but a part of him – his passion. His customers were his friends and he considered his friends his family.”
It seemed that his only other interests besides his family were raising Herefords, being an avid reader and sharing his knowledge. Most will remember him for is integrity – and I can attest to that, as when most veterinarians were giving horses the drugs their trainers wanted them to, he personally told me he didn’t want to be involved in that and refused to do it.
Dr. Baker is survived by his wife and son John Clinton Baker, as well as a daughter Marla Wharton and her husband Shawn; grandchildren Trevor Wharton, Taylor Wharton, Tatum Wharton and Ella Baker; brother Quentin Baker and wife, Pam; nephew Neil Baker; niece Jenny Frueh and countless friends and admirers, as well as his beloved little dog Itchi, who was always the first one to great his customers.
A celebration of life memorial will be held in October and an honorary memorial fund is being formed in lieu of flowers. You can check for more details at www.alphaequine.com.
Some of the information from this article was taken from the Fairplay Flume.
TAHC RELEASES UPDATE ON EQUINE HERPES IN COOKE COUNTY
Press release from TAHC
June 25, 2016
Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) officials released the premises quarantined for Equine Herpes Myeloencephalopathy (EHM) in Cooke County on June 22. There are no other reported EHM cases in Texas.
The first case of EHM in Cooke County was confirmed on May 24. Since the original case, six additional horses on the premises tested positive for the neuropathogenic strain of EHV-1. One of the test-positive horses exhibited neurologic signs consistent
with EHM, bringing the total number of EHM cases at this facility to two.
TAHC staff worked closely with the facility management and veterinarian to implement testing protocols and biosecurity measures. All test-positive horses (seven) on the premises were removed to an isolation area after being diagnosed. The premises
was released after more than 14 days of no new cases, and the previously positive horses tested negative for EHV-1.
TAHC is monitoring a situation at Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico, where a single horse has been diagnosed with EHM. The equine industry is encouraged to obtain the latest information on this outbreak and other disease events across the country by visiting
the Equine Disease Communication Center at:
For more information on protecting your horses from EHV-1 and other equine diseases,
visit our website
To learn more about EHM, visit
For more information contact the Communications Dept. at 512-719-0750 or at
TAHC EQUINE HERPES UPDATE:
June 15, 2016
Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) confirmed Equine Herpes Myeloencephalopathy (EHM) in a mare at a breeding farm in Cooke County, Texas on May 24. The affected farm was placed under quarantine and restricted from moving animals and semen.
Since the original confirmed EHM positive horse, six additional horses on the premises have tested positive for the neuropathogenic strain of EHV-1. One of the test positive horses exhibited neurologic signs consistent with EHM, bringing the total number of EHM cases at this facility to two.
TAHC staff works closely with the facility management and veterinarian to implement testing protocols and biosecurity measures. All affected horses (seven) on the premises were removed to an isolation area after being diagnosed. All remaining equine in the barn were monitored for elevated temperatures twice daily. Movement restrictions on these horses were lifted once they tested negative on nasal swabs taken 14 days after the affected horses were removed.
The seven affected horses are recovering and doing well at this time. They will remain under quarantine until all test negative on nasal swabs.
The equine industry is encouraged to obtain the latest information on this outbreak and other disease events across the country by visiting the Equine Disease Communication Center at: http://www.equinediseasecc.org/outbreaks.aspx
For more information contact the Communications Dept. at 512-719-0750 or at email@example.com
FROM THE EDITOR
ARE AQHA AND NCHA REALLY TRYING TO CHANGE?
AQHA SUPPORTS ANIMAL WELFARE; NCHA TALKS TRANSPARENCY
By Glory Ann Kurtz
May 17, 2016
With alarming drops in membership numbers and as a result finances, could it be possible that horse organizations are changing their course by trying to get members back who have left, woo new members and increase their dwindling youth participation and they are trying to figure out how to do it?
Two major associations in particular have made major changes to their rules, regulations and have published efforts to change or have renewed focus on their members and what they want. The major one is the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) who just held their convention in Las Vegas, Nev., and announced many changes. The other is the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA), whose Convention is on tap for June 24-26 in Grapevine, Texas.
