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The Silent Killer....Apathy

by Bob Funkhouser

Right up there with alcohol, cancer, and drugs, one of the leading killers in this country is apathy. It is such a small word, yet it has brought down powerful nations, booming businesses, great sports franchises, and rock solid marriages to name a few of the fallen.

There’s nothing like a little success to make individuals and organizations alike fat, happy, and content. You can see it in your every day life with personal relationships and you can see it in everything from national politics to the endless micro-governments that steer the endless activities available in a free being our horse show industry.

As a country we sailed through the blue chip economic times of the ‘80s and early ‘90s and there wasn’t nearly as much talk about national politics. Profits and investment returns were great in nearly all walks of life so the feeling was, “I don’t have to bother. Everything is good so I’ll just enjoy and let someone else take care of the business of politics.”

Next thing you know, in the late ‘90s and into the new millennium the economy is not doing so well. Americans were feeling more than a pinch at the belt and suddenly everyone wanted to be a part of the political process. In response to the inconvenience of a bad economy and concerns about our nation’s safety, record numbers of voters turned out for the past two national elections. Everyone had an opinion on what should be done and who should do it.

As a whole, Americans have become silent and apathetic until something is lost, taken away or altered enough to throw us off our routine or comfort level. It’s true at the national level of politics and it’s true at the local level of show horse governing bodies.

You’re thinking what the heck does any of this have to do with me and my horses or my horse interest? That’s an easy answer. Everything.

To bring this into focus, I’m talking about the UPHA, the ASHA, the AMHA, the AHHS and the USEF. They are part of that group of micro-governments that I was referring to above. Many of us write annual checks to these organizations and get our official number, our official decal, and our discount rent-a-car coupon and that’s the end of it. Although they desperately need us, we don’t participate and we don’t have a clue as to the workings of these governing bodies.

Do we think horse shows and their related rules and regulations just happen? Is there an angel up there assigned to the horse show industry?

Most of us are quite aware that the United States Equestrian Federation, the United Professional Horsemen’s Association and the individual breed organizations legislate the show horse industry. And until a decision made by one of those groups adversely affects us, most of us leave it up to them to take care of the business at hand.

Who are those decision makers? Well, they are we and we is me! That’s right, you and me. Horse trainer. Horse owner. Publisher. Harness maker. Photographer. Clothier. Jeweler. Besides a deep love for, we all have a stake in this industry and we all have avenues in which to participate and make industry altering decisions. The trouble is apathy usually wins out.

It takes personal sacrifice to participate and help shape the show horse business. Time is one of the most precious commodities we have in today’s fast paced world and it requires giving a good deal of it to serve these organizations. Expense is also another factor. It costs to participate, it costs even more to serve in leadership roles.

With these factors it is much easier to leave it to someone else. That has become quite evident at recent conventions and in the attendance at many local chapter meetings and horse show board meetings. It’s common place for a small core group to be doing the majority of the work year after year, organization after organization. It seems that the only time there is strong attendance is if there is a subject to be discussed or voted upon that has hit emotional chords with a large number of people. Transported semen during its conception years brought out record crowds. The low back debate has been another topic to fill all the chairs in hotel meeting rooms.

At this year’s UPHA Convention in Hilton Head Island the voting down of the SEN system for use in UPHA National Equitation Finals has brought about great friction and discussion after the fact, but with no advance billing for the showdown, the attendance was low for the convention. People didn’t care enough to be there, thinking there was nothing major going on.

That seems to be the excuse heard over and over for not attending and not participating. “Nothing ever goes on at conventions. There are never any good topics or panels. They talk about the same thing year after year.”

Again people, "they" is "we". “We” have the power and the avenues to get on boards, get on committees, go to meetings and be heard. “We” can come up with ideas for forums and speakers. “We” can volunteer to serve on these panels. “We” can offer ideas that are out of the box to make horse shows, conventions and other events more entertaining. “We” can bring our friends and other show horse enthusiasts along with us to also serve. “We” all have to be constantly committed, not just in adverse times.

It’s too late to close the barn door after the horse has gotten out. When animal rights activists or others within our breeds would rather see these animals running loose in the fields with no shoes on rather than to be kept up and taken care of better than most people, “we” had better already be in place as a strong, united group. When the USEF wants to pass rules that hurt our show horse breeds because of the misdeeds or wishes of other breeds, “we” had better have a powerful voice of owners and trainers made up of members from coast to coast ready to fight for our cause.

Whether you own one horse or 20, have trained endless world’s champions or couldn’t find Louisville, Ky., or Oklahoma City on the map, you have the right to be and the civic obligation to be involved if you are some way connected to the show horse industry. Owner, trainer, equine related business owner, all it takes is a phone call and writing a check to pay your dues and you too can be an active, participating member of any of the above organizations. Those who do not sacrifice and go to meetings and give of their time and knowledge have no vote and no right to complain, although back at the tack room and in the hotel bars, they usually have the loudest voices.

Put your mouth where it a meeting room, on a committee. Be a part of the solution and not the problem. There are lots of Monday morning quarterbacks out there. Let’s not second guess and put down the people that are serving and trying to make a difference. Instead, let’s put down that ugly word apathy so that 20 and 30 years from now our children and grandchildren will enjoy an even better show horse industry because of what “we” gave to it.

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