If you are a reader from outside our True North strong and free, you might want to skip today’s rant and instead visit the aptly named newest creation from John of EventingNation, www.hahahorses.com. Or maybe not. Maybe I won’t bore you to tears after all. Politics are politics, and one of the necessary evils of human existence. I have left the FEI alone for a while, but the scene at Mission Control looks like the UN on a good day and the Balkans on a bad one. I’m sure other countries have issues in their national equestrian federations, and for those countries physically big enough, power and financial struggles between regional associations and the national fed. Maybe my story today will have some of you in other countries nodding in recognition. Or maybe