The AQHA recently published a release from their new Executive Vice President Craig Huffhines, sharing some of their highlights from the AQHA Executive Committee meeting held April 26-28. Huffhines said, “Ensuring the humane treatment of the American Quarter Horse remains a priority for this Executive Committee, and much discussion occurred this week on continuing to improve upon monitoring at competition and the enforcement of an effective violation system. Another item included supporting and the advancement of their ranch programs and youth development.”
They recently published their financial statements that showed a lot of downs, including net assets that decreased from $102,425,786 in 2014 to $96,632,667 in 2015.
An article by Katie Tims in the May 1, 2015 Quarter Horse News stated that the latest financial statement shows a $5.3 million decrease in the value of the AQHA’s investments. In an interview with Trent Taylor, AQHA Treasurer and Chief Operating Officer, he said about $2 million of that is explained by a dip in the stock market that coincided with the close of the AQHA’s fiscal year.” He continued that in the past decade we have relied heavily on our investments and our earnings from those investments to help offset some of our operational expenses. We have been using those funds to help keep operations going without having to have additional increases in fees or cutting out programs. It is standard practice for a nonprofit to have one year’s operating budget in reserve, so it’s important that we wean ourselves off of using investment money to cover operations. We need to build those reserves back to stay strong and healthy for the future.”
Taylor continued that the AQHA had spent a great deal of their reserves on the computer database system. “But this investment is absolutely required to move AQHA forward. Right now, we’re using technology that was put into place in 1992. We’re talking about millions and millions of records and they’re all related and they’re all tied back together.”
One big surprise in the financials was the fact that the AQHA has a $600,000 loan with the Amarillo National Bank, with monthly payments of $10,798, interest at 3%, maturing May 1, 2018, secured by Negative Pledge Agreement. Balance $331,281. Also, there is a $1,375,000 loan with Amarillo National Bank, monthly payment of $24,683, interest at 2.85%, maturing May 1, 2019; Unsecured. Balance $1,029,317.
Click for 2014-2015 Consolidated Financial Statements>>
Membership is also down considerably; however, Taylor said they had only a 1 percent decrease in membership this year, which is good news because it’s the smallest decrease we’ve had since 2007. The past three years have been almost level. To me, that’s a positive sign. It’s sure better than having a double-digit decrease.” Also youth membership is down 26% from since 2006. In a Town Hall meeting, AQHA Chief Marketing Officer Lauren Walsh said the youth membership, or lack thereof, is the 800-pound gorilla in Amarillo.
Click for AQHA membership chart>>
AQHA’s attention turns to animal welfare:
However, prior to the AQHA Convention, the AQHA issued a press release on the results of the AQHA Animal Welfare Grievance Committee’s list of violations, which would be forwarded to the Executive Committee. The Committee was established four years ago. It stated that AQHA’s utmost concern is for the health and well-being of the American Quarter Horse. Part of their mission statement says that the “American Quarter Horse shall be treated humanely, with dignity,, respect and compassion at all times.”
According to AQHA Executive Vice President Craig Huffhines, “AQHA’s goal is to educate both members and non-members on the issue of animal welfare. It is our responsibility to ensure the health and safety of our horse – the American Quarter Horse.”
Click for Animal Welfare violations>>
On May 13, 2016, two press releases from the AQHA went out. “Animal Welfare: A Continuing Effort” reported on the AQHA Executive Committee continuing to make strides for The benefit of the American Quarter Horse at their April meeting in Amarillo. The press release said that “Actions that will take place in 2016 based on the Executive Committee decisions include: 1) AQHA will develop a resource document outlining the steps members can take when they call AQHA with an animal-abuse complaint. 2) AQHA will work collaboratively with the American Association of Equine Practitioners, United States Equestrian Federation and the American Horse Council to develop biosecurity isolation protocol guidelines to include vaccination guidelines that could be implemented at AQHA-approved shows. 3) AQHA will amend its current rule that prohibits the use of dye or other substances to alter or hide natural markings to also include the prohibition of dye to hide abuse and 4) AQHA will prohibit the use of belly bands at AQHA events starting June 1, 2016.
