Letter to the Editor from Frank Eichler

It’s that time again. The last time I sent in an editorial was in the early stages of SHOW’s existence. Since then a lot has happened. Instead of folding or closing down our industry, we have continued to make progress on showing a compliant horse. Despite the multiple critics, economy, and those opposed to our industry, both internal and external, and the huge changes we have had to implement, we have had a good show season in both 2009 and 2010 when many thought we would not have any shows at all. Others thought we would be totally shut down; some suggested we shut ourselves down.

Unfortunately it feels like we have only just begun. Currently we are continuing to face opposition on many fronts. The USDA is threatening decertification of any HIO if they do not accept the “mandatory penalties” dictated by them. Many organizations and associations continue to struggle financially. We continue to lose shows, owners and trainers. Critics of our industry have filed a Petition for Rulemaking with unprecedented requests, which in the opinion of many would violate the most basic due process rights guaranteed under our Constitution. And of course our own internal bickering seems to have hit new highs with everyone having an opinion on decertification, validity of the HIO’s, suing the USDA, suing the HIOs, who should have responsibility of the Rulebook, Judging, inspections and on and on.

I’d like to take a minute to clear up a few things so hopefully all the energy that is going towards some of these issues can or should be redirected to more important things like saving this industry. Under the Horse Protection Act (HPA) Congress specifically stated in Section 4 that “The management of any horse show or horse exhibition shall disqualify any horse from being shown or exhibited (1) which is sore or (2) if the management has been notified by a person appointed in accordance with regulations under subsection (c) of this section or by the Secretary that the horse is sore.” It is therefore abundantly clear from a legal standpoint that show management has the responsibility to inspect and disqualify any horse that is not in compliance with the HPA and Regs. Even if the USDA shows up they are not required to inspect – it is show managements responsibility. IF the USDA does inspect and informs show management that a horse is sore then show management has the obligation to ensure that horse does not exhibit. So all of the rhetoric and arm chair lawyering on just let the USDA check horses is wrong. Show management, by law, has that responsibility.

In addition the discussions that the HIOs are evil or bad or are some concept to accommodate the USDA are equally wrong. The HIOs were established as a result of the Section 4 language above. Congress, in recognizing that show management has the responsibility to ensure that sore horses were not exhibited, also recognized that there needed to be some mechanism to help show management perform those duties since the HPA also clearly placed the burden both civilly and criminally on the shoulders of show management if they failed in their responsibility. And thus HIOs were established by Congress at the request of the industry and to support the Industry and to eliminate or minimize liability for show managers and thereby encourage shows to continue happening. Any other “facts” are inaccurate. It is true that show managers do not have to use an HIO, but if they do not, they still have to inspect and if they fail to disqualify a sore horse or that is otherwise in violation of the Regs they are potentially civilly and criminally liable. Most of the discussion on the Chat, in restaurants, barns and elsewhere simply do not comport to the law. And most of those giving the advice are not lawyers or show managers and have no skin in the game as far as personal liability. It is easy to give advice or criticize or tell someone else what to do when you don’t have or understand the law and facts and don’t have any personal risk for your opinion. 

Next, is SHOW the perfect HIO? Although I have a personal bias for SHOW having helped develop and foster it and knowing the people who are in charge and running it, I am still practical - absolutely not. But the last time I checked no individual or organization is. To me it’s a little like a house. I like the bones and structure. It may need some updating or some cosmetic changes or some tear down and rebuild. But it’s a good house which could be great. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and that’s mine. But it would be appreciated if others didn’t personally attack people’s opinions. And of course it is always more productive to try and provide constructive feedback to enable positive change than state a problem, criticize individuals, and not provide any suggested solutions. Of course it is up to each person as to whether you want to continue to be negative, criticize and tear down people and SHOW - it just seems counterproductive. At the meeting we will once again try and discuss the outline and process for a New Structure for this Industry. This was attempted in early 2009 and unfortunately was rebuffed by several of the key organizations. I have presented the concept again to the new Presidents and they have each asked me to come discuss with their boards. Hopefully that will lead to a joint effort to establish a new Independent organization that is not lead or controlled by the Celebration or SHOW. Unfortunately that will mean that everyone will have to come together for the good of the Industry and not just for their Organization or association – historically an impossible task. 

Finally the hot topic of the hour. Amazingly in the last several months when I have talked to the trainers, associations, and at “secret meetings,” the topic does not come up about the success we have had in the last 2 years. It does not come up that the inspections are without conflicts, consistent, fair and equally applied regardless of who the trainer, owner or horse is. It does not come up that we are demonstrating that a compliant padded/performance horse can and is being shown. The amount of personal sacrifice by so many is not spoken of. The amount of progress we are making compared to the last 40 years is never mentioned. Instead we want to know “What are you doing about the ticket I got from so and so” “What are you doing about the Judging” “What are you doing about ….me”. And now the Horse card of $150 is the rallying cry to criticize SHOW.

