|FROM THE EDITOR
WHAT HAPPENED TO HONEST JOURNALISM?
His first book entitled The American Horse Industry, Avoiding the Pitfalls, was written to address the trust issues in the industry and to guide newcomers, as well as those already in the industry, on various pitfall topics and how to avoid them. Rick’s second book is Cross Training 101, Reining, Cutting and Cow Horse and is an illustrated training manual on how to fully train the reined cow horse from 2-year-old colt breaking and starting to the finished bridle horse. Each of Rick’s books has received 5 star reviews and sold thousands of copies, with many of them being sold overseas to an audience hungry for information on training the Western performance horse.
By Glory Ann Kurtz
Dec. 15, 2016
In my opinion, the two most vital concepts in journalism are credibility and trust. A journalist’s duty is to perform due diligence in researching the subject matter in order to report factual information to his or her readership. In turn, honest and thorough reporting establishes credibility and trust with the readership.
A perfect example of this criteria can be found in an article posted in a Western performance horse magazine by Frank Merrill entitled Trust. In Frank’s very fine article, he outlines the various areas in the horse industry where trust is declining. His article is a good representation of why the horse industry has been in a steady decline.
1-Click for Trust article>>
In mirroring Franks article, there’s been a lot of articles posted on AllAboutCutting.com that embodies this exact philosophy. One such article was written by Rick Dennis, a freelance, writer and dated July 18, 2014, titled “Where Is The Horse Industry Headed?”
Rick is the owner of the Wind River Company LLC., a multi-faceted entrepreneurship specializing in Threat Assessment/Risk Analysis, Security Consultant, and Private Sector employee Drug and alcohol interdiction programs consortium services. He has been in business since 1984. As far as his credentials in the Western performance industry, Rick is also a professional reined cow horse trainer and Quarter Horse breeder as well as an author of two books in present circulation and distributed in national and international markets. Each book was written to fill a special niche in the horse industry.
As with Frank’s article, which includes horse abuse, many articles on the subject have been posted on allaboutcutting.com, including Rick’s seven-part series.
However, a perfect example of a horse industry article depicting a “trust issue” is one recently published that I feel contains misleading, false or spin reporting and incomplete reporting, that can be found in a Western performance horse magazine article and entitled Dual Peppy Sold To Jim Babcock. The author states, “Blue Rose Rescue Inc., a horse rescue and adoption facility in Springfield, Colo., owned by Cheryl Webb and her husband, was given the enormous task of rehabilitating and re-homing Dual Peppy.” I have followed this story from the beginning in 2014 and have reported on it over the years, along with links to court documents as to the fate of Dual Peppy.
Today, on-line magazines are readily changing the manner in which news is being reported. Digital news reporting offers the journalist the flexibility of imbedding links, such as court documents, to information to add credibility and verification to a specific news topic, thus establishing greater “trust” with the readership. Unlike conventional paper news magazines, this component adds flexibility and honesty to any news-reporting agency. This embedding capability even allows the on-line magazine journalist to embed videos into his or her news story to enhance authenticity.
Another advantage digital magazines have over conventional paper magazine issues is the rapid news delivery capability. Instead of waiting weeks to learn industry news by paper delivery, the digital magazine’s delivery rate is enhanced to the hour or day to day. A perfect example of this advantage is the Dual Peppy story and the article posted in the Western performance horse magazine mentioned above.
DUAL PEPPY’S HISTORY
For the record, I’m very familiar the Dual Peppy saga and my investigation indicates Dual Peppy and seven other stable mates were seized by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office after their owner, Sherry Brunzell, was arrested and charged with animal abuse in late 2014.
A press release that appeared on the front page of the Dumb Friends League - Harmony Equine Center specifically stated, “Eight Starved Horses Ready for New Lives After 11 months at Harmony Equine Center - Dumb Friends League. Eight starved and neglected horses that were rescued last fall from a property in Black Forest Colo, including Dual Peppy, a world famous champion sire and performance horse - are ready to start new lives after recovering from their ordeal at the Dumb Friends League Harmony Equine Center.”
2-Click for Dumb Friends League press release>>
The Dumb Friends League article goes on to state, “In late September 2014, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office went to investigate reports of animal cruelty. They found 10 emaciated horses and four llamas living in a barn along side the carcasses of 14 deceased horses. Dual Peppy was among the horses removed from the premises and transferred to the Harmony Equine Center after a warrant was issued. Brunzell was charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty. In August she was convicted of Animal Abuse and given a penalty of 60 days in jail, a $4,000 fine and five years probation. She is also prohibited from owning or being in possession of live stock for the next five years.”
