There really is one woman listening. Her name is Julie Broadway.
Governance and any sort of legislation is not on your radar. I get it. No one cares. No one has time. No one likes the boring discussion, we would rather gossip about silly things, complain about all the things, ignore vague referendums, (until it directly affects you), and then freak out and wonder how a law is passed without your vote. But this is reality, and apathy is a problem. Because laws DO pass, legislation DOES happen, with or without your consent, and other animal organizations are highly funded to follow the change in tide, or maybe even push for legislation against you —> the animal lover. The horse owner. The trainer. The parent of a horse crazy kid. The farrier, veterinarian, dentist, hot walker, amateur, announcer, groom or show manager.
I just attended one afternoon of the American Horse Council Forum in Washington, a yearly event, similar to the Annual Meetings of the USHJA and US Equestrian, or any other organization, but without all of the heated debates, shouting, mudslinging, and exotic, fattening meals. Yep, the first thing I noticed was the professionalism, and politeness. After I stifled a few yawns, I thought well, this is actually refreshing, probably more productive, and I should really make an effort to pay attention.
I listened to Julie speak, and I like what she had to say. I also managed five minutes with her at the end of the day, because I have this crazy idea to solve some of the immigration issues, she sat down beside me and listened to me with absolute intrigue. Do you know what that feels like? When someone really listens?
The American Horse Council (AHC) is your voice on the political side of horse ownership. Remember when your home veterinarian couldn’t really help you while you wintered in Florida? The AHC helped fix that. Section 179 business expense? It is permanently set at $500,000 due to the AHC. Money for the Recreational Trail Program? $85 million to be exact so you can enjoy the world from the back of the horse anywhere in the country. Time to Ride program? Yeah, that’s huge when you are considering grass roots programs, our future clients, hello.
So where does the money to run the AHC come from? I had to ask. Thankfully, I have a friend within the AHC, and she is constantly answering my questions. Meet Ashley Furst, director of communications.
The AHC is completely funded by Individual and Organizational members. Members are from every segment of the industry—recreational riders, trail organizations, racing organizations, show organizations, veterinarians, CPA’s, Equine lawyers, carriage operators, and more.
So, people like you and me and the organizations we belong to. Got it.
Why is it set up that way?
It’s set up that way because we are the only organization in Washington that truly works on behalf of the entire industry—not just racing, not just showing, not just trails—EVERY segment. By having Individual and Organizational members from every facet of the industry, it gives us strength in numbers to show how diverse and important this industry is to representatives here in DC.
How many people make up the AHC?
There are only 5 full-time staff members.
What is your relationship with the HSUS? (You can imagine why I need to know this.)
We do not have any relationship with HSUS. While we do support the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, it is purely coincidental that they also support it. We took a position on that particular bill because it is what the horse industry wanted
Where is headquarters?
We are based in Washington, DC. Right next to the White House actually!
Do you lobby for legislation? With whom?
We are a lobbyist group- but we strictly work on the federal level.
How can I become involved? Where can I ask the questions I always seem to have?
You can become involved in a couple of different ways
1- Join the AHC! Like I’ve mentioned, we are the only true organization based in DC that works with Congress and other federal agencies to ensure all segments of the equine industry have a voice and are represented here in Washington. We can’t continue to do this without the support of members.
2- Congressional Cavalry- The Congressional Cavalry is the AHC’s grassroots network. We let members of the Cavalry know when action on federal issues is needed and how to contact their Members of Congress via our AHC ACTION ALERTS. There is no cost to join the Cavalry and you will only receive Action Alerts from us when necessary.
You can always contact us directly as well if you have any questions or concerns- 202-296-4031 or email@example.com
What studies are in the works for the next two years?
In particular, we are seeking to update the National Economic Impact Study- hopefully we will be able to start data collection within the next few months. Several states (Maryland included) are also getting State Breakout studies done. This study was last completed in 2005, and it’s certainly more than overdue to be updated. I cannot stress how important it is for us to be able to get this study done—the equine industry is often overlooked when it comes to economic impact in comparison to mainstream sports. We really need to be able to show how important this industry is to the U.S. economy, especially when talking to members of Congress.