Also, AQHA will continue to periodically publish news release on its website with the names of people and unsportsmanlike conduct, as well as recommendations approved by the Executive Committee. An article in Horse Talk, calls this the ‘Name And Shame’ policy.
Click for animal welfare release>>
The other release listed added show rules, including SHW 300.2 – AQHA judges have the authority to require the removal or alteration of any piece of equipment or accouterment which is unsafe, or in his opinion would tend to give a horse an unfair advantage or which he believes to be inhumane. AQHA judges will now have the authority to also disqualify exhibitors for any piece of accouterment or attire that would give an exhibitor an unfair advantage. The amended or new rules will be effective June 1.
Click for AQHa Show Rules Press Release>>
These releases from the AQHA are a step in the right direction; however, the question now is will the AQHA enforce these rules or will they will adhered to by the judges like the movement of the pleasure horse – and be ignored.
An example of this is even though the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is getting involved and plans to take their big step to strengthen the Horse Protection Act, since current regulations are failing to protect horses from a core group of trainers and owners who ignore them. A press release dated April 4, 2016 from the USDA, states that a segment of the Tennessee walking horse industry is showing no willingness to root out the abuse festering in its ranks – soring. The USDA recently revealed that a startling 87.5 percent of horses the agency randomly selected for testing at the 2015 Celebration, the industry’s premier event, were found positive for illegal foreign substances used to sore horses or temporarily numb them to mask their pain during inspection. Also 100 percent of the sampled horses’ leg wrappings tested positive for chemicals banned from use in the show ring by the USDA.
Click for USDA article>>
THE NCHA AND TRANSPARENCY:
With the membership and financials of the NCHA going in the same direction as the AQHA’s, they have turned to their members and promised “transparency.” This all started when members and contestants evidently didn’t realize that the association was in a dire financial position as it had not received expected state money from the Major Event Trust Fund (METF) of the state of Texas – and that they may never receive it. (as a side note, I notice the NCHA is still requesting donations on their Triple Crown entry blanks, for the NCHA PAC, which gives donations to congressional members who might have a say on who receives the METF money).
When it came time for the Futurity, members didn’t realize until they received they win checks that the event was simply a “jackpot,” and there had been no money added to the NCHA Futurity purse, the largest event that the NCHA holds annually and is the first of the Triple Crown events.
Contestants, trainers and members were appalled and social media went crazy. However, Jim Bret Campbell, the new NCHA Executive Director jumped into action and decided that it was time for transparency – something that the Executive Committee had evidently never previously thought was needed.
A Town Hall meeting was immediately held in Fort Worth and since then, three other Town Hall meetings were scheduled at the NCHA Eastern National Championships in Jackson, Miss., the NCHA Super Stakes and the NCHA Western National Championships in Denver. During these meetings, Campbell informed the membership of another problem: they were close to losing all of their records due to their out-dated information technology (IT), and they desperately needed an upgrade, which they are currently in the middle of – and it’s not cheap!
According to an article in the May 15, 2016 Quarter Horse News, Editor Stacy Pigott, interviewed Campbell who said that membership is trending downward and the number of affiliates are shrinking. (Less than 10 years ago, there were 138 affiliates. In 2015 there were 103.) The number of horses that won money and the entries at regional affiliate championship shows are also dropping. He also said that while entries at the NCHA’s Triple Crown shows are up, it is a result of the same people entering more classes, rather than a greater number of people showing. There is also a decline in the entries at the Eastern and Western National Championship shows.
Click for QHN article on NCHA Convention>>
What Campbell didn’t mention is that other cutting associations are springing up and having successful shows, some with a different menu of classes based toward newcomers and those who have not won a lot of money. One association counts aged-event money won by horses as earnings; therefore, those horses that won money at the NCHA Triple Crown and other aged events, can’t enter their Novice Horse classes – making them true Novice Horse classes.
Also, a lot of members have drifted off to less-expensive horse events such as the fast-growing ranch horse competitions. Also, like the AQHA, the NCHA’s youth membership is also shrinking. If the parents leave the AQHA or NCHA, so do their children.
