Be careful what you wish for from Big Brother

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Editor’s Note: We’ve moved our usual Friday opinion piece up to today given the timely and frightening news that passed in a U.S. House subcommittee in recent hours.

Friday’s Opinion

Raise your hand if you think the government should get involved in the Bute dispute (or any other equine sport issue). Think again.

U.S. House subcommittee vote today takes on college football

This is really scary. Wednesday, December 9, 2009, a U.S. House subcommittee approved legislation aimed at forcing college football to switch to a playoff system to determine a national champion (source AP). This bill goes even further, banning the promotion of a postseason NCAA Division I football game as a national championship unless that title contest is the result of a playoff (source Rochester Business Journal). Whhhhaaat????

I suppose if I weren’t so floored and incensed about seeing my tax dollars hard at work ensuring Big Brother is alive and well, I’d go fish out the language of the bill for all to see, but don’t imagine anyone really wants to read that special prose.

Do you want Big Brother dictating equestrian sports?

As I see more banter over FEI’s decision (or non-decision) on Bute, the relating clamour on banning this drug for the harm it does to horses (with little comment on how it is prolonging the quality of life for some older hacks) and a groundswell of chants from uniformed lemmings starting to push for government intervention, I worry that the cure may be much more harmful than even the promise of the worst apocalyptic prognosticators who are running with this cause with third, fourth and further party information.

Be careful what you wish for.

What could this mean for our sport and our horses?

Forget about how this actually applies to The Declaration of Independence (“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America”) , let alone the Constitution (not to mention the cost associated with putting such matters in the bureaucrats hands – NFPs spend, on average 10% on administration, the government handling similar programs, more than 70% – source, “A Time for Caring” by Dick Kaplan), and think for a moment about how embracing such intervention will hinder our sport and hurt our horses.

Want to see how great the government handles equine issues? Take a glance at the conditions Mustangs are being subjected to in the roundups occurring in the U.S. West.

Hey, if we abdicate college football playoffs standards to the government, why not have Senators supervise and influence vet checks at C**** events to ensure a fairer (right) decision on the winners? Maybe the House could look at breeding operations and determine that collecting semen is unnatural and legislate live breed for all? Perhaps the President should use his executive powers to ensure all heads of equine associations are appointee buddies? Hell, maybe the Supreme Court should rule that it’s cruel to ride horses and take on a case that renders a decision that equestrian sports are illegal (without consulting my horses, who have strongly indicated they want a job).

OK, maybe I’m getting a bit out there on the hyperbole front, but not by much. Horsemen understand equine issues and industry concerns – elected officials don’t. Once you invite legislators into the fray, you risk losing input and influence on decisions that are critical to your livelihood, recreation, enjoyment and activity by giving permission to those who have no understanding to dictate your equine future. Most elected officials run with what’s popular and spend little time researching how what they support may impact the industry they are making mandates about – let alone the economic or equine enjoyment impact.

Look before you leap

I was shocked to see that a House subcommittee is spending time (and our tax dollars) on mandates for college sports (these are kids, for goodness sake). Ditto for those many comments I’ve seen calling for government intervention on equine sport decisions. At first, I dismissed these suggestions for government action as silly and without legs. Now, it seems, the U.S. government has sports in its crosshairs. Do we really want to invite government interference in our industry? Be very careful what you wish for. It looks like the genie is laying in wait.

Nanette Levin

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