Elevating the equine industry: Wyoming Horse Council delves into legislative representation
The horse industry in Wyoming is like many across the country – fragmented among individual breed associations, performance groups and other segments, and Judy Horton, Wyoming Horse Council vice president, says that it is important for horse owners to unite under a common umbrella to focus on legislative efforts in the state.
“The Wyoming Horse Council is a legislative voice for the horse industry,” Horton comments. “That is our main goal and objective, and we mirror what the American Horse Council does.”
While many in the horse industry look for the horse council to get more involved in education and events, Horton notes that they spend their time strictly on legislative and policy efforts affecting the industry.
“We have three physical meetings a year and conference calls to talk about issues if needed,” she says. “We also help with the Big Wyoming Horse Expo, and we try to support the industry.”
When the Wyoming Legislature convenes in Cheyenne, Horton explains that the Wyoming Horse Council actively monitors legislation that moves through the body, and they take a position on those important issues that affect their members.
“If there is a legislative issue, we keep in touch, keep our contacts together and keep them informed during the session,” Horton notes. “If there is legislative issue, we let our members know so they can get ahold of their legislators and let them know how we feel.”
Bill Gentle is the Wyoming Horse Council lobbyist. Over the past several years, Horton notes that the Wyoming Horse Council worked diligently to help pass historic horse racing legislation, which revitalized the racing industry in the state.
“Over the last three years, the Horse Council really tried to promote the legislation that would enhance and further grow the racing industry in the state,” she says. “Rep. Sue Wallace and Sen. John Schiffer were sponsors of the bill. They have both passed away, and we now hold races to honor them and their work.” Horse racing is scheduled to take place this summer.
Currently, the biggest priority for the Wyoming Horse Council is the implementation of an equine passport.
“We are trying to get signatures to support an equine passport program in Wyoming,” Horton says. “After we get enough signatures, we’ll turn that over to the Wyoming Livestock Board so they know that we would like them to pursue the program.”
An equine passport would replace the 30-day health certificate that is currently required for equine movement.
“In Montana, the horse owner obtains a health certificate from their veterinarian and then submits a form to the Montana Livestock Board for the passport,” comment Bill Gentle and Candice Carden, both Wyoming Horse Council members. “The passport is valid for six months. A lifetime brand inspection and a current Coggins test is required, along with a five dollar fee per horse.”
The passport then allows horse owners to move throughout the state and passport region without requirements of a new health certificate.
Carden and Gentle explain, “When a horse with a valid passport travels to a state in the passport region, they are required to notify the state the are entering, and in Montana, the owner calls the Livestock Board on a 24-hour hotline number to obtain an import number.”
Montana is also currently working to implement an online import number program.
“The Wyoming Horse Council is proposing that the Wyoming Livestock Board join the other four states in the Northwest Region, so Wyoming equines can travel to those four states under a passport,” Carden and Gentle add.
Horton comments, “More recently, there have been fewer major legislative issues.”
Members of the Wyoming Horse Council are spread statewide, and, as with many other commissions and associations, they strive for leadership on their board of directors from each region.
“We have a volunteer board, and we don’t have an executive director,” Horton says. “All the work we do is through the work of dedicated volunteers.”
Nearly 50 active and inactive members currently support the association.
Membership in the Wyoming Horse Council is available to individuals for only $15 or to families at a discounted rate of $25. Additionally, commercial businesses, organizations or associations may become members for $35 a year.
Membership forms are available on the organization website at wyominghorsecouncil.com.
“Dues-paying members also receive a free one-year subscription to The Wrangler, which is also nice,” Horton says. “Members also receive news blasts from the American Horse Council and information about issues that we need to be aware of.”
“We, as the Horse Council, are always working to generate interest in our organization,” Horton says. “We would love to have more people involved and to be active in our organization. It’s important to be involved so the horse industry has a voice when issues come up. Someone needs to speak for the horses and our industry.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.