I commend the NCHA and Campbell for holding the Town Hall meetings; however, I think that they should inform ALL of their members about what went on in those meetings and how their Executive Committee has responded – and what changes are being planned. Possibly some of this will be addressed at the NCHA Convention scheduled for June 24-26 at the Hilton DFW Lakes in Grapevine, Texas.
FROM THE EDITOR:
COULD THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TAKE OVER DRUG POLICIES FOR ALL HORSE EVENTS?
By Glory Ann Kurtz
May 5, 2016
The thought of the federal government being in charge of the drug policies in the horse industry is pretty scary. However, that may happen sooner than we think.
During a Congressional Hearing on Thursday, April 16, it was reported by the Baltimore Sun that former Maryland Jockey Club chief executive Joseph A. De Francis told members that “the public’s dwindling confidence in American horse racing’s medication policies has reached a critical state, bordering on an industry crisis.” He said the industry has failed “to address on a national level,” the issue of abuse and misuse of racehorse medications.
Click for Baltiimore Sun article>>
This speech came only days after Jess C. Meche, a 21-year-old exercise rider at Delta Downs Racetrack in Vinton, La., died in a training accident on April 11. Meche, Church Point, La., was killed when a Quarter Horse, Czech Revolution, fractured both front legs, throwing the rider to the ground, landing on the jockey’s head and upper body. Sound like a terrible accident? And what did the death of a Quarter Horse exercise rider have to do to with a Congressional hearing on drugs in the Thoroughbred racing business?
Plenty. According to the Paulick Report, a top racing website, “Czech Revolution was trained by M. Heath Taylor, who in September 2012 was suspended five years and fined $10,000 by the Louisiana State Racing Commission for a Dermorphin positive at Delta Downs last May 25. Dermorphin, also known as frog juice because it originally came from a secretion from South American free frogs, is a powerful pain killer classified as a Class 1 drug by the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI). Class 1 drugs are considered performance-enhancing substances and the most dangerous by the RCI and serve no therapeutic use in horses.”
Pain killers obviously make horses run faster, even with legs and knees that aren’t sound, causing joints to give away when they are running either maiming or killing the horse and/or the rider.
ARE TOP TRAINERS GETTING OUT?
Another article in the Paulick Report reported that trainer Dale Romans, who has won major races around the globe, from the Group 1 Dubai World Cup with Roses in May, the G1 Preakness Stakes with Shackleford, to numerous Breeders’ Cup races, has become disenchanted with the state of racing in the U.S. (due to the use of drugs) and appears to be eager to make a major change as he nears his 50th birthday. He indicated that he would love to join the training ranks in Hong Kong, should a license become available.
Romans said he was “sick of what’s happened to the sport in the U. S. I’m done with it. I’m a horseman and I think races should be won by the better horseman, not something else. I was very impressed with what I saw in Hong Kong when I was there and I know that, because the vet side of racing is so tightly controlled there. It’s the superior horseman who will succeed. They’ve never had an American trainer but if they want me, I’d love to train there.”
Click for Romans article>>
HOW ARE QUARTER HORSE TRAINERS GETTING OUT OF SUSPENSIONS?
Taylor, a leading trainer in the Quarter Horse business, obtained a stay of his Louisiana suspension, as did Alvin Smith Jr. (suspended 10 years); John Darrel Soileau (10 years); Alonzo Loya (five years); Kyi Lormand (3 years); Anthony Agilar (six years) and Gonzalo Gonzales (3 years. Only Keith Charles, among the eight trainers suspended in Louisiana for having a horse in their care test positive for Dermorphin, accepted the penalty without filing an appeal.
How are they getting away with this? According to the Paulick Report article, Quarter Horse racetracks in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and California have used their private property rights to exclude trainers with recent Class 1 violations, including the Louisiana trainers with Dermorphin suspensions. The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) also announced sanctions against the trainers with Class 1 violations, suspending their AQHA memberships and disqualifying their horses from Racing Championships or year-end honors. (See below as the AQHA recently suspended this program.)
