The Chronicle of the Horse reached out to Larry Glefke for comment on the result of his USEF rehearing, and this is his response in full. This is his personal statement and not the opinion of The Chronicle of the Horse.
I write this letter with the assumption that those reading it know who I am and have followed, at least in part, the highly publicized findings against me by U.S. Equestrian, formerly U.S. Equestrian Federation, formerly American Horse Shows Association.
As an active participant in the USHJA International Hunter Derby Program, I have had the unique opportunity to show the past seven years or so all across the country, attending almost every major venue from one coast to the other. This, coupled with the success of my horses, has not only made me one of the most tested members of the USEF, but has also given me an extremely broad perspective of the hunter show scene.
The general perception is likely that this is the story of a bad guy who got caught cheating. I own that I am an intense individual who has never shrunk from expressing my opinion, perhaps not always in the most eloquent or politically correct way. Every story has at least two sides, and this is my story regarding my interaction with the USEF over the past seven years in what I can only categorize as a witch hunt.
The Chronicle’s Ann Glavan was the first media member to come to me directly and ask for my side of the story. As many know, The Chronicle of the Horse was invited by me to attend my hearing in June, regarding GABA charges and were denied the opportunity by the USEF, despite our current president, Murray Kessler, continually touting transparency within the federation being at the forefront of his mission as the USEF’s leader.
I have promised Ann full transparency, access to the transcripts and the freedom to respond to this letter in any fashion that she wants. In the true spirit of transparency, I have no problem with all of this being public. I am not seeking public sympathy but am looking to shed light on some of the very non-transparent actions that the USEF has done in their dealings with me. Although I feel like I have been specifically targeted, many of the USEF’s actions have implications that go far beyond me and are questionable for any member of the federation, particularly any member who is actively showing and having horses drug-tested.
Having been a professional member for well over 50 years, the recent proceedings with the USEF are not my first time being questioned. In every other proceeding I have always sent counsel and/or attended the hearing myself. In those situations I have taken full responsibility for my actions and prior to this year have never appealed or taken any further action.
This year, on the opening day of the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.) circuit, as I walked out of the model, several people approached me about something that I knew nothing about. As I had an active proceeding with the USEF already, I assumed that this was the subject matter.
When I opened my e-mail, I discovered how wrong I was.
Every USEF member who reads their e-mail will know what I am referring to; the Federation had handed me a two-year, $24,000 sentence and handed my rider, Kelley Farmer, a one-year, $12,000 sentence on allegations that I had no knowledge of.
Never in my 60 years of membership had I received an e-mail about any member’s USEF infractions, and I never have since. I do not ever recall the USEF handing down those kinds of monetary fines or setting any member down for such an extended time in administrative case. After consulting my counsel, it was clear that neither myself, Kelley nor my counsel had received notification of any kind, despite our active interaction with the federation on an unrelated case.
When we were finally able to contact the USEF, it was revealed that the notification was sent to an address in Massachusetts, a state in which neither Kelley nor I have ever had residency or a mailing address. I register upwards of 40 horses per year with the USEF, I renew my membership, I attend year-end awards, and I belong to many of the programs such as the Hunter Derby and Pre-Green Incentive programs. I have never not received any of the appropriate paperwork associated with any of those things, and yet the notice of these allegations couldn’t seem to make it to me via mail.
I have engaged in many aspects of horse-related endeavors, including training race horses. In every endeavor I have been involved in, the trainer always has ultimate responsibility. The treatment of my barn manager, Debbie Buchanan, and my main rider, Kelley Farmer, in the past year is appalling to me.
I find the USEF’s new stance on trying to make everyone associated with a horse responsible for it ridiculous. It has however, only been an active stance with me.
In a relationship that has lasted over 40 years, Debbie Buchanan’s only mistake has possibly been working for me. She has done nothing in her life but work tirelessly in her quest to elevate the well-being of the horses around her 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Kelley Farmer’s role in this industry has always been as a rider, and although she has ridden a lot of horses for me, she has ridden many to success for other people too. Her job is to present horses in the show ring to the best of their abilities, and it is a job she has done brilliantly her entire career, rightfully making her the all time most decorated hunter rider. I have always taken full responsibility for the horses in my care and custody, regardless of who was coordinating their bandages and feed or who was sitting in the tack, and I believe that is the way it should be.
Let’s get back to the specifics of drug testing. I go on record as saying that the vast majority of drug testers are pleasant, responsible people who are trying to do their job to the best of their ability. I try to be respectful of the job that they are there to do and have a very good relationship with most.
In the hearing that we were granted in June, regarding the allegations that we had not been notified of, Dr. Schumacher, a USEF employee whom I have had several interactions with, said that no one is targeted. The USEF certainly takes the public stance that drug testing is random, but I beg to differ.
I understand that I show a lot and should be tested a lot by that theory alone. Couple that with the fact that I win a lot, and it makes further sense. However, three different horse show managers have confirmed to me that the testers have walked into their offices and asked specifically for my horses’ numbers. That seems to negate the “randomness” of the drug testing.
Dr. Schumacher had a conversation with one of the vets who has performed veterinary work on my horses where he directly stated that if this vet did not cooperate with the USEF by divulging information about my horses that it would work against them the next time they applied for their FEI card. As most know, there is a client-doctor confidentiality that should never be broken, and it is ridiculous that the USEF would try to strong arm a veterinarian by threatening their credentials.
