Walt Bogdanich ,The New York Times,Walt Bogdanich, The United States Equestrian Federation and the United States Olympic Committee Turning a Blind Eye on Drugging at USEF Sanctioned Shows New York New York
Walt Bogdanich, the Pulitzer Prize Award Winning Investigative Reporter who wrote an article containing false information regarding the tragic death of my pony, along with high ranking members of the United States Equestrian and the United States Olympic Committee are turning a blind eye to recent events transpiring at USEF Sanctioned Competitions. Even though the United States Equestrian Federation is claiming to enact new drug and medication rules and investigative procedures, they are sweeping alleged accounts of abuse and drugging under the rug.
I have reached out to the Sonja Keating, USEF's In House General Counsel, John Long, the USEF's CEO, Chrystine Tauber, the USEF President and each and every board member of the USEF, in addition to select committee members of the USHJA and received only one response out of over 100 people emailed. I have also copied the USOC's general counsel (John Ruger and Gary Johansen) on my emails.
I am saddened as I have been instrumental in opening the USEF's eyes to many problems with in the system and having been pushing HARD for reform. At the very least, something good should come out of my ponies tragic death. I have been and am still being used by the USEF as a scapegoat when they knew New Bolton cleared me of any wrongdoing. That is okay as it has brought a subject to the surface that needs reform in this industry. If I have to be the catapult for change then so be it. My shoulder's are broad and my passion endless for these beautiful creatures.
Recently their was a lawsuit filed against a trainer for alleged abuse of a pony and misrepresentation. In addition to the lawsuit filed, this trainer recently admittedly had her head groom signed the entry blanks at USEF sanctioned competitions and her response was that her lawyer advised her to do so. This was after one of the horses under her care and custody "dropped" ringside and allegedly defecated and urinated all over itself at a USEF sanctioned competition. This horse miraculously recovered and showed that DAY and NIGHT and they had a minor child state it was a "bee sting". Great publicity move in my opinion. I have never seen a bee sting cause such a reaction nor would I show my animal twice if it had such a severe reaction to a bee sting. I was not present and only heard and read of accounts but I am disheartened that the USEF has not instituted action or an investiagtion against this trainer, who also happens to be a USEF judge, on the USEF Drugs and Medication Committee and the USEF Pony Committee. The "not signing as trainer" when you stand by the ingate of animals you train for large sums of money raises RED FLAGS. How many trainers need to consult their attorneys before signing a USEF entry blank?
In the lawsuit which was filed in the New York Supreme Court, the plaintiff alleges that a PONIES FEET WERE BLOCKED (numbed with some sort of substance so the pony could not feel its sore feet) and her child rode the pony for USEF Pony Finals 2012 (the largest pony competition of the year). It states the pony is now 8 years old and must live its life muzzled in a field due to rotation of its coffin bone. I only hope this pony is not suffering beyond having to be muzzled for turnout for the rest of its life.
I have witnessed and will sign a sworn affidavit under the pains of perjury in relation to an incident in 2008 where I saw a pony under the custody and control of this same trainer come off a trailer too lame to compete. I witnessed it misbehave in the schooling area, still very lame and being jumped non-stop by a junior jockey. As I was waiting for the pony division to begin, I watched this entire set of events occur and was floored. The pony was then taken back to the trailer and logically I thought it was to be scratched. To my surprise the pony resurfaced 100% sound, competed and ribboned. My only conclusion was that the ponies feet were blocked so that it could compete. In my experience, a stone bruise, twisted shoe, abscess or sore feet could not be resolved this quickly. At that time, I had no idea that a ponies feet could be blocked without using USEF banned substances but unfortunately I have come to learn this is common practice in this industry. I also doubt they had a vet on board their trailer at a local show and query who performed the alleged blocking of the ponies feet. To think a child would be put on a pony that could not feel it's front feet is frightening and endangers the child's life. I gave this trainer the benefit of the doubt until this lawsuit surfaced.
This is not the first time I have heard of this occurring, as a friend of mine witnessed this being done to her horse by a different trainer at Saratoga and told me of what she witnessed as she hid behind a barn unseen. She called me to ask what I thought they injected/blocked her horse with and I had no idea but asked around and heard of a few non USEF banned substances that were being used. To think this procedure was done by a trainer, at a USEF sanctioned competition, not under sterile conditions or by a trained veterinarian is frightening. To think her child was put on this horse to compete when it could not feel its feet is even more frightening. Her horse suffered bruising afterward to the point he needed rest and was never the same again.
