First, a little bit about myself. My professional career revolves around the development of sustainable agriculture and equine industries in Canada. After graduating from the University of Guelph’s Agriculture – Equine option program, I spent time working in a Thoroughbred breeding facility, providing nutritional consulting for a custom feed mill, as a barn manager and grooming for a high performance equestrian athlete. I have also worked to develop national policies, such as the Canadian Sheep Federation’s Canadian Verified Sheep Program.

I am passionate about collaborating with EC’s Equine Industry Development Committee, Health and Welfare Committee and Breed Sports Committee to improve horse welfare and promote the growth of all equestrian disciplines across Canada.

I also sit on a 30+ external working groups representing the equine sector, including The Canadian Livestock Transportation Governance and Restructuring Committee (Co-Chair), Canadian Federation of Agriculture Board of Directors and The National Farm Animal Care Council Board of Directors.

Now, how is EC advocating for our industry and equines during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The majority of our advocacy deliverables, whether published publicly or sent directly to the government, follow the same process:

  1. Identify the issue.
  2. Assess the issue and identify a potential solution.
  3. Collect background information, data and supporting materials.
  4. Asses the materials and develop a draft document.
  5. Compile a panel of subject matter experts for consultation on the document via several reviews.
  6. Present the document for review by the applicable stakeholders (e.g. PTSOs).
  7. Present the document for review by the EC Board of Directors if required.
  8. Send the document for editing and formatting.
  9. Present the document for final review by the applicable EC staff.
  10. Send the document for translation.
  11. Publish or send the document to the relevant audience.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents a complex situation with many interrelated issues. Here are the key messages we have been reiterating in all deliverables:

  • The equine/equestrian industry is a large economic contributor to Canadian agriculture and rural community development.
  • Equines, equine/equestrian businesses and business employees are at risk due to the financial impacts of COVID-19 state of emergency restrictions.
  • Equine/equestrian businesses should be considered in the earliest possible stage of reopening at each level of government.
  • It is imperative to address equine/equestrian business classification and program eligibility, as many existing relief programs do not work for or are not accessible by many equine/equestrian businesses.

Central to the above messaging is the distinction between equine primary and secondary agriculture, which impacts everything from farm registration to relief program access.

Equine industry primary agriculture currently encompasses:

  • Raising
    • Breeding active equines.
    • Providing breeding services.
    • Raising equines for development.
  • Developing
    • Developing equines to have the skills for secondary industries.
    • Training equines (completed through riding lessons, training sessions and/or racehorse development).
    • Developing future generations of equestrians (e.g. 4H, Learn to Ride, Pony club).
  • Maintaining
    • The daily care and maintenance of business-owned or third-party equines who are being raised, developed or are active in secondary industries.

Meanwhile, equine industry secondary agriculture include:

  • Sport and Competition
  • Recreation and Leisure Activities
  • Events
  • Public Programs

Another issue that impacts key messaging is how working horses and equine/equestrian businesses are defined to the government; these definitions have had to be finalized, agreed upon by many stakeholders and clearly communicated moving forward.

An active equine facility is a commercial agricultural business that uses farmland, purpose-built structures and active equines to generate revenue. These facilities offer a mix of services including breeding, raising, training, boarding and/or maintaining the health and welfare of active equines. These activities support regional economic development and awareness of local equine activities, including sport and competition, youth and adult development and wellness, therapeutic use and agri-tourism.

An active equine is livestock specifically raised and cared for in an active equine facility. The specific use of these animals may include pedigree development, sport and competition, youth and adult development and wellness, physical exercise, therapeutic use and local agri-tourism. Active equines are key economic drivers that directly contribute to revenue-generating activities and provide benefits to businesses and communities. Active equines demand daily care that requires the services of animal care professionals (including veterinarians and farriers) and regular agricultural inputs (including hay, bedding and grain).

An active equine is raised to be a valuable and useable asset throughout the course of its natural life. Active equines are not kept or raised for use in the food processing or pharmaceutical industries.

Clarifying these definitions has helped us advance the needs of our community and define the appropriate channels for relief.

So what are we doing with these messages and definitions? Here is a detailed breakdown of key actions we have taken to help the equine/equestrian industry during COVID-19. Since March 18, 2020, EC has:

  • Been in constant communication with the office of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, as well as the Minister of Canadian Heritage.
  • Conducted a survey gathering equine/equestrian business profiles from March 26 to April 6, 2020, the results of which became the foundation of our advocacy appeal.
    • Survey results were shared with both Ministers’ offices, applicable provincial ministries and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC)
  • Brought on Wilton Consulting Group for third-party data assessment to analyze the survey results and develop the Response to COVID-19 for Canada’s Active Equines Summary Report.
    • This report was submitted to AAFC and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.
  • Created an Equine Sector Advisory Panel with AAFC to review EC’s proposal reviewing sector impacts and requesting COVID-19 relief.
  • Brought on Grassroots Public Affairs to help expand bandwidth for government and public relations, as well as advocacy campaign management.
  • Sent letters to 20 Members of Parliament (MPs) who have equine/equestrian interests in their ridings, as well as to MPs of the opposition.
    • Connected with several MPs because of these letters to confirm their support moving forward.
  • Conducted interviews with several media outlets, including CTV National News and The Globe and Mail, among others, to increase visibility of these issues.
  • Met with members of the House of Commons Finance Committee and COVID-19 Response Committee.

We’ve been working nonstop on these initiatives and will continue to do so until we achieve the assistance needed for our community.

Thank you to all of the equine/equestrian community members who have reached out to offer their support, contributions and kind words! I am very hopeful we will see both short- and long-term results for Canadian equine/equestrian businesses and the sector as a whole.

Sincerely,

Kristy House
Manager of Welfare and Industry

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