The court also ordered Brunzell to pay over $5,000 a month to the court for the care and rehabilitation of the horses placed at Harmony, or until the end of Brunzell’s trial.
In my article “Dual Peppy Survives Grizzly Ordeal,” dated Sept. 22, 2014, and posted on allaboutcutting.com begins the time line and continuing saga of Dual Peppy. Upon conviction, Brunzell was required to forfeit her horses.
3-Click for Dual Peppy article published in AAC>>
Clearly, this information rebuts the information provided in the Western performance horse magazine saying that Blue Rose Ranch rehabilitated Dual Peppy - since the Harmony Equine Center cared for the stallion and other horses involved in this devastating incident for the 11 crucial months of their care – not Blue Rose Ranch, Inc., or horse rescue, who received the horses on Aug. 28, 2015 and had Dual Peppy for days and weeks in the case of Palo Duro Peppy, prior to them being sold to new owners.
Perhaps this Western performance horse magazine journalist should take a page out of Frank Merrill’s Trust article, which ironically was published in the issue following the incomplete article on Dual Peppy in the same publication. Merrill’s article could also serve as a guide to proper research, reporting procedures and avoiding providing false and misleading information to its readership.
After Brunzell’s trial, conviction and sentencing, according to AQHA ownership records, the horses were transferred to the Blue Rose Ranch on Aug. 28, 2015. The price Blue Rose was asking was $2,500 each, including Dual Peppy. Only 11 days after his arrival, on Sept. 9, 2015, Dual Peppy was resold by Blue Rose Ranch Inc. to Christi Fontaine, Hudson, Colo.– hardly time for rehabilitation and a good profit for Blue Rose Ranch for keeping the horse only 11 days.
Palo Duro Peppy, a stallion sired by Dual Peppy, was sold to the Justice For Dual Peppy Facebook page owner Kellie Bliss, Champlain, Va., on Oct. 7, 2015. A copy of the AQHA ownership report for Palo Duro Peppy, a stallion sired by Dual Peppy, indicates this horse was transferred into the ownership of Kellie Bliss - Champlain, Virginia, on Oct. 7, 2015, 40 days after Blue Rose Ranch, Inc., received the stallion from Harmony Equine Center.
At first, the Justice For Dual Peppy Facebook page was co-owned by Kellie Bliss and Clayton Thomas (C.T.) Babcock, Gainesville, Texas. C.T. had expressed a real desire to obtain Dual Peppy while Jim Babcock, C.T.Babcock’s father, who later purchased the stallion, declined to participate. When C.T. Babcock did not obtain ownership of Dual Peppy, the “Justice For Dual Peppy” Face Book page was filled with derogatory comments by some of its readers while other commentaries offer sound opinion making.
4-Click for AQHA ownership report on Dual Peppy>>
5-Click for AQHA ownership report on Palo Duro Peppy
Another extreme example of questionable journalism is a website on Facebook. For the record, Bliss is the current owner of the on-line Facebook page Justice For Dual Peppy and is currently standing Palo Duro Peppy at stud for profit. Bliss is also advertising Palo Duro Peppy in an ad on the business page “Timber Creek Performance Horses” on the same Facebook page. In fact, Bliss released an announcement on Facebook on Dec. 4, 2016 announcing the arrival of five babies by Palo Duro Peppy arriving in 2017. The stallion’ss offspring is being offered for sale and clearly illustrates this son of Dual Peppy is being used by Bliss as a “for-profit stallion.” The following screen shots provide direct evidence.
6-Click for Bliss screen shot>>
7-Click for Timber Creek Performance Horse Ad>>
Insinuations of threats and coercion suddenly appeared on the site and it seems to appear that this page was primarily being used to bring a host of participants against a specific target and nothing more. Whether that target is friendly or foe dictates the leading posts on the site that are used to generate and receive the desired responses from its followers.
