The American Horse Council (AHC) wrapped a trip out West with its 2023 Annual Conference on June 6. The enthusiasm for learning and combatting a growing list of missions filled a packed crowd of industry leaders and ardent enthusiasts.
Attendees heard updates on the actions of such committees as the United Horse Coalition, Equine Welfare, Health & Regulatory, Racing Advisory, Show and Competition and Recreation/Trails/Land Use Committees that encompass the many facets of the AHC. Presentations spurred conviction to look for change or action during engaging presentations at the annual National Issues Forum.
“The theme for the 2023 National Issues Forum is ‘The Measure of Tomorrow,’ and is intended to showcase four important focus areas for the future of equine and equestrian industry – Economics, Sustainability, Herd Health, and Strengthening the Community,” stated AHC President Julie Broadway in her opening remarks. “As you hear these presentations, I ask you to think about how the information shared will inform your actions to ‘shape’ tomorrow. We all strive to leave things ‘better than we found them’ so that’s my challenge to you – how does the content you hear today help you and us think as visionaries and leaders that have the opportunity to ‘shape’ tomorrow?”
Economics and how the industry is valued was the first focus of the forum. Speakers included Dr. Gregory Graff, professor of the Economics of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at Colorado State University; Michael Vanaskie of The Innovation Group, one of the lead economists for the AHC Economic Impact Study and Julie Broadway of AHC on the 2023 AHC Study. Broadway and Vanaskie highlighted how the differences between the current format of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) census and what the AHC hopes can become a more encompassing horse census. This census has been spurred by the AHC’s (ongoing) Equine Economic Impact Survey and how more accurate numbers can help the industry get a fairer piece of the Farm Bill, which is currently in debate in Washington, DC.
The focus on sustainability took an eye-opening and nose-pinching turn when Colorado State University Capstone students Jessica Stock and Vanessa Roy shared their presentation on how horse manure is being repurposed to consumable electricity in Finland and how that could be used in the United States. Scott Evans shared his mission of helping horse show circuits and associations take a greener approach to their events with his initiative Green is the New Blue. It all started with trying to eliminate single-use water bottles being left behind at shows to something that’s bigger than just your local show circuit. Finally, Megan Fellows shared her mission of Carbon Hoofprints—innovative solutions for stakeholders in the equestrian stakeholders.
Always a hot topic, the focus on Herd Health included Joe LaFollette of League of Ag & Equine Centers, Dr. Nat White of Equine Disease Communication Center and Dr. Angela Pelzel McCluskey of the USDA on biosecurity measures needed to mitigate disease at shows and events and at home. This was supported by a presentation by the University of Florida’s Dr. Sally DeNotta that shared how the changing climate is affecting equine infectious diseases and increasing vectors that might not have been thought of in years past.
Finally, the forum focused on strengthening the horse community with the AHC Marketing Alliance. Members Jen Grant of Zoetis and Christy Landwehr of National Reining Horse Association shared a new campaign to reach out to more than our own industry, but outside the horse industry with the “HereForHorses” campaign. The campaign is an evolution of two previous campaigns that included the Time To Ride campaign to introduce riding and horses to the general public. The “HereForHorses” campaign is in its infancy, with more details to come.
“This was one of the best issue forum I’ve attended,” said Dr. Josie Traub Dargatz, formerly of CSU, who was happy to attend the forum in her own back yard of Colorado. Her sentiments were echoed from many who attended.
AHC also honored five award winners and the recording of the award ceremony will be on the AHC website soon. Rep Jacki Walorski, Dr . Jerry Black, Gary Carpenter, Dr Chelsie Huseman and Days End Farm Horse Rescue.
“The conference is one of the best ways to engage and be reinspired with our mission to bring together the horse industry—no matter the breed, discipline, background or location,” says Broadway. “We hope everyone left reinvigorated with new ideas and calls to action.”
The next AHC National Conference and National Issues Forum will be held in Washington, DC, June 9-11, 2024, with plans to build on the momentum created in Denver.