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NHSC Announces Verbal Agreement with USDA



“Follow the Horse/Follow the Trainer”

Craig Evans and Niels Holch announced at Monday’s regular meeting of the National Horse Show Commission that they had reached an agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture related to the scar rule. While the agreement is verbal, Evans and Holch are anticipating the receipt of written confirmation from the USDA.

The negotiations with the USDA have involved a change in accounting for multiple scar rule violations. Evans coined the phrase “follow the horse, follow the trainer” to refer to a method whereby subsequent scar rule violations are accumulated by the trainer only when on the same horse.

Under the current three-year Operating Plan, a trainer who receives a scar rule violation on Horse A must serve a two-week suspension. If that same trainer then receives a scar rule violation on Horse B (the trainer’s first scar rule violation on that horse), the trainer nevertheless would receive the penalty for a second scar rule violation, or a two month suspension. Penalties rapidly accelerate for subsequent violations regardless of the horse.

Under earlier one year agreements, there were gaps when no agreement was in place, and accounting for violations began anew. While a three-year agreement has given much stability to the industry, the potential for three or more scar rule violations is much greater.

With “follow the horse”, a trainer who receives a scar rule violation on Horse A would serve a two-week suspension (as would the horse). If that same trainer then receives a scar rule violation on Horse B (the trainer’s first scar rule violation on that horse), then the trainer and Horse B would receive a two week suspension. This scenario may be repeated multiple times, with the trainer receiving only a two week suspension each time until the fifth occasion when the penalty doubles.

If Horse A received a subsequent violation (even under another trainer) that scar rule violation would be treated as a second violation for the horse which would receive a two month suspension. The trainer (if this was the first time he had received a violation with this horse) would receive a two week suspension.

For the more than 50 trainers currently on probation, this new agreement may have the most impact. All new violations would be a subsequent violation under the old rules but they would be subsequent violations under the new rules only if it was on the same horse as a prior violation.

This new “follow the horse, follow the trainer” agreement was agreed to by the USDA and the other HIOs to better follow the intent of the scar rule and the Horse Protection Act. Thus horses who have scar rule issues will not be shown until such time as they have been brought back into compliance.

This is the first time under the Horse Protection Act that horses themselves have received suspensions, and there has been some concern about how that might affect the marketability of those horses, and the liability of sellers to disclose the number of scar rule violations a horse has received.

Under the new program, HIOs would be required to keep permanent records on horses which would make this information readily available to sellers and to buyers.

Transition issues for people with previous scar rule suspensions under this operating agreement are still being negotiated and may have to be handled on a case by case basis.

The NHSC Board voted to accept this proposal for the one year remaining on the current three year Operating Plan with two board members voting against the proposal. Negotiations are already underway between the NHSC and the USDA for the new 2004 Operating Plan and are expected to be completed prior to the Walking Horse Trainers Association Annual Meeting in December of 2003.

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