A Voice on the Hill

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Every special interest group in the nation has a representative in Washington that lobbies for the cause at hand. The horse industry is no different. In fact, in this time of shrinking open space and budget crunches, it’s vital that the voice of horse owners be heard in the nation’s capital. This is where the American Horse Council comes in.

The American Horse Council (AHC) started in 1969 when a group of horsemen united to protect the rights of equestrians in the U.S. Motivated by the implementation of tax laws written without the welfare of the horse industry in mind, five individuals—Ogden Phipps of the Jockey Club, Ed Honnon of the AQHA, Frederick Lennep of the USTA, Thomas Morton of the American Saddlebred Horse Association, and Warner Jones, a Kentucky Thoroughbred breeder—created the Council to be a voice for the horse industry in Washington, D.C.

Since that time, the American Horse Council has established itself as a federal lobbying organization for the equine industry and acts as an advocate with Congress, the Presidential administration and government agencies on all issues relating to horses, from tax codes to trail preservation.

Membership has grown to encompass 185 equestrian groups and 35,000 individuals. AHC members include breed registries, equine periodicals, tack stores, educational organizations, racing organizations, sport and show organizations, and health organizations. Individual members consist of trainers, breeders and ordinary horse owners. continued

Legislative Achievements

Since its inception, the American Horse Council has worked as a legislative advocate for horse owners throughout the country. In the last five years, the organization has been involved in a number of legislative issues.

For example, in 2003, the Council entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. Forest Service to establish a relationship between the agency and AHC member organizations. The goal is to ensure that equestrians are considered when rules concerning public land use are at issue. In the same vein, the year prior, the AHC secured $50 million in federal appropriations for a Recreational Trails Program.

Also in 2003, the AHC helped gain House passage of the Right to Ride Bill, designed to protect the rights of equestrians on public lands. A representative of the AHC testified to the National Parks, Recreation and Public Lands Subcommittee of the House Resources Committee, saying, “Too often over the last 10 years, we have heard reports that public lands and trails are closed and access denied to pack and saddle stock and recreational riders. We fear that some of these closures are effected with a bias against horses and riders, without sound science and without a justifiable rationale.”

Consequently, the House passed the legislation and sent it to the Senate, where it awaits further action. If passed by both houses of Congress, lands managed by the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service would all be covered under this bill.

More recently, the Council helped design the National Animal Identification System, providing the U.S. Department of Agriculture with input from the horse industry on how this program should be applied to horses (see related article in the October 2005 issue of Stable Management).

Health Issues

Legislation affecting the horse industry is not the AHC’s only reason for being. Addressing veterinary health, research and regulations affecting equines are also key issues.

“Dealing with these issues is the biggest job we have,” says Nicole D. Lamoureux chief operating officer for the Council. “We have one staff member who works on this solely, and she has been with us for 19 years. We have a close association with the American Association of Equine Practitioners, and have a health and regulatory committee made up of veterinarians.”

Council staff reads and studies all U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rules to make sure the horse industry is properly represented in each program. Recently, the Council became involved with a proposal to establish a national control program for equine infectious anemia (EIA). A subcommittee of the U.S. Animal Health Association’s Committee on Infectious Diseases of Horses developed the program, and asked the council to review it. The Council’s Health and Regulatory Committee expressed reservations and requested a cost-to-impact analysis, including an analysis of the current EIA situation in the U.S. The Council has since requested that the USDA not take further action pending additional input from the horse industry.

The Council is also involved in a number of other health issue programs, including proposals for dealing with equine viral arteritis and equine piroplasmosis.

“...most horse owners are not eligible for federal assistance in the aftermath of a natural disaster...”

Taxes

The AHC has also taken a stand on tax issues relating to the equine industry. The organization has supported the Equine Equity Act (S. 1528), which would end tax discrimination against horse owners versus other livestock owners. Currently, horses must be held longer than other business assets to be subject to capital gains, and racehorse owners are not allowed to base depreciation values on the expected racing life of the horse. In addition, most horse owners are not eligible for federal assistance in the aftermath of a natural disaster, unlike owners of other livestock. The bill would make horses eligible for capital gains treatment after a year, place all race horses in the three-year category for depreciation, and make horse owners eligible for federal emergency assistance. The Act is currently awaiting a vote in the Senate.

The Membership

To extend its clout, the AHC encourages horse people to join the organization. “Every horse owner out there benefits from what we are doing,” says Lamoureux. “Not only do we represent the industry on many different levels, but members also receive educational information,” she says. “And no matter what membership level you have, you get a staff member in D.C. you can call with questions. Our staff is small, but our customer service and hands-on care for members is great.”

American Horse Council Membership

The American Horse Council offers a number of different membership levels, each with corresponding rates and benefits:

Grassroots Member, $25—Receives AHC News.

Legislative Member, $50—Receives Grassroots benefits, plus Horse Industry Directory, AHC's Care and Handling Guidelines, AHC Grassroots Lobbying Guidelines and member discounts.

Congressional Member, $100—Receives Legislative member benefits, plus AHC Washington Update electronic news service, AHC's Tax Tips for Horse Owners, Force of the Horse Brochure, and bi-monthly Tax Bulletin.

Senatorial Member, $500—Receives Congressional member benefits, plus free registration to AHC convention and tax workshops, AHC publications sent to your certified public accountant or lawyer, and AHC Tax Handbook for Horse Owners

Cabinet Member $1,000—Receives Senatorial member benefits, plus Economic Impact Study of the Horse Industry in the U.S.

Presidential Member $5,000—Receives Cabinet member benefits, plus four private briefings a year with the AHC on issues that are of interest to the member and the horse industry.

For more information, contact the American Horse Council, 1616 H Street, NW, 7th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20006; (202) 296-4031; www.horsecouncil.org.