During a recent retreat for congressional Republicans, Vice President Mike Pence shared with attendees a little-known anecdote of an alleged physical attack against him in March 2018.
According to USA Today, Pence claimed that during a visit to Kentucky he met — and was bitten on the arm by — retired 2015 Triple Crown-winning racehorse American Pharoah [sic], a claim the manager of the farm where the horse resides at has disputed.
Pence’s painful encounter
Pence shared the story as a way to encourage his fellow Republicans to continue to press on and fight, even though “you’re going to get bit sometimes” in their particular line of work.
At the Republican retreat in Baltimore, Pence recounted traveling to Kentucky to help support the congressional campaign of Rep. Andy Barr and how he had joined Barr in visiting the special farm where the famous retired racehorse is living out its post-career days.
He recalled being asked if he wanted to hold American Pharoah’s reins and said, “I’m a horse guy. I said, ‘Yeah, let me hold him.’” Except, that is when the horse “bit me so hard on the arm, I almost collapsed.”
“I just gritted my teeth and smiled, because you know what? In our line of work, you’re going to get bit sometimes, but you keep fighting forward. And we did. And Andy Barr brought it across,” he added.
Farm manager disputes account
McClatchey news group reported that the manager of the farm, Dermot Ryan, was present during Pence’s visit to the farm but didn’t recall him being bitten. Furthermore, Ryan argued that American Pharoah was a “sweet” horse and that it wouldn’t be in his nature to bite somebody.
Ryan, who recalled being “very honored” by the visit from the “very pleasant” vice president, nevertheless contradicted the claimed bite and said of the horse, “If he gave someone a nasty bite, I’d know it.”
However, just because Ryan didn’t see it doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t happen, and this actually isn’t the first time that Pence has mentioned this particular anecdote.
A tale told before
Rep. Barr didn’t remember seeing Pence get bit by the horse either, but his spokeswoman, Jodi Whitaker, said Barr did remember Pence mentioning it and displaying a bruise on his arm later while aboard Air Force Two.
Moreover, during a visit to Kentucky in May of this year for the Governor’s Derby Eve Gala, Pence told the crowd of attendees that the horse “bit me so hard, it left a mark and I show it to people the whole time.”
Unless video of the alleged incident should happen to be revealed publicly at some point, we will likely never know the full extent of the interaction between Pence and the racehorse. Regardless if Pence slightly embellished the tale or truly was bitten hard on the arm, it nonetheless makes for a good story that Pence has deftly used to motivate his fellow Republicans to continue fighting in the political arena, even as they may suffer a nick from time to time.