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The Importance of the Horse Council

It may be difficult to see a local politician who knows nothing about horses trying to make sense of an upcoming legislation that involves horses. The problem may be minor such as allowing riding in a park or something major such as funding for a local vet school. It may also be something complex such as tax and insurance rules.

There needs to be someone at the grass roots level who can influence horse-friendly legislation and educate the politicians. Around the country this is the job of forty-four state horse councils and they need the help of horse owners.

Typically state horse councils are membership organizations that promote not only the needs of the horses but also the needs of horse owners. In addition to sponsoring state legislation, these councils also coordinate educational activities and in a few areas increase awareness of the horse to a public that doesnít own horses.

No matter how you ride, whether it is western, dressage, hunt seat, saddle seat or vault. Whatever your involvement with horses whether it is breeding, racing, rodeo, hunting, event or hack. All individuals in these areas have an interest in horses and their well being. The horse supply industry and the riding public can often work together through the horse councils.

Horses are a major industry in every single state and as a result deserve respect and attention is the main point that the councils often stress to lawmakers and the public. The national lobbying group in Washington D.C. is the American Horse Council. Recently they conducted a study that involved 5.25 million economically productive equines in the United States. The agricultural sector of the U.S. Gross National Product gains $15.2 billion from horse people through the purchase of horses, feed, tack and other products.

State horse councils have also gone beyond economics to help bring people together in an effort to protect horses and the ways of life that people can enjoy horses. There are important issues common to all horse people regardless of which discipline individual prefer or enjoy. The most effective horse councils go beyond breed politics and focus on the needs of the entire horse industry with a clear and unified voice. Equine liability, riding areas, zoning laws and equine welfare are all issues affecting horses and horse owners in both state and local legislation. Transportation of horses in and out of state and sales tax issues are other areas that affect both hobbyist and business owners.

Equine health-related issues are also covered by the state councils including issues such as the Coggins Test requirements. Researching support of the horse industry is also advocated by the horse councils. An important issue for horse owners and the entire tourism industry is the promotion of recreational trails.

There has been success recently by several state horse councils by having a law passed for equine liability with allows horse owners to have a waiver so they wonít be responsible if careless riders are hurt through not fault of the horse owner or the farm. Truckloads of feed, hay and cash donations for Florida horse owners after Hurricane Andrew have also been coordinated by horse councils in many states.

An important question for horse owners to ask themselves is whether or not the state would be able to efficiently, effectively and positively influence decision makers to support a favorable position on issues that were going to affect horses. Could the breed association, sporting discipline, or other horse association respond on their own? Often times the answer to this question is no, but occasionally there is a yes.

However, you donít want to wait until an issue arises and find out you donít have time to respond. In every state there are individuals who are involved in horse councils and many of these individuals are honest, hard-working, enthusiastic, dedicated, informed, active, organized and supportive.



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