At the Devon Horse show a couple of years ago, Dr. Schumacher sat with one of my horses at the Devon Horse Show all day. Granted many horses, including my others, were tested that horse show as they walked out of the show ring, but very few were targeted in the barn, prior to performing. Additionally, when the rain kicked up and the temperature dropped, he tried to prevent me from being a horseman and putting a cooler on the horse so he could run a heat sensor over it.
I don’t mean to question Dr. Schumacher’s integrity, but as you see he has been part of several questionable incidents in my interaction with him. Perhaps it is simply coincidence that he was also acting as interim director of the USEF lab the only time I have ever received a positive GABA test? Dr. Schumacher was also the person authorized to call a positive test, which is a blatant conflict of interest between a so-called independent lab and the prosecuting arm. For people who do not know, when a positive test leaves the lab, he is the individual who matches the tag number to the horse and owner information, making him the first individual who is aware of which horse was tested and who owns and trains it. He has the authority to either call the test positive or discard the test.
Further solidifying my belief that I have indeed been targeted and made an example of, the most unappealing thing happened last summer. Most people know that I don’t have very many clients, but do have some very good partners with whom I buy horses. One of these partners was stopped in the parking lot of a horse show by one of the MOST prominent directors of the USEF at the time and was told by that individual that he felt sorry for her being involved with me because he was “going to get” me. This seems like extremely inappropriate conduct for any member of the USEF.
It is no secret that cameras have started to be installed at horse show venues in the barn areas. I am all for this, but it would seem that the cameras are sometimes being selectively placed. In almost every venue I regularly show at, cameras have shown up in the areas where I have regularly been stabled in the past. When I looked at other stabling areas to see if the cameras were universally installed, it was only true in some of those venues. What is fair for one should be fair for all in a transparent world seeking a level playing field.
In the USEF’s quest to “catch me,” even stewards have been threatened and reprimanded by the USEF. For example, in a major derby last year, we had a tester flag our horse after the first round, despite it having qualified to come back for the second round. Although this is very unusual, there is no rule against that.
Going through proper channels (the steward), I requested that they collect the urine but wait until after the second round to draw blood, as the horse was particularly sensitive to having a needle stuck in him, and I wanted him happy and relaxed, mentally at his best to contend the second round. The steward found that completely reasonable and asked the tester to comply. Shortly after the competition, the steward was reprimanded by the USEF.
I learned in high school math and science that you need to prove your work and that a result needs to be reproducible. The USEF lab was unable to do this, and in fact the three results produced from allegedly the same sample came back wildly different each time. I was condemned for requesting additional testing, but even their own witnesses agreed that the three results were disturbing. Whereas a 10 to 15 percent fluctuation would not be alarming, a 600 to 800 percent fluctuation defies explanation and casts a very dim light on the competence of the lab and/or the people conducting the tests.
The USEF seems unconcerned with this, which is in and of itself a very upsetting concept. I feel that every member of the USEF should be extremely concerned with this. This goes way beyond my case, or people’s feeling about me…EVERY member of the federation is at the mercy of the USEF and the accuracy and competence of their testing lab.
What we have in the USEF is a horse show association, as the original name appropriately described. This is NOT an association of, or for the owners or exhibitors. The lab is owned by the federation and is neither sanctioned nor regulated to the same standards that the independent labs used by the race horse industry are. The USEF lab’s procedures, results and chain of custody have been proven to be flawed, yet the results hold the destiny of any tested individual in their hands.
There is no one to advocate for the owners and exhibitors. We are tested by, judged by and sentenced by the same people with not an unbiased or impartial component in the whole process. Somebody needs to speak for the owners and exhibitors!
The one thing that anyone who has worked for me or been around me on a daily bases will testify to is that I genuinely love my horses. I have also produced an incredible amount of successful horses that get sold and continue their winning ways for their new owners. In fact, of the 12 horses that made the final round this year in the $100,000 WCHR Hunter Spectacular at WEF, seven of them passed through my hands.
As everyone who has bought a horse from me knows, I stand behind my horses, and if they do not work out for any reason, I am always willing to replace the horse with one that suits them better. My numerous repeat customers are a clear indication of the satisfaction rate; the continued success that these horses enjoy in their new homes should be a clear indication that the recipe for that success lies in raw quality, a program they understand and a well matched rider, not in a syringe.
If you don’t believe this is a witch hunt and I have been singled out to make an example of, read the latest ruling. In response to my efforts to defend myself and my questioning of their lab competency, they have increased Kelley’s suspension by six months for a total of 1 ½ years, simply because she continued to carry on with her profession and making a living during my current suspension.
I am clearly being made an example of: from the unprecedented e-mail blast to the membership; the absurd testing results; the unheard of monetary penalties; the length of punishment and by dragging Kelley and Debbie into my punishment. I would strongly advise trainers and all other members to further investigate the flaws of the system before they find themselves in a “Venus Fly Trap.”
Although I am not a rich man, I will continue to fight this case as far and as thoroughly as I can. For starters, I have filed with the U.S. Olympic Committee and will be filing suit against the USEF lab for gross negligence. I am certain that this will likely do nothing but cause me further pain, time and money, as it has every other person who has come before me and dared to question the USEF, their procedures or their “science.”
I intend for President Kessler’s alleged need for transparency to be put on display ten-fold and perhaps a real change in the federation will be spurred by my actions. It is my hope that the USEF will be forced to answer for their indiscretions, as they have forced so many individuals to answer for theirs.