Taneytown horse trainer fined $500

December 02, 1992|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

A Taneytown trainer has been fined $500 and disqualified from showing horses for eight months after signing a consent decision in September under the federal Horse Protection Act.

However, Margaret H. Smith, who did not admit or deny guilt in the consent decision, said yesterday that she is innocent of the charges and agreed to sign because she could not afford to fight the case.

The 10-year trainer said she has never been accused of any other horse violations.

"I've known trainers that have spent $50,000 to $100,000 [taking a case through administrative hearings]," said Ms. Smith, who has shown walking horses for 30 years. "Horse trainers aren't very wealthy, you know."

Ms. Smith, the trainer for a horse named Super Roma, was charged with violating the act when she entered the gelding walking horse in the Putnam County Fair in Cookeville, Tenn., on July 19, 1990.

The federal Horse Protection Act, administered by the United States Department of Agriculture, prohibits showing, selling or transporting a horse that has been sored.

In soring, a controversial practice in the walking horse industry, chemical or mechanical agents are used to make a horse's feet hurt so that it will pick them up higher in an exaggerated gait.

"I don't think you will find anybody admitting that it is done, but it is still a practice in the walking horse industry," said Robin Lohnes, executive director of the American Horse Protection Association, which opposes soring. "In order to be competitive, one has to resort to artificial manipulation because that is what the judges are pinning [awarding ribbons] in the show ring.

"This is an artificial gait created by the industry, and in order for the industry to survive, their creation has to continue."

The charging documents in Ms. Smith's case do not describe how she allegedly sored the horse.

In her defense, Ms. Smith said Super Roma, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Archibald Hubbard of Sanford, N.C., was not sored, but inspected improperly.

Although federal law suggests that a designated qualified person, or horse industry member certified by the USDA, inspect each horse before it enters the ring, the Putnam County Fair organizers did not have anyone there to check the horses.

Two USDA veterinarians inspected the animals as they left the ring, and one simply reached down and grabbed Super Roma's hoof to look at it, rather than sliding his hand down the animal's leg, Ms. Smith said.

"I didn't like the way he was going about checking the animals," she said. "Most inspectors use their thumb and touch around like the dial of the clock, but he reached down and grabbed with his whole hand. To me it was not a very fair evaluation."

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