Click for Paulick Report on exercise rider’s death>>>
However, Louisiana racetracks have not followed suit. Boyd Gaming, a publicly traded company, who owns 22 casino entertainment properties in Nevada, New Jersey, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, owns Delta Downs and another Louisiana track, Evangeline Downs. Horses that suffer fatalities in Louisiana do not undergo post-mortem examination or toxicology tests!
In the meantime, Quarter Horse training accidents are killing horses jockeys and exercise riders at an alarming rate across the country. In his speech during Congressional hearing, De Francis said, “The erosion of public confidence has reached a critical state and I truly believe that we are just one catastrophic breakdown in a Triple Crown race away from destroying public confidence to the point where it would be decades before the sport could recover – if it ever would.” He continued, saying , “There’s no doubt that the horse racing industry is currently in a state of crisis.”
The hearing at the U.S. Capitol examined legislation requiring that a uniform anti-doping program be developed and enforced by an independent authority. Advocates of the bill say the sport, which is overseen by several dozen state commissions with varying rules, needs more uniformity to curb equine medication abuses. Opponents argue that such an approach would usurp states’ rights ad create an unneeded new layer of bureaucracy.
WHY THE SUDDEN CHANGE IN THE AQHA’S STANCE?
In addition, on March 7, 2016, the AQHA announced their new Multiple Medication Violation System (MMVS) was being suspended to more thoroughly evaluate the MMVS program. According to AQHA President Dr. Glenn Blodgett, “AQHA continually evaluates the cost and benefit of the program to ensure that AQHA resources are devoted in the most effective way for achieving the goals of the program.
“The creation by AQHA of a comprehensive database of drug violations across all racing jurisdictions has required tremendous resources and one that going forward would require AQHA to triple the number of staff assigned to the program These additional staff members would be needed to properly document violations, enter such violations in the database, and to provide notices of violations to both the racing jurisdictions and the violators themselves.
“The AQHA Executive Committee has determined that the time is right to conduct a thorough evaluation of the MMVS prior to allocating additional resources to the program,” said Dr. Blodgett. “In order to conduct the necessary evaluation, it makes sense to temporarily suspend the MMVS program so that the current resources and staff assigned to processing MMVS files can instead turn their attention and efforts to the evaluation process.”
Click for full MMVS article published by AQHA>>
My question is, “Is this costly endeavor being discontinued because the AQHA feels that the federal government will soon be controlling it and they can save their money, do they feel that state laws could override their penalties or is the fact they are involved in Quarter Horse Racing and each year a member of their Executive Committee is deeply involved?
HOW DOES THIS AFFECT THE PERFORMANCE HORSE INDUSTRY?
Frank Merrill wrote an interesting article in the April 15 issue of Quarter Horse News regarding the federal take-over of the drug problem in horses, saying , “A federal mandate governing equine medication and punishment for violations could very well be the answer to our welfare concerns. But it’s imperative that the feds are presented with our own set of rules and guidelines (by horsemen, for horsemen). If left to their own discretion, the feds will structure policies that none of us can live with and, as a result, our industry will suffer greatly.” I think he has hit the nail on the head!
Click for Frank Merrill article>>
A RE-RUN FOR RICK DENNIS:
Rick Dennis’s Certificate from the United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, dating as far back as 1973.
Rick Dennis, Wind River Company LLC, is a frequent writer for this website and has written several articles on drugs in horses, including one from Aug. 6, 2014 published on www.allaboutcutting.com, called “The Mechanical Horse – A Horse Under the Influence of Drugs.”
Click for “The Mechanical Horse”>>
Rick’s been there and done that. He has a Certificate from the United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, dating as far back as 1973, and his Drug and Alcohol interdiction Programs have been an industry leader in the private sector since Jan. 28, 1984. His modified drug-interdiction program, i.e. augmented drug law enforcement programs adaptable for private industry use, revolutionized private-sector drug and alcohol-interdiction programs. He is celebrating his 29th year as a Third Party Administrator (TPA) administering DOT employee drug and alcohol testing programs in the private sector.
