AHC Presents 2012 Van Ness Award to Kentucky’s Madelyn Millard


Each year, the American Horse Council presents the Van Ness Award to a person who has shown leadership and service to the horse community in her state. It is awarded in memory of Mrs. Marjorie Van Ness, one of the founders of the New Jersey Horse Council and the AHC’s Coalition of State Horse Councils. This year’s award was presented to Madelyn Millard of Lexington, KY for her great service to the horse community in Kentucky and nationwide.

“As president of the Kentucky Horse Council (KHC), Ms. Millard has made her state council effective and critical to the industry’s health and involved at the state and national level,” said AHC president Jay Hickey in presenting the award at the recent AHC annual meeting. “During her tenure as president, Madelyn guided the KHC board and staff to develop novel programs in such diverse areas as horse welfare, equine professional education, youth support and recognition, trail protection, and legislative involvement and communications.”

One of Ms. Millard’s major goals was to educate both the general public and Kentucky elected officials that the term “horse industry” not only applies to big racing and breeding operations in Kentucky, but to all breeds and all activities. She helped to create programs that emphasized that horse farms, whether commercial or recreational, play a large part in the agricultural life of Kentucky. Other noteworthy programs she helped create are: Save Our Horses, which funds programs helping unwanted horses; Gelding and Euthanasia Clinics, which supplemented funding for horse owners’ whose incomes did not allow them to pay for these services; and an Equine Disaster Relief Fund to assist horse owners nationwide if they are victims of floods, tornadoes, or other natural disasters. “These are all great programs and models for other states to follow,” said Hickey.

Ms. Millard also had the vision to recognize that the Kentucky Horse Council was not just a state organization, but also an important participant in the national industry through equine connections and partnerships. She believes it is critical to be involved with the equine industry at the national level and has been active in the Coalition of State Horse Councils, first serving as vice chair in 2010-11 and then being elected Chair in 2012 at the AHC’s Annual Meeting.

“I am honored to have been chosen as the recipient of the Van Ness award. However, without the support of a great Kentucky Board of Directors and a truly outstanding Executive Director I would not be accepting this award today. They shared my vision and supported the creation of so many new programs and I share this award with them,” said Millard.

Ms. Millard currently manages the Equine Division of Waterwild Farm, a 530-acre family-owned farm in Lexington, Kentucky. She is responsible for 40-50 client horses, as well as twelve Waterwild-owned horses, most of which are sport/pleasure horses involved in disciplines from dressage to eventing. She personally rides gaited American Saddlebreds, an off-the-track Thoroughbred or a Morgan.

New Marketing Initiative to be Highlighted at AHC National Issues Forum


The American Horse Council’s National Issues Forum, entitled “Reinvigorating the Horse Industry,” will feature a new national marketing initiative for the horse industry that involves ten national associations and large corporate industry stakeholders. It will be announced at the forum on June 26 in Washington, DC, during the AHC’s annual meeting, which will run from June 25 to 27 at the Washington Court Hotel.

“This initiative involves major organizations and corporations in the horse industry,” said AHC president Jay Hickey. “They have been meeting for about nine months; formed a coalition under the American Horse Council; committed funding for the effort for several years; and hired Patti Colbert Enterprises to draft a marketing plan. While the full marketing plan has not been finalized, the group thought the AHC’s Issues Forum would be a good place to announce its existence and activities to date and how other organizations can participate in the initiative in the future.”

A key component of the marketing initiative is a study that Pfizer Animal Health has completed to determine why people interested in horses do not own a horse and why they are not more involved with equine activities, either as participants or spectators. Stuart Meikle, Marketing Director, Equine, Pfizer Animal Health, will present the findings of that study, which is intended to identify recommendations for messaging strategies that will encourage more ownership and participation.

Patti Colbert and Janet Greenlee of Patti Colbert Enterprises, which will be leading the effort, will provide an outline of what the initiative hopes to accomplish and its plans to date. Patti Colbert has produced events and drafted marketing plans for the horse industry for some time. She developed the highly-successful Extreme Mustang Makeover events with the Bureau of Land Management and has produced several television programs on horses.

“The AHC is very pleased this initiative will be highlighted at the National Issues Forum so that others in the industry will be aware of it. Hopefully, this will lay the foundation for others in the horse community to take advantage of the proposals to connect horses and people once the plan is finalized,” said Hickey.