Sooooo, why would an Economic Impact Study affect you as a horse owner?
Economic Impact Studies affect everyone in the field they are directed. Life lesson #1, money dictates productivity. You want to be productive? You want to retire at 40? GREAT. All aspects of the horse economy will help you get there. The industry is sustainable with money. In Washington, D.C., where laws are made, proof of Economic Impact has a great influence on future legislation.
Mark Bellissimo. You either love him, hate him, or don’t have an opinion about him. He has one of those larger than life personalities, he gets sh*t done, he is all over the place, involved in a myriad of events, and now has WEG. We aren’t going to stop hearing about WEG for another year and a half so we might as well buckle down and get used to it. Sho ‘nough, his presentation was about WEG. It is a good presentation. He is by far, the most interesting person to listen to when it comes to vision, productivity, horses, the future… and himself. He made videos and brought them with him, playing musical segments of horses in slow motion on fancy fields and in arenas (his arenas) which left goosebumps on horse owners all over the room. He encouraged us to work together, make connections, bond the Western riders with the English riders, spread the love of sport so far, so wide, that no one in Washington could deny our existence ever again. The more connected we are the more media attention we can get, the more chance Coca Cola Company might endorse us and maybe put a horse on a future soda can. Who knows? The possibilities are endless. (I made that last part up, I don’t think Coke will put a horse on a can, but neat idea, no?)
It was interesting to hear Mark’s presentation, I closed my notebook, sat back in my chair and simply watched, (with the exception of one or two snaps to my snapchat story). He has coined one phrase about horse people and the challenge of being in the horse world. It seems to be his constant goal to link “Tradition, Continuity, and Innovation”. He repeated that a few times so we would remember. While he was talking, I only rolled my eyes like two times, which is pretty good for me, and I could see other people in the room were really following his charisma. He finished to resounding applause, of course, and shortly after, the lights came on and we stood up. There was already a line to talk to him personally, and in typical awkward fashion, I stood behind three women gushing about how they wanted their horse organization to be included at WEG. Not me, however. What did I want with Mark Bellissimo? I wanted him to use his Central Park Horse Show to make a better connection with the Carriage Horses and help gain them more recognition and protection. I want to see him give back to the horse community in New York City, the heart of the Big Apple. If he does that, he might gain one more loyal follower.
We changed rooms, and dispersed into smaller groups of round table discussions. I was unprepared for this, admittedly, and sorry I couldn’t bounce more between tables, but luckily, I chose an interesting one for me and my business, the Import/Export table. Next to me was another self proclaimed “pot-stirrer” from California, and she was one of the most knowledgable and interesting personalities I have ever met at one of these conventions. Her name was Katie, and she was with the California Department of Agriculture. She knew ALL the rules about transporting horses across borders, shipping from other countries, diseases, requirements, trends, people breaking laws, governments making questionable decisions, and more. There was a veterinarian linked to US Equestrian present, Richard Mitchell, (who was really trying to lead the discussion over Katie), and Chrystine Tauber from US Equestrian was also among our table of 8.
Had I known I would have the chance to ask more questions, I totally would have come prepared, but the best I could do was a quick FB post to get people involved in the conversation… Quarantine times are locked in for now, no chance of shortening up the days just yet. Various diseases were discussed, Pyroplasmosis was addressed (this always comes up) and of course, the horse movement through slaughter trucks and ‘where we are now’ with that issue. Recently Canada implemented new legislation saying horses have to sit in feed lots for 6 months before they can be put into the food chain for human consumption, so we were catching up on whether or not that was affecting horse movement through auctions at all. I must have missed the conclusion or there wasn’t one, but it was discussed.
So what does this all mean for you? If you are still with me, we need to get back to this Economic Impact Study rolling out this year. In whatever way it reaches your inbox, you need to click on it, fill out the survey, take the time to answer the questions. Julie Broadway is here for you, and she needs you to be there for her. She is most important to all of us, leading an organization larger than all of the other governing bodies, which will influence programs and initiatives affecting all horse people in the future. Read through the Strategic Plan, store it in the back of your mind, keep an eye on the American Horse Council, become a member, follow their movements, you won’t regret it, and together we might stand a chance in this weird world we live in.