In the last 3 years the price of gas has gone up $.50-$1.25 per gallon. The price of training in a lot of barns has increased $50-$100 per month. Shoeing costs have increased. Show prep, or transportation, or almost everything have all gone up. What hasn’t the industry had to pay for? The cost of keeping the industry going in 2009 and 2010 when many predicted it would be shut down. And unknown to many – when some other HIOs actually suggested we unilaterally shut ourselves down. No cost for all the legal work to respond to the HSUS Petition and the various positions recently taken by the USDA. No cost incurred to stop and eliminate a short term solution at the expense of the long term viability of the industry. Set forth below is an example of how everything works for a typical show manager. Under various scenarios the show manager and the charity or local group he/she are supporting are better off with SHOW. By the way I did not develop these but an actual show manager did for her associations. But I understand some horse owners are telling the shows that if they have to pay for a horse card they won’t attend their show. Interesting concept of requiring a horse show to make less money or lose money because some owners don’t want to pay for a horse card.

Comparison of HIOs
Base information SHOW PRIDE KY-HIO
DQP per day charge  $                        175  $                   200  $                            200
DQP mileage-per mile $                        0.50 $                    0.50 $                           0.50
Horse show pays DQP room charge for multi-night show if  DQP from out of town?  yes   yes   yes 
Inspection charge per entry  $                           -    $                  3.00  $                          2.00
Horse show affiliation fee  $                          50  $                      50  $                              75
SHOW horse card purchased by owner and number required on entry form ?  yes   no    no  
    walking horses pay annually or $150 per year none none
    walking horses pay daily at horse show $50 per day none none
    racking horses $10 per day none none
   non-gaited breeds, lead-line, etc 0 none none
DQP coordinator Tony Edwards Sam Hamilton Eddie Ray Davis
  931-684-9506 859-393-4979  
Example 1:      
2 night horse show with 350 walking horses    
 2 DQPs travel 100 miles round trip to the show    
Cost to horse show:    
DQP per day charge  $                        700  $                   800  $                            800
DQP mileage  $                        100  $                   100  $                            100
DQP room charge for multi-night show yes yes yes
Horse show mgt to collect & remit horse card money for $50 Daily Card yes no no
Inspection chg per horse  $                           -   $                1,050  $                            700
Affiliation fee  $                          50  $                      50  $                              75
Total  $                        850  $                2,000  $                        1,675
Example 2:      
1 night horse show with 150 walking horses    
1 DQP travels 100 miles round trip to the show    
Cost to horse show:    
DQP per day charge  $                        175  $                    200  $                            200
DQP mileage $                           50 $                       50 $                               50
DQP room charge for multi-night show none none none
Horse show mgt to collect & remit horse card money for $50 Daily Card yes no no
Inspection chg per horse $                             0  $                   450  $                            300
Affiliation fee  $                          50  $                      50  $                              75
Total  $                        275  $                   750  $                            625

To give you some additional facts, The Celebration has lost money on SHOW for the last 2 years. The Celebration owns SHOW, Inc. and has stated that for the Celebration events and what it sponsors it will not to continue to fund losing items. The increase to the $150 Horse card is an attempt to allow SHOW to be self funding – to allow it to separate from The Celebration and go into a new Industry Organization or at least not be under the ownership of the Celebration. Ironically if The Celebration disbanded SHOW and only kept it for their events I believe there would be a huge cry of foul or the Celebration is once again damaging the Industry. So the dilemma is help fund SHOW so it can separate from The Celebration or they take it back. You can’t have it both ways – have The Celebration own an HIO at a loss or cry foul when they shut it down and when all the shows affiliate with WHOA, PRIDE or KY or whatever HIO is left standing.

So here’s what I’d ask every horse owner. Think of the horse card cost as your way of supporting the long term viability of the industry. If that doesn’t work think of the horse card as your personal contribution for all the legal work or a lot of the other costs many others have contributed and you haven’t. If that doesn’t work for you think of the horse card as a way of allowing shows to make more money and it is your personal contribution to support those shows. After all without shows there is no reason for all of the costs you have already paid to have your hobby. If that doesn’t work think of the horse card as your way to get SHOW financially viable and independent of any ownership. Finally if that doesn’t sway you, don’t pay the horse card but at least give some additional money to the show who you have helped convince to make less money or lose money. That way you are offsetting the loss to the shows but you are ultimately helping yourself since hopefully that show will be there next year.

I’m sure all the above will give a lot of people the ability to criticize me or misunderstand or misinterpret what I’ve said. Hopefully that will allow those critics to focus on just 1 item in the next couple of weeks– me, and let up on everyone else who is trying to move this industry forward. Thanks for reading and I look forward to seeing some of you at the next “secret meeting” on Friday Feb 18th at the Calsonic.

Frank Eichler