When Horse Organizations Act Like Government Agencies

An article published in the Chronicle of the Horse’s July 24, 2014 Equitation Issue entitled “Penalized for Patting” reminded me of the similarities between various equine sport organizations and government agencies. The article specifically addressed the fact that some equitation judges were penalizing riders who dropped their reigns to pat their horse at the end of a course, before horse and rider had left the ring and technically while the rider was still being judged.

The rule at issue was the “loss of rein” rule, found in the USEF Rulebook under the heading “EQ 110 Class Routine.” The article further explains:

According to Stacia Madden, trainer at Beacon Hill Show Stables in Colts Neck, N.J., and co-chairman of the USHJA Joint Equitation Task Force, the loss of rein rule is not meant to penalize patting, and the task force is addressing the issue by adding a sentence or rewording the existing loss of rein rule to clarify the difference between losing a rein and putting the reins in one hand to pat the horse.

In law school, lawyers are taught that there are several things which can help interpret a law or administrative rule which is ambiguous. When looking at the purpose of a law, it is called looking at the “legislative intent.” Essentially, what Ms. Madden was stating was that the purpose of the rule was not to penalize patting a horse, but to penalize a rider’s loss of position.

This is only one example which illustrates how certain equestrian agencies operate like governmental ones. In fact, when it comes to racing commissions, they are created by state law and are a government agency. However, even with private governing bodies, such as the United States Equestrian Federation (“USEF”), the governing rules and procedure inevitably cause them to act similarly to a legal body. Consequently, if you have issues with any of the regulatory bodies governing your sport horse business, you should contact an equestrian attorney. Finding a lawyer who specializes in equine law will help you understand the regulations and procedures affecting you.

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