Already on the agenda for the program are presentations by The Jockey Club and the American Quarter Horse Association on their ongoing efforts to reinvigorate the horse industry.

On Tuesday afternoon, the National Issues Forum will host speakers on “Legislative Advocacy in the Electronic Age.” Congressman Bill Owens (D-NY) will be the featured speaker. Mr. Owens serves on the House Agriculture Committee.

The AHC’s annual Congressional Reception will take place on Tuesday night and the Congressional Ride-In on Wednesday, which provides an opportunity for the horse community to meet with their Members of Congress.

The AHC’s various committees, including the Unwanted Horse Coalition, will meet on Monday, June 25, to discuss issues affecting the equine community.

More information on these Forums and the entire AHC annual meeting, including registration and hotel information, can be found here on the AHC’s website or by contacting the AHC.

Congress Acts to Protect Commercial Packers in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks


Last week, Congress passed the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Backcountry Access Act, introduced by Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA). The bill directs the National Park Service (NPS) to issue permits to commercial horse and mule packers to operate in the wilderness areas of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Due to a lawsuit the NPS had not yet issued permits for the 2012 season.

“Commercial packers have been taking visitors into these parks for decades, allowing thousands of Americans to experience the backcountry of these parks,” said American Horse Council (AHC) Legislative Director Ben Pendergrass. “Without the leadership of Congressman Nunes who introduced and quickly passed this bill and the help of Senators Boxer and Feinstein Americans may have lost the opportunity to have this fantastic experience. This bill also saved the livelihoods of the commercial pack operators in the park and the jobs of their employees.”

Congressional action was needed due to a lawsuit filed by the High Sierra Hikers Association against the NPS concerning its management of commercial packer access to the wilderness areas of the parks. In January, a federal judge ruled that the NPS had violated the Wilderness act because it had not adequately addressed commercial stock use in a 2007 park management plan. The NPS then decided not to issue any permits to commercial packers for the 2012 season until the court case was settled.

The bill directs the Secretary of the Interior to continue to issue permits to commercial packers to operate in the parks and complete a new wilderness stewardship plan within 3 years. The NPS will now have the time it needs to address the judge’s concerns in a new management plan without interrupting the operations of the commercial packers in the parks.

“Preserving commercial and private equestrian access to wilderness is important not just to horse owners, but for everyone who does not have the physical ability to hike in the backcountry and for the communities that rely on jobs created by tourists traveling to our national parks and forests to have these experiences,” said Pendergrass. “We are grateful to Congressman Nunes for taking action when this access was threatened.”

How Congress Can Affect Your Ability to Show Your Horse


If you are competing in a horse show this weekend, you might not realize it, but decisions made in Washington, D.C. impact you and your ability to show your horse. The American Horse Council (AHC) believes it is important everyone involved in showing horses at any level or in any discipline understands that federal legislation and regulations affect them.

A notable example of federal policy directly impacting horse shows is the amount of funding the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) receives to prepare for and respond to contagious equine disease outbreaks. Contagious diseases are a major concern for every segment of the horse community, but they can really negatively affect horse shows. “Remember the recent equine herpes outbreak at a reining event in Ogden, Utah,” said AHC Director of Health and Regulatory Affairs, Dudley Hoskins. “State and federal vets and organizations responded quickly to the outbreak. Even with quick action, horse shows and events were canceled in 36 states and it could have been worse. That incident was the most recent reminder that there is not a comprehensive federal plan, sufficient funding, or personnel to deal with contagious equine disease outbreaks. The AHC is working to change that and make sure USDA has the resources it needs to safeguard the horse industry.”

Federal policy also impacts competitors and horse shows in numerous other ways. For example, many trainers, barns, and breeders depend on temporary foreign workers for grooms and farm hands and need the H-2B (non-agricultural) and H-2A (agricultural) foreign worker programs to work efficiently.

“Many people who participate in horse shows don’t understand how important foreign guest workers are to the showing community.” said AHC president Jay Hickey. “Without these workers, who often have years of experience caring for horses, there would be a major shortage of skilled labor in the showing industry. Unfortunately, right now we are fighting new H-2B rules that could make the program too difficult and expensive to use.”

