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An Editorial by David L. Howard

An Editorial by David L. Howard


            I have spent more hours and days than I care to admit in the past six months meeting with different industry groups and individuals over the future of this breed. In particular, the future direction of the various HIO programs, the potential for meaningful change in the definition of a sore horse, particularly as it relates to the scar rule, and the operating plan for next year.

            First the good news – virtually everyone I have met with shares the common goal of totally eliminating unsound horses from the show ring and have spent countless hours working to achieve that and a better system of enforcement. But the devil is in the details.

            The story starts late last year with the TWHBEA withdrawing from the Commission because they felt that the NHSC was not doing a good enough job keeping unsound horses out of the ring. In response, the Trainers and WHOA rallied together to continue and improve the Commission with several smart tactical moves including a working arrangement with the Kentucky HIO.

            The TWHBEA moved ahead refining and implementing their plan for a master HIO and subsequent meetings to work out the differences with the Commission yielded little of a positive nature. Attitudes soured and positions hardened on both fronts and personalities became as important as constructive dialog.

            Then along comes Tom Blankenship and the newly renamed National Horse Protection Society with plans to change the law to make sense of the definition of a sore horse. Funded by the old Show Horse Support Fund with $300,000, and donations from both Bob Medina and Bill Johnson, Blankenship set about meeting with the country’s top veterinarians and responsible officials in Washington.

            Blankenship’s mission expands as the veterinarians are insistent that a better structure be put into place to regulate the industry and eliminate unsound horses in order to gain their support. As a result, the Society ends up proposing still a third plan for enforcement that is somewhat different than both the existing Commission and the proposal from the TWHBEA.

            Meetings to reconcile the differences have not been fruitful even though I firmly believe all parties are striving for the same goal. The bottom line is that it simply makes no difference how good the rhetoric is or even how good the intentions are; if there is little or no trust, there is no foundation for permanent success.

            And believe me, there is little or no trust among these groups and individuals and I have found myself in the position of having to keep silent while the groups argue and I feel both of them are wrong about certain parts of their plans. Unfortunately, if you disagree, you are not “on board” or you are on the “other side.”

            Well I feel pretty comfortable because all three groups have at one time or another questioned which side I am on. For me, there is only one side and that is what is best for the long-term future of this horse.

            And, in my opinion, what is best for the horse is a change in the law’s definition of a sore horse that is consistent with sound veterinary medicine and not open to such wide interpretation. Secondly, we need to address the proposed Operating Plan for 2007 and make sure that it is a workable and effective document with input from all segments of the industry.

            Lastly, we need a better enforcement system as it relates to violations of the Horse Protection Act and the rules and regulations that govern the breeding, sale and showing of horses. Far too often our enforcement people turn their heads when they see violations and when we do step up and enforce the rules and penalize the guilty parties, it’s a deep, dark secret and everyone assumes that nothing was done.

            It’s time we all stand behind our DQPs, judges and organizations as they go after violations instead of always blaming the people charged with policing our industry. When a horse is turned down, we should thank the DQP and tell the violator that enough is enough. When a judge sends one out of the ring, he should be commended.

            This industry must remain the master of its own house and remember – the horse business is not perfectible but it is improvable. No one individual or group has all the answers but we must not make the greatest mistake of all by doing nothing because we can only do a little. We should all do what we can.

            And if we all do that, it will be enough.

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