Election Aftermath: Will Donald Trump Make America Great Again for Horses?

A trophy presentation by venue host Donald Trump for Grand Prix rider Jessica Springsteen (mounted) at the 2014 Central Park Horse Show presented by Rolex and produced by Chronicle of the Horse at Trump Rink in Manhattan; Land Rover was the official vehicle of the show and Jessica poses in front of two branding props promoting G. H. Mumm champagne. Two years later, Jessica’s father performed on Election Eve for Hillary Clinton. (Photo by Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Land Rover)

In England, the Duke of Beaufort loans his country estate, Badminton House, for the world’s premier horse trials each May. The Queen hosts the Royal Windsor Horse Show in her backyard. In America, we have benefited from the largesse of horse sport supporters like Jacqueline Mars in eventing, and even Ann Romney in dressage. Racing icon Marylou Whitney hosted the black-tie Whitney Gala fundraiser in Saratoga each August for years. In September, racehorse owner Barbara Banke gave her industry a night to remember when she opened her beautiful Stonestreet Farm outside Lexington, Kentucky as the site of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association awards ceremony.

Donald Trump is right up there on the angel list with these hosts and benefactors. Over the past few years, he has shown up at event press conferences to give his trademark thumbs-up signal. He has rubbed elbows and dropped soundbites with Jessica Springsteen, Kent Farrington and Georgina Bloomberg.

Winter Equestrian Festival CEO Mark Bellissimo is often photographed at Trump’s side. Bellissimo has been the lightning rod, the man with the Midas touch who has turned Wellington in January, Central Park in autumn and, most recently, Tryon International Equestrian Center all year round into end-of-the-rainbow travel and showing destinations for a new generation of equestrians. Show venues at Wellington and Tryon aside, Bellissimo has mastered the formula for promoting elite horse events and gaining the requisite publicity for success: hold an annual weekend event at a storybook destination where the public wants to go to have a look around–and be seen while they do it.

Getty Images photo: Ivanka Trump helped promote the Breeders Cup when it was held in New York.

As Donald Trump enters the White House, he will be faced with decisions about the welfare of thousands of horses in the United States. Much of his decision-making will no doubt be in the hands of policy drafted by his Cabinet appointees in charge of the departments of Agriculture and the Interior.

While President Obama had no overt horse-friendly agenda when he arrived in Washington, his administration managed to at least maintain the status quo on the primary issues. That didn’t mean that horse-related issues weren’t often in danger of taking a drastic turn against the mainstream sentiments of most horse owners.

There was a difference eight years ago. Obama had at least a short voting record on animal-related issues as a US Senator. But during his terms, key bipartisan legislation designed to benefit horses never made it to votes in Congress. Whether intentionally or not, key decisions of the executive branch under Obama kept horses alive, at least, by continuing to warehouse wild horses in the West and stymieing horse slaughter by denying funding for horse meat inspectors.

Regretfully, horses–especially wild ones–are still at risk in the United States and the return of horse slaughter is always just a court judgment or two away in several states. A cabinet-level mood shift after the transition could change the delicate threads that have maintained the status quo, equine style.

Let’s look at the key decisions on horses the Trump administration will face when it takes over in January:

by Fran Jurga
© The Jurga Report at EQUUSmagazine.com
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