Additionally, quarantine regulations impact equestrians who compete internationally. In January, the AHC requested the USDA allow U.S. horses to travel to CEM-affected regions for up to 90 days before more burdensome re-entry requirements kick in; currently it is 60 days. “Making this change would reduce the stress on U.S. competition horses, reduce the expenses for owners, and provide a more level playing field against our international competitors without increasing the risk of future incursions of CEM,” said Hoskins.

The AHC encourages members of the horse show community to visit its website at ahcbeta.flywheelsites.com to learn how federal legislation and regulations impact them, and how they can get involved and support the AHC by becoming a member.

“Everyday we are here in Washington talking to Congress and the regulators to make sure they are aware of the concerns and needs of the $ 102 billion horse community. This is the only way to make sure equestrians will continue to have the ability to compete in their chosen equine discipline now and in the future,” said Hickey.

Dr. Rick Mitchell Appointed to AHC Board


International veterinarian, Rick Mitchell, DVM, MRCVS, has been named to the American Horse Council Board of Trustees. Dr. Mitchell has been involved in national and international equine competitions as both a rider and veterinarian. This summer’s Olympic Games in London will mark his fifth visit to the Olympics as an attending veterinarian for the U.S. Equestrian Team.

Dr. Mitchell will replace David O’Connor, President of the USEF, on the AHC board. “David has been very important to the AHC board and we appreciate his service and counsel,” noted Russell Williams, AHC chair.

“The AHC is very pleased to have Dr. Mitchell on the board,” said AHC president Jay Hickey. “Dr. Mitchell has been chair of the AHC Health and Regulatory Committee for several years and provided great advice and experience. He is a real ‘two-for’ in that he has veterinary expertise in equine diseases and international experience at the highest level of competition. As the equine show world gets smaller, that is the type of experience the AHC is fortunate to have.”

Dr. Mitchell was born in Greensboro, NC and lived there throughout childhood, participating in fox-hunting, and hunter/jumper competitions into adulthood.

Dr. Mitchell attended Guilford College majoring in biology then received his B.S. from North Carolina State University, and his DVM from Oklahoma State University. He is currently in private veterinary practice limited to equine medicine and surgery with an emphasis on lameness. He has been in practice with Fairfield Equine Associates in Newtown, CT since 1989, where he is president.

Dr. Mitchell is internationally certified in veterinary acupuncture and equine locomotor pathology and has authored many nationally and internationally published articles and textbook chapters on equine health care.

Dr. Mitchell has served on various boards, including the United States Equestrian Federation, Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association, and the American Association of Equine Practitioners. He is a founding member of the International Society of Equine Locomotor Pathology.

“I am pleased to be on the AHC board and hope I can continue to make even more of a contribution to the AHC and the horse community,” said Dr. Mitchell.

Dr. Mitchell is married, has two children and three grandchildren.

DOL Withdraws Proposed Child Labor Rules on Farms


On April 26, the Obama Administration announced its plans to withdraw a Department of Labor (DOL) proposed child labor rule applicable to agriculture. The proposed rule would have severely limited the ability of young people to work on farms and ranches.

“We are pleased the Administration responded to the concerns of the agricultural community and decided against changing the current rules for young people working on farms and ranches. This was a poorly conceived rule and they did the right thing by withdrawing it,” said AHC President Jay Hickey.

The proposed rule would have placed new limitations on the ability of young people to work for pay on farms or ranches not owned solely by their parents and would have effectively barred employees under 16 from working in most capacities in agriculture, especially around livestock, such as horses.

The AHC had been working with a broad coalition of agricultural organizations to convince the Administration and Congress that these rules were ill-considered, would prevent young people from becoming involved in agriculture, and would negatively impact family farms and ranches. In November 2011, the AHC submitted comments opposing the rule that can be found here.

“When the DOL proposed this rule we don’t think they completely understood the impact it would have on young people who work in agriculture. Thousands of Americans from the agricultural community, including the horse community submitted comments to the DOL explaining the problems with this rule and also contacted their Member of Congress to express their concerns,” said AHC Legislative Director Ben Pendergrass. “The Administration listened and withdrew the rule. This is a good example of the way the system should work.”

The Administration has stated it will not re-propose any new regulations on this issue. Instead it will “work with rural stakeholders to develop an educational program to reduce accidents to young workers and promote safer agricultural working practices.”

The AHC encourages members of the horse community to visit its website ahcbeta.flywheelsites.com to learn how federal legislation and regulations impact them and how they can get involved.

If you have any questions please contact the AHC.

