men in cowboy hats at meeting
Photo by Molly Montag

Frankly Speaking: Path of Change!

For some of you who care as deeply as I do for our horse and the industry that surrounds him, you look forward to learning about what positive changes may occur in this business. Some of you have made the effort to be proactive. You filed your thoughts and ideas in the form of rule changes or program tweaks, meeting various deadlines for the respective associations in which you are involved. Some of you are just now organizing your thoughts to accomplish the same with other agencies whose deadlines loom in the near future.

In any event, most of you are aware (at least you should be) that there are certain protocols and procedures that guide you in this process. You generate ideas and changes you’d like to see incorporated within the structure and governance of the assorted entities in which you navigate. Your ideas flow into the association and are placed on agendas for discussion or perhaps action at the convention. That’s how our process works.

However — and this is an important point — if you desire some form of change, you must follow set policies. Within every association and organization that governs a breed, discipline or competition in the equine business, all ideas and rule changes follow a path that winds its way to change. This “roadmap” is clearly defined in rulebooks and online, and association staff is there to answer questions.

When you do have an idea or a rule change proposal, you must first fill out an application, which is usually found on an association’s website. The application must be filled out properly, and you need to take care to define the problem or circumstance to be corrected or embellished. Your solution should be carefully thought out and then written out as succinctly and clearly as possible. Think of the so-called “five Ws” –— Who? What? Why? Where? When? — and then make sure each one is addressed. Then you can add in the ever-important “H” — How much? If you’re serious about change, you need to be serious in a realistic solution that works within the parameters of established rules and realistic economics.

It’s very important that we’re all aware of the protocols and procedures that are in place within an equine organization. These make up the roadmap for administration and staff to follow as they conduct day-to-day business. So, your ideas have to be workable. I’m not saying you can’t present a big idea or major change that you believe is necessary; I’m saying that you need to consider the historical record, established operations and proven policies that have guided our industry through many decades.

As I reflect back, I remember many affirmative actions and changes that have occurred in our industry by following the “P & Ps” (protocols and procedures) from previous administrations (i.e. executive committees, boards of directors, standing and grievance committees, etc.). Consistency. This was the common factor in each successful outcome following a thorough review according to documented protocols and procedures. Whether those conclusions comprised a rule change, program reformat, infraction, penalty or even a suspension, each decision and result was based on a foundation of proper protocol and procedure.

So, you’ve got your idea. You’ve made a clear case for change, double-checked that it follows the protocols and procedures, and now you’re ready to present your case. The trick to seeing your idea or change to fruition is to show up at the meeting in which the agenda item will be discussed. You need to stand up and defend your position. Bring others who are of a like mind for support. Advocating your stance in a public forum on your issue will be the most important ingredient you can add to a recipe for successful acceptance. It’s simple really, except that a great deal of effort and some expense is necessary to ensure you have exhausted all avenues to achieve your goal.

No industry or association is perfect, and change has to be implemented if we expect to survive and grow. Your ideas are needed — and necessary! But if you are happy to stand back and complain or resort to vitriolic messages on social media, then it’s just a lot of hot air to those who are in the position to execute change. If you have a problem or a good idea, do yourself and others a favor. Get off the fence you’re sitting on and “git’er done!” Follow the roadmap. Take your idea to the top. Bring your supporters, then be ready to stand your ground and provide the means for realistic progress.

Over the years, I’ve had ideas and I’ve had complaints. In every case, I’ve followed the roadmap outlined above. And don’t think that every one of my proposals was met with enthusiasm. Sometimes it was a little rough up there in front of the committee, and I certainly haven’t won every battle. But when I believe in something, I make sure to do my homework, make the presentation in the best manner possible and then stand up for what I believe. I’m not afraid of criticism or opposition — the future of this industry is more important to me than worrying about an approval rating. People may not like my idea, but they sure as hell know where I stand.

I stand for the future of our horse industry!

As always, I remain