Monday, Apr. 15, 2024

It’s Time For Us To Band Together On All Fronts

Our columnist believes in this time of economic trouble it’s important for horse people to come together and support one another.

At the writing of this article, we are halfway through the winter circuits.

While all of the hunter/jumper circuits across the country are down or even to last year in numbers of horses competing, we continue to survive while job losses and the economy in other sectors are in a dramatic downward spin.

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Our columnist believes in this time of economic trouble it’s important for horse people to come together and support one another.

At the writing of this article, we are halfway through the winter circuits.

While all of the hunter/jumper circuits across the country are down or even to last year in numbers of horses competing, we continue to survive while job losses and the economy in other sectors are in a dramatic downward spin.

It speaks well to the love of our equine friends and the love of competition that most shows are holding their own. I believe the numbers and economic dollars are real and very positive. I think all of us as professionals are trying to adapt to this economic shift and are sensitive to the changing needs of our clients too.

As the economic experts are saying, we may not begin to come out of this severe recession until the fall of 2009 at the earliest. In the meantime, I think it’s time for all of us to tell our congressmen and senators that we account for millions of jobs across this country. The American Horse Council has the statistics, and it would benefit all of us to become members and have our voices heard (www.horsecouncil.org).

Here are some facts.

There are 4.6 million Americans involved in the horse industry, including owners and those who work with horses. The horse industry has a direct economic impact of $39 billion annually and an overall impact of $102 billion when you consider suppliers and employees. We provide 460,000 full-time jobs and pay $1.9 billion in taxes to all levels of government.

There are 9.2 million horses in the United States, which includes racing, showing, sport, breeding and recreation animals. Of this number, 2,718,954 horses have show-related careers. These are impressive numbers. But they are only impressive if we—owners, riders, trainers, judges, stewards, blacksmiths, veterinarians, show managers, starters, course designers, etc.—become involved and help the AHC fight for us.

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It’s easy to look the other way and bury our heads and hope that someone else will lead the political fights that need to be fought on our behalf. But if we all get together, our voice is much louder and makes much more of an impact. If there are causes you support in our world, from slaughter to taxes, please take the time to join the AHC and add to our collective strength.

Speaking of collective unity, for years many of us exhibitors have made the show managers out to be the bad guys–the enemy. And I’m sure the show managers feel that we’re the bad guys or the people who exhibit poor behavior.

As far as I can see, there are no bad guys.

The show managers provide a venue and a product that we utilize and purchase, and just as in any commodity, if you don’t like the product then there are three solutions: you can work constructively to change it, you can complain and do nothing, or you can decide not to attend that particular event.

If the show managers decide not to put on their events, for whatever reason, then we exhibitors won’t have a place to show our horses. I think most show managers try to put on a quality event–who intentionally tries to put on a bad event?

But if you feel there’s a poor-quality event that continues then the answer is simple: don’t go. But if you feel you can provide constructive input and help a show manager keep a show alive, then go for it!

It’s not easy to put on any type of show—from local to AA-rated—because you can never keep all of the players happy. If you participate in running a show you’ll see all of the many obstacles that need to be overcome and all of the problems that arise no matter how hard you try. Now, more than ever, exhibitors should consider helping show managers and be patient when changes have to be made. With the numbers down, it’s inevitable that rings are going to be combined or changed, for example.

Judges and other show employees should be sensitive to the times and charge accordingly or face a future with fewer jobs to choose from. Layoffs, furloughs and other job-related cutbacks are happening all over the country in all job sectors, and we aren’t exempt. I’ve had several judges say to me, “We should raise our judging fees.” This simply isn’t the time!

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Several show managers have been increasingly sensitive to the exhibitors’ economic challenges and are doing their best to accommodate by dropping fees and creating packages of stall fees. Other show managers, however, have added fee upon fee to their total in, I’m guessing, an effort to make up for down numbers. This is the time to ask these show managers to explain why they added these fees.

This is also the time for all of us to work together. It’s not the time to write anonymous, negative postings on bulletin boards. Instead, it’s time to think constructively and make suggestions that help both sides. In fact, I’m sure Tricia Booker, the Chronicle’s editor, would be happy to receive and publish letters to the editor with your thoughts and ideas on the subject.

I’m pleased that the U.S. Equestrian Federation and the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association have also made moves to help the industry. The USHJA lowered their International Hunter Derby prize money requirement from $15,000 back down to the original $10,000 it started with. Also, several rule changes were passed at the USEF Annual Meeting in January to help show managers with their prize money distribution. The USHJA Hunter Restructure Committee has discussed reducing the number of days for A-rated shows as well.

We must keep these positive ideas going, and it would help if you keep in touch with your zone chairmen to assist them in these tough economic times. 

You might want to also write to USEF President David O’Connor and ask what the USEF is doing to save jobs, horses and shows. Ask David how he and the USEF Board of Directors are going to connect with our congressmen and senators to keep and create jobs and, more importantly, keep the concerns of the horse industry at the forefront for all of its members.

The AHC has proven that our numbers are impressive–now our voices need to be heard. Our industry is strong; let’s keep it that way. The AHC membership fees start at $25–it’s money well spent. 

Susie Schoellkopf


Susie B. Schoellkopf serves as the executive director of the Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center, which is the home of the Buffalo Equestrian Center and SBS Farms in Buffalo, N.Y. An R-rated U.S. Equestrian Federation judge, Schoellkopf has trained numerous horses to USEF Horse of the Year honors, including Gabriel, Kansas, Big Bad Wolf and GG Valentine. She started writing Between Rounds columns in 2002.

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