Department of Labor Finalizes Changes to H-2B Visa Program


On February 21, 2012 the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a final rule concerning the H-2B temporary guest worker program. This new rule, which will go into effect on April 23, 2012, will make significant changes to the way the H-2B program operates for all employers including those in the horse industry.

“Anyone in the horse industry who uses the H-2B program needs to be aware of this new rule. It makes major changes to the responsibilities of employers using the program and if the new guidelines aren’t followed employers could be fined and barred from using the program,” said AHC President Jay Hickey.

The H-2B program is used by members of the horse industry, principally horse trainers and owners who cannot find American workers to fill semi-skilled jobs at racetracks, horse shows, fairs and in similar non-agricultural activities.

The AHC believes the new rule will make the H-2B program more costly and burdensome for employers who are forced to use the program and has opposed the new rule. “It is unfortunate the DOL decide to finalize this rule,” said AHC Legislative Director Ben Pendergrass. “This rule will make it difficult for trainers and others in the horse industry to use the program and could impact American jobs. The current rule was working well for the industry and included many protections for foreign and American workers.”

The final rule, among other things, will:

  • Require an employer to pay most inbound and outbound travel expenses for H-2B workers.
  • Extend H-2B program benefits, such as reimbursement of transportation cost, to American “corresponding workers” that work alongside H-2B workers and perform substantially the same work.
  • Require employers to provide documentation that they have taken appropriate steps to recruit U.S. workers, rather than permitting employers to attest to such compliance.
  • Increase the amount of time employers must try to recruit U.S. workers.
  • Prohibit job contractors from using the program.
  • Define temporary need as 9 months, previously it was 10 months.
  • Define full time employment as 35 hours a week, previously it was 30 hours.

“This final rule is complex and has many new provisions and changes. If you are an employer who uses the program you should review the new guidelines and contact the lawyer or agent you use to process H-2B applications to ensure you are in compliance with the new rule when it goes into effect on April 23,” said Pendergrass.

DOL guidance and the complete rule can be found here on the Department of Labor’s website.

“Many Members of Congress are also displeased with this new rule and believe it could hurt industries in their states. The AHC is going to continue to work with those Members to try and roll back this new rule. Unfortunately, gridlock in Washington will prevent any quick action by Congress and the horse industry will have to comply with the new rule for the foreseeable future,” said Hickey.

The AHC encourages members of the equestrian community to visit its website ahcbeta.flywheelsites.com to learn how federal legislation and regulations impact them and how they can get involved.

The Future is in Your Hands – Take the Reins! What You Can Do to Give Strength to the Horse Industry

You may be surprised to know that there are over 9 million horses in the United States, based on a study done by the American Horse Council entitled the Economic Impact of the Horse Industry on the United States.

The American Horse Council (AHC) is the only organization that represents every segment of that vast horse population. Every day, the AHC communicates with Congress and other federal agencies to ensure that each understands the economic, agricultural, sporting, and recreational importance of the horse industry.

This can be tedious work, but without open lines of communication with our leaders in Washington, D.C. we could lose the ability to enjoy our horses and our work in the industry that we love. We hope that our efforts ensure that these federal officials will support a legislative and regulatory structure for the horse industry that encourages individuals and other entities to support and participate in the horse industry, to invest in our horses, and to sponsor and support our events and activities.

The AHC believes that the more opportunities there are to use horses in various activities, the better the overall health of the industry and those who participate. Our goal is to keep opportunities open so that EVERYONE in the horse industry is able to thrive.

Because we are a not-for-profit organization, we depend on you – a person who is devoted to your horse and to your sport – to help us stand up for our rights as horse enthusiasts. Join the American Horse Council today and help us to help you, your horse, your sport, and your industry!

It is extremely important for everyone in the horse community to present a unified front and show Congress and other federal agencies that the horse industry is not only important to their constituents, but is also a large, economically diverse industry that provides hundreds of thousands of US jobs and billions of dollars in tax revenue. The AHC is the only Washington, D.C. based organization solely dedicated to representing all horses, equestrians, and every segment of the diverse horse community and industry.

The AHC provides many updates on important issues affecting the industry, and explains to its members how they can contact their elected officials to speak up about these issues. By joining the AHC, you give strength to the horse industry’s voice.

To learn more about supporting the AHC and becoming a member today visit ahcbeta.flywheelsites.com/ahc-memberships.