During Bliss’s and C.T. Babcock’s rallying cries for support and opposition against Jim Babcock and Rick Dennis, Bliss failed to inform her readership that she was standing a competing stallion, Palo Duro Peppy, sired by none other than Dual Peppy, who was also in the list of starved horses that came from the Blue Rose Ranch. Could it be that Bliss has an ulterior motive in preventing Dual Peppy from standing at stud at Babcock’s ranch, other than her alleged concern over the health of the horse. Perhaps it’s in Bliss’s best interest to eliminate the breeding competition from the sire of her stallion and perhaps she finds herself in a conflict of interest in this matter.
An example of this type of readership manipulation can be found in the following post of the Justice For Dual Peppy page dated Oct. 4, 2016: “It has come to our attention that the sale of Dual Peppy was orchestrated by Rick Dennis from his “forever” home to Jim Babcock & they are planning on standing him in 2017.....after all he’s already been put through & the constant pain he’s in ......talk about a future of torture.”
Clearly this is unorthodox journalism, including condescending conjecture and seems to be designed to generate an adverse response from its readership against Jim Babcock and Rick Dennis with the use of a misleading and false narrative.
I asked Dennis about this post and he replied, “My first question to Kellie Bliss would be, “Are you a veterinarian?” My second question would be, “Are you in a position to know the exact intentions for this horse at the Babcock Ranch?” My third question would be, “Are you in a position to make an exact medical determination as to the exact physiological condition of Dual Peppy to suggest the animal is being subjected to torture?” My fourth and final question would be, “Kellie Bliss are your in a direct conflict of interest in this matter due to the facts - 1) you’re standing an own son of Dual Peppy for profit and 2) you’re the owner of the Justice For Dual Peppy Page as well as the owner of Timber Creek Performance Horses?”
For the record, I interviewed Rick Dennis regarding his part in Jim Babcock’s purchase of Dual Peppy and he informed me of the following:
“In the late summer of 2016, I was contacted by Christi Fontaine asking me to contact C.T. Babcock about taking over ownership of Dual Peppy. Mrs. Fontaine stated to me, “I don’t think Dual Peppy will withstand another Colorado winter.”
I informed Mrs. Fontaine I would contact Jim Babcock instead because C. T. Babcock didn’t have a horse facility, a barn or fencing at his place to care for Dual Peppy and he’s not allowed on his father’s place at all. I then contacted Jim Babcock and repeated the offer to him. Jim told me, “Let me think about it.” Two days later Jim contacted me and said he had thought it over and he would take the horse. I gave Jim Babcock Fontaine’s telephone number and the rest is history.
Furthermore, C. T. was never in contention for the horse. Dual Peppy is right where he belongs and with whom he belongs. The only thing Jim Babcock and I are guilty of is saving the life of Dual Peppy.”
As far as C.T. is concerned, I believe his Dec. 16, 2016 arrest record tells it all as to why Rick didn’t suggest he gain ownership of Dual Peppy.
8-Click for C.T.’s arrest report>>
DUAL PEPPY TODAY
Today Dual Peppy is living the life of luxury care at Jim Babcock’s ranch. According to Babcock, “He’s being cared for as any great stallion should be.”
It is undetermined what Dual Peppy’s future will bring to the Babcock Ranch; however, one component to this equation is clear to me: Rick and Jim did what they did for the love of the horse and for no other reason. They both had experience with great horses related to Dual Peppy and his breeder, the legendary Greg Ward of Tulare, Calif. and wanted to give the stallion a chance to live. Rick received no compensation from anyone. Babcock paid Blue Rose Ranch off for the remaining amount due on the horse that Fontaine owed them and his expenses to drive to Colorado to pick up the stallion up and back home to his ranch where he has a lush stall deep in shavings and is fed, cared for and exercised daily.
Also, on Oct. 28 I published an article about Dual Peppy receiving laser stem-cell therapy as well as having his medical issues being managed “free of charge” by Patricia Woodrick, a neighbor who has headed several studies that have included the effects of laser therapy on stem cells. She has been involved in equine therapy as a salesperson and educator for major therapy manufacturers of equine medical therapy devices, including modalities such as photon acoustic wave, sound wave and magnetic wave therapy- basically laser, shock wave, ultrasound and magnetic stimulation.
I firmly believe that Dual Peppy is a very lucky horse and regardless of what anyone thinks about this saga or its players, Rick Dennis, Jim Babcock and Harmony Equine Center rescued a dying horse. I just wish the Western horse publication could get the story correct!
9-Click for article on Dual Peppy’s care today>>