More importantly, he’s been involved inn Congressional Hearings on drugs! He was the first security professional to provide consultation services to a U.S. Senate Subcommittee, U.S. Navy and Department of Defense referencing private sector drug interdiction programs for adoption and interphase with the U.S. Military; the first security professional to establish an employee drug-testing laboratory in Louisiana: Certified Lab Inc., in 1987 and the first security professional to author, implement and maintain a drug- and alcohol-testing program designed specifically for contractor application for Exxon Company, USA Mobile Bay Construction Project, Mobile Bay, Ala
Click for Rick Dennis experience and achievements>>
I asked Rick if these congressional hearings have any correlation with what he experienced in the problem of drugs within the military and for company employees. Following was his response:
“The recent Federal hearings on drug testing in the equine industry are reminiscent of how the federalism of drug and alcohol testing in the private sector began. Initially, the hearings were billed as, “looking for solutions to the drug and alcohol abuse in the private sector to reduce accident rates and provide a safer working environment for employees.” Opponents to drug and alcohol testing alluded to the fact the federal program would never come to fruition. However, after a series of congressional hearings in 1986 and 1987 the reality of federal drug and alcohol testing of employees became a reality in the private sector in 1988 and continues today.
“During the initial or embryo stages of the federal drug and alcohol mandate hearings, I was summoned to Washington D.C. and testified before a Senate subcommittee and was quizzed about the types of drugs my private company was seizing in the private sector as well as the job environment the employees were working in. In fact, my private sector Company specialized in designing, implementing and maintaining drug and alcohol prevention policies to prevent drug abuse among the workforce. The drug prevention program included employee and supervisor training as well as searches of employees, their personal effects, vehicles and company-provided housing (where applicable).
“The initial federal drug-testing mandate was designed by Mr. Rip Rippert in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA). The federal drug and alcohol testing requirements were included in the federal register under 49, CFR, Part 40 drug and alcohol testing rules and regulations. The program has a broad scope, as it does today and includes: The FAA, oil and gas pipelines, Federal highway, marine industry, nuclear industry, etc. The federal guidelines included laboratory testing and certification standards, sample collection, transport and retainment protocols, records retention, privacy, reporting protocols, drugs tested for and Medical Review Officer standards.
“The federal program also included fines and punishment for certain employees in designated positions. For example, ‘boat captains with U.S. Coast Guard licenses failing a drug or alcohol test are suspended after a confirmed positive, ordered to a disciplinary hearing before a Coast Guard tribunal and usually lose their licenses and their jobs. Subsequent to same, the employee is required to attend mandatory drug and alcohol rehabilitation at his or her personal non-refundable expense. After successfully completing mandatory rehabilitation, the employee is allowed to reapply for his or her license. However, there’s no guarantee the license will be reinstated. It’s essentially, a very expensive proposition for the violator.
“I see the same type of atmosphere brewing today in the horse industry. Overall, if the horse industry doesn’t want to experience the same federal takeover of their industry under a federally mandated drug-testing program, my advice would be to take care of their industry themselves. In essence, along with federal mandates comes a rapid vast expansion of government control and regulations as well as broad fines and penalties for the violator and non-compliant company or individual … or in the case of the horse industry, the non-compliant association and/or members.”
WHY SHOULD WE WORRY?
What does this possible federal intervention mean? If you are a horse owner and do something with your horse, other than feed it and look at it, you will be affected financially … even if you have no intention of using drugs. Whether you are a cutter or a reiner, or involved with the reined cow horse, mounted shooting, barrel racing, Western or English pleasure, halter, racing or even just trail riding, you will be affected. Your association, whether it be large or only 25-30 members will be affected. Your veterinarian will be affected. The sale companies will be affected. And the money will come from you.
The federal government has already gotten involved in horse abuse cases – and they will include horse-abuse cases with across-the-board penalties that will be very costly, not only to events, associations and horse farms but to individuals. It will no longer be a state’s decision, as it is today with the horse abuse laws. (Today, animal abuse is a felony, only if the state allows it to be.)
Instead of trying to figure out a way to get out of the penalties of using drugs, or ways to keep them from being detected, those in the industry – both individuals and associations or events – need to try to figure out a way to unite and keep drugs out of their horses and events. I just hope it’s not too late.