Saturday, January 8, 2011

Report from the Summit of the Horse

Sat 1/8/2011 3:01 PM
Sue Wallis, Vice President
United Horsemen

More than a thousand people convened either in person, or online through live streaming video, at the South Point Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 3rd through the 6th for a historic first gathering of the horse industry, animal scientists, wildlife experts, representatives from more than a dozen land-based tribes, government agencies, business development consultants, equine academics and veterinarians, horse rescue owners, range management professionals, pet animal groups, ranchers and land managers, horse breeders, trainers, and marketers from not only the U.S. but Canada and Mexico as well, attorneys and advocates, and just plain concerned citizens-all in one room, all dealing head on with difficult issues surrounding the management, sustainability, and economic viability of our horses and our horseback cultures. There were more than 209 people on site in Vegas, and another 879 unique viewers on the webcast who collectively put in an amazing 909 hours of live viewing from remotes ranches, and urban centers literally all across this Nation.

The Summit caught the imagination of media from across the country from the Wall Street Journal to the Los Angeles Times, and became an opportunity for ordinary horse people struggling to make a living and to raise their children in what could be once again a healthy, viable, horseback culture to tell their story. The buzz on the Internet was palpable and positive.

Sure there were detractors. The vicious, unprincipled attack dogs of the radical animal rights movement were out in force trying to intimidate and bully anyone and everyone who might have the audacity to actually sit down in a room and talk rationally about the breadth and the scope of the problems, and to work towards solutions. Fortunately there are many good citizens in this country with courage and conviction to resist those tactics who are willing to stand up, tell the truth with dignity and respect, and have an honest dialogue with others who are equally concerned.

That atmosphere of respect and decorum may, in fact, be the finest triumph of the Summit of the Horse. Did we solve every problem? No. But I guarantee you that every single one of us who participated in those discussions, who listened to those experts, who shared our experiences, our frustrations, and our challenges, came away with a much deeper understanding of the true scope and breadth of the problems, and the absolute mandate to move forward to make things better for horses and horse people.

As organizers of the event, the primary objective of Dave Duquette, President of United Horsemen, Tracee Bentley, Legislative Affairs for the Colorado Association of Conservation Districts, and myself as both a leader of United Horsemen, our 501c3 educational and charitable nonprofit, United Organizations of the Horse, our mutual benefit political group, and a Wyoming rancher and legislator-our primary objective as organizers was to create a forum where the voices of the horse world, and those deeply concerned about the health of lands where horses both wild and domestic are managed, could be heard by a misinformed and emotionally manipulated American public. That goal was achieved beyond our expectations.

Secondly, we hoped that out of the event would arise a broad based coalition with the capacity and the resources to drive forward the legislative and regulatory changes necessary for a restoration of a viable, sustainable equine industry, an end to the unnecessary suffering of horses, and protections for the ecological balances so necessary on not only federal, but tribal, state, and private lands for free-roaming horses and native wildlife and forage to thrive sustainably. The coalition we hoped for arose almost spontaneously from the energy created at the Summit, and is quickly coalescing into a powerful and convincing educational force for the new Congress in Washington, D.C., state legislative sessions just now opening, and the American people.

In the coming days and weeks volunteers will be busy compiling, organizing, and publishing in different forms the enormous amount of data and good information that was presented at the Summit. At least three different documentary film efforts will feature in part the presenters and the people at the Summit, and help bring light to horse issues to an even broader audience. The equine academics in attendance are already collaborating with their colleagues across the country to use the material for research, for the education of students, and to build on the body of knowledge we have available.

A testament to the need and the urgency of the challenges in front of the horse industry and resource managers is the fact that the entire movement is a grass roots effort in the purest sense of the term. United Horsemen and the United Organizations of the Horse are entirely volunteer efforts whose leaders, staff members, and volunteers receive no compensation. In spite of a prestigious and world class roster of featured speakers from Congressman Charlie Stenholm, to Bureau of Land Management Director, Bob Abbey, to renowned animal scientist Dr. Temple Grandin, not a single one of the more than 45 featured speakers were paid an honorarium or speaker's fee, and most paid all of their own expenses to attend the Summit. All expenses surrounding the Summit are being paid for by members, sponsors, and contributors who understand that 100% of our resources are devoted to making a difference.

If you are in a position to help fund this ongoing effort please contact Dave Duquette,, at 541-571-7588 or Sue Wallis,, at 307-680-8515. Memberships and donations are welcomed and encouraged online at either or

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