I also was up late one night at a USEF sanctioned show, as one of my ponies was not feeling well, went to check on him and scooted over to the bathroom and witnessed a USEF judge and trainer "bloodletting" a small pony hunter in the middle of the night. I was horrified and froze, sickened by what I saw. I had never heard of this before and saw a bucket of blood next to the pony. I was told later that this was referred to as "bloodletting" and it was used to drain animals of energy. I thought of reporting this incident but had no proof it occurred but have since learned other trainers were also aware of what this R Judge and trainer was doing to this very same pony. I can not stay silent any longer and will also and will sign a sworn affidavit under the pains of perjury regarding this event. I watched the pony go the next day and since that time lost all respect for this individual.
I have also seen personally and heard of stories of another trainers ponies flipping in the ring on more than one occassion. One pony even did so with this trainers child. In my experience, ponies take care of themselves and will do their best to keep themselves out of danger. I have never had a pony flip nor have I ever had a child injured while under my supervision. My daughter has been riding since she was 6 years old and has only suffered minor injuries and she has ridden and we have TRAINED some of the toughest ponies in the country that were considered throw aways. One such pony was sold to me without disclosing it had been crashed numerous times in the days before its purchase through the pony finals auction. The trainer and agent who sold it to me laughed years later when she disclosed this to me. I hardly found this funny. I returned a pony to this same trainer before the above happened when she sent me a pony for my daughter to ride and wanted me to inject it with large amounts of depo. I refused to do so and the pony is now just making a comeback in the small pony ring. Here's hoping that it grew up over the last couple of years.
I also leased an equitation horse from a trainer for my daughter who insisted it be kept in another trainers barn. That should have been my first hint. On winter break, we showed up one day unexpectedly and the horse spun and spooked and reared. The next day, I made sure to show up unexpected again and the same thing happened. I demanded the horse be placed in my care so I could see if the horse would work in my program. I quickly figured out the horse was being drugged every time my daughter rode him and was not as represented. I returned the horse and NO REFUND was given. I drove up to a horse show 2 hours away after it was returned to watch the horse compete with an experienced junior and he squatted and hardly made it around a 3'6" course. I walked up to the trainer and point blank asked him what was being given to the horse and he admitted it was being given magnesium. Still no refund was given and this was considered standard operating procedurte even though my daughter was being placed on its back? I walked away disgusted. I heard the horse, which was obviously unrideable without drugs was donated to Texas A&M. Months later I received a call from the same "friend" (someone who loves to stir the pot) who told me it had been donated and was told the horse landed a Texas A&M student in the hospital with a concussion. I have no idea the validity of the statements made by this person but did not think it was impossible that this would happen to someone riding this horse. I have never seen the horse again and its USEF recording number has disappeared from the USEF search engine. Coincidentally, this was a trainer who was one of the agents in the lawsuit filed above.
It is also my understanding through the grapevine (rumormill) that trainers are using masking drugs to ensure they do not drug test positively. I have no idea the validity of the statements made to me and can not even fathom what the masking agents would be used or even are but hope this is not being done to these beautiful and submisssive creatures.
It is mind boggling that the USEF, USHJA and USOC are turning a blind eye to these abuses and what is going on in our industry and has not immediately enacted a temporary suspension in accordance with GR609. The events that have occurred over the course of the last few months give rise to the welfare of animals and children under this trainers care. We already know of one animal who has allegedly suffered and to think how many more are or have been subject to the same alleged torture is unthinkable. I also purchased an expensive pony who went through dexamethasone withdrawal and lost much of its hair and mane. Vet records to prove it as the pony was having such a severe reaction, it needed to be weaned off the dex. I was floored. It was weaned off the dex by the same vet who prepurchased it and drug tested it. No dex showed up but there was enough in that ponies system to throw it into withdrawal.
The unresponsiveness of the USEF is egregious. I was told by USHJA Vice President, Mary Babick, that change is slow and that the USEF wants to hear both sides of the story. It took six months to adjudicate my tragedy even though I gave the USEF full access to my animals at Devon and all supporting documentation. A steward never even showed up to hear my side of the story and should have been immediately present and was being called for. They knew I was innocent and if you read the transcript of my hearing Ms. Keating actually tried to assist the proponent when the USEF knew she sent me threatening emails, in an attempt to bring me down. Even the credit card company to which she filed a dispute did not believe her claim. Mr. Danford Esq, the USEF Hearing Panel's attorney, tried to have this testimony stricken from the record but it stands and we have emails to support Ms. Keating's efforts and the proponents threatening emails. Unfortunately, I did nothing wrong so Ms. Keating's attempts were fruitless. She can backfill the Hearing's decision and slant it any way she wants but I was adjudicated. It seems to me, as In House General Counsel, she should put her time to better use. As an aside, two USEF Board members have openly defamed my name, one even going so far as to make fun of me on his Facebook page.
I attempted to have GR609 in regard to temporary suspensions modified and Ms. Keating drew a line in the sand and would not budge. THE RULE STANDS! It seems this General Rule only applies to the masses and not to the USEF's inner circle. I was told by a board member that this was only to be used in the case of a "smoking gun"? If this gun isn't smoking than I do not understand that concept. What about all of the other smolking guns?
Since the tragic death of my pony, I have been forging a campaign for immediate reform in this industry. In fact, I emailed the New York Times, before they even were aware of my ponies death and the false claims made against me which were adjudicated. I alerted them to the rampant drug abuse in this industry and they ignored my email. The email sent was forwarded to Mr. Bogdanich but it was ignored in his article along with other relevant facts as they did not serve his purpose. Quoted in the article was a USEF member who had been sanctioned for a drug violation, hardly a credible source. This source along with every other source who made a statement against me either owed me money, had been a former employee who took advantage of my generosity, or worse was an unstable mother/client who was asked to leave my barn. Ms. Keating, when confronted by my attorney, admitted Mr. Long misinformed the New York Times and instructed my attorney to correct it. Mr. Bogdanich had an agenda and it was hardly an investigative report about the rampant "drugging" in our industry. Frankly, it did not even touch the surface.
The USEF while they talk a good game at these highly publicized Town Hall Meetings has yet to put their money where their mouth is. I am told the rule changes will take effect in 2014. I believe the Carolina Gold Hearings "buzz" was a farce to scare trainers into not using the product. I immediately asked New Bolton to test my pony for Carolina's Gold, as well as other substances, to prove my innocence. One of the top clinics in the United States did not have access to this test and could not get their hands on it. I scoured for information on the whereabouts of the test, the validity of the test and the accuracy of the test and came to realize the torrid truth. Trainers are still using Carolina's Gold and BRAGGING about not drug testing positive.
I have been researching the drug abuse from within and have found out some abhorrent practices by some top trainers to which the USEF has turned a blind eye. Out of all of the animals that died at USEF competitions last year, of which I am told is over 20 that WERE reported, mine was the only one investigated. Top trainers whose animals either "dropped" or died were not investigated and stewards and show management turned a blind eye.
The constant pressure I have been putting on the USEF has instituted some rule changes but they are by far not enough. Animals continue to suffer at the hands of unscrupulous trainers and the USEF continues to use scare tactics and turn a blind eye only using people outside their inner circle as scapegoats.
I will work tirelessly at this worthy cause, as I have my first set of foals on the ground and refuse to allow them to fall victim to these egregious practices. They were bred to be performance ponies and are out of some of the most respected pony bloodlines which I have taken years to assemble. I look at them everyday and wonder what life holds for them. If I did not act and ensure their future wellbeing, I would be remiss. I refuse to be silenced. I am not willing to risk their wellbeing. Not one of them.
Does the USEF, USHJA or USOC really want to take the risk of more incidents or another animal being left to a field for the rest of its life muzzled in misery or god forbid a child or rider being hurt? The USEF's liability is endless with the string of events to date. The USEF, USHJA and USOC must take immediate action and at the very least institute an investigation into these alleged events.
I have already filed complaints with the ASPCA, PETA and animal welfare as well as my email campaign stated above. Slow change, as stated by Mary Babick, is NOT the answer. TOTAL AND IMMEDIATE REFORM is NEEDED. The USEF, USHJA and the USOC must not turn a blind eye and protect its inner circle at the expense of animals and riders, especially children.
Ms. Keating can send all the emails she wants to the USEF Board Members, USHJA Committe Members and the USOC. They can make their way to every judge out there. We all know whats going on and its time for the people I emailed to STAND UP TO THIS ABUSE OF THE SYSTEM and ANIMALS. I am tired of hearing USEF Board Members, USHJA Committee Members and Judges tell me they are afraid to speak up because they will be cast out of favor. It is time to stand up for these beautiful animals and take a stance.