November 2010

The publisher of The Equiery currently sits on the Board of Directors for the Maryland Horse Council and serves on the Executive Committee in an elected capacity.

Disclaimer: No, MTHA did not betray the horsemen, we just needed to catch your attention. Pretty inflammatory stuff, huh? And not very fair either, is it?
But that is exactly what MTHA did when it ran the the headline “Maryland Horse Council Betrays Horsemen” in its September newsletter.

Headlines matter. Most people won’t read beyond the headline, and even if they do, the headline influences how they read the story.
And unlike this editorial, there were no disclaimers up front. The MTHA, or at the very least the president of MTHA, Richard Hoffberger, wants the MTHA members to believe that the Maryland Horse Council (MHC) has betrayed them. And we have no doubt that the president sincerely believes that MHC betrayed his organization. Unfortunately for his readers and the members of MTHA, he got his facts wrong, and this should undermine his credibility in his attempt to convince the MTHA horsemen of his beliefs.

MTHA Newsletter Headline Article (which has no byline):

“…MHC’s misguided support for the proposed casino complex at Arundel Mills mall.”
The Maryland Horse Council Board of Directors has never taken a position to support or oppose slots at Arundel Mills. MHC did conduct a grassroots survey of Thoroughbred owners and licensed trainers as well as other horse people with regard to what the Thoroughbred trainers wanted. Hoffberger objected to the nature of the survey and the results of the survey. In deference to MTHA, at the May 2010 meeting of the MHC Board of Directors, the Board agreed to maintain its “no position” position on the issue of Arundel Mills.

“MHC aligned itself with the group lobbying for a video lottery terminal (VLT) facility at the Arundel Mills Commercial District.”
False. Apparently, a group that was lobbying to raise support for Question A did try to align itself with MHC by placing a link on its own website, but it did so of its own volition and without communicating with MHC. Of course, this misleads website visitors into assuming that MHC was supporting the group, but that was not the case. Hoffberger seized on that link as “proof” of MHC’s betrayal.

Richard Hoffberger’s “Thoughts & Comment” Editorial

“We [MTHA] were instrumental in helping the MHC secure funding in Annapolis.”

False at worst, misleading at best.

MHC receives no state funding. MHC is an independent, private trade association with the ability to lobby. The Maryland Horse Industry Board (MHIB) is a totally separate organization from MHC. It operates under the auspices of the MD Department of Agriculture, and receives funds through state law. MHC was active in creating and lobbying for the legislation that created a funding source for the Maryland Horse Industry Board. This publisher was one of the leads on the effort and obtained from MTHA a letter of support. That was all MTHA did to support the effort to secure funding for MHIB, so “instrumental” is a gross overstatement and “helping MHC secure funding” is simply wrong – MHIB, not MHC, gets the funding.

“On behalf of the MTHA and in conjunction with the MJC (Maryland Jockey Club), the MHC was asked to follow the lead of the racing industry on this important subject that affects the future of racing in Maryland. Unfortunately they refused, and have clearly supported slots at Arundel Mills mall.”

Wrong and unfair. At the May 2010 MHC meeting, the Board of Directors complied with Richard’s request. MHC has taken no position on slots at Arundel Mills. The president of MHC does have his own opinion, but his opinion is not representative of, nor binding on, MHC. Individuals are entitled to hold individual opinions, even when such opinions do not conform with the position of an organization as a whole. Do all members of MTHA agree with Richard Hoffberger? Are they not still members of MTHA?

Richard continues throughout his editorial to assert that MHC has betrayed Thoroughbred horsemen, while offering no credible evidence of that. It is merely his opinion that MHC has betrayed the horsemen. Of course, Richard is certainly entitled to his opinions, but he does a disservice to his members with his accusations.

Richard Hoffberger is passionate about racing, is passionate about the MTHA and is a passionate defender of his beliefs. If the members of MTHA agree with him (that MHC is acting counter to their interests regarding the Nov. 2 elections), then MTHA is well within its right to resign from MHC.

However, that is rather short-sighted.

The Big Picture

The Maryland Horse Council is the only umbrella association for all horse organizations in the state of Maryland, and is increasingly recognized as such in Annapolis. Each association has equal representation and an equal voice. The MTHA vote is equal to the Potomac Valley Dressage Association vote. The Maryland Jockey Club vote is equal to the Trail Riders of Today vote. The Maryland Horse Breeders Association (Thoroughbred) vote is equal to the Maryland State Quarter Horse Association vote.

MHC is the only forum in which all equine industry groups in the State can disagree but still work together.

In stamping his feet, taking his ball and going home, Richard merely validates the accusations of both the legislature and the media that the horse industry cannot get along and work together.
Life After November 2.

By the time you read this, the elections are over, and the horse industry is going to have to grapple with whatever the results are of those elections. No doubt, whatever the results, over the coming years we are going to face repeated attempts to reduce the amount of slots money that is returned to racing, and it is imperative that we, the horse industry, continue to work together. “They” (society, politics, the economy) have already killed Standardbred racing in this state. We are fools if we don’t continue to work together. Sometimes, groups within MHC will disagree, but that doesn’t mean we stop trying. The old cliché is true: if we don’t hang together, surely we will hang separately.

Richard…MTHA will always have a seat at the MHC table, and they have left the door open for you…whenever you are ready to come home.

Jane Seigler, Maryland Horse Council, Vice President

“MHC has never wavered in its belief, its actions, or in its statements of policy, in the vital importance of the survival of the racing industry in Maryland. All of the horse industry in our state suffers when Thoroughbred racing declines, and regardless of any strategic disagreements within our ranks we remain united in our cause.

“The results of the survey make clear that there is, in fact, no difference of opinion that the racing industry must survive and thrive. It is apparent that where MTHA, others of our membership, and the survey respondents legitimately differ is how to achieve that goal, but everyone agrees on the goal.

“The survey was conducted prior to the May MHC meeting, and it is important at this juncture to make clear that MHC absolutely has honored the commitment made at that May meeting, despite the assertions of MTHA. MHC has taken no action and espoused no position on the Slots Referendum since that meeting.

“As vice president of the MHC, I look forward to once again working with Richard Hoffberger and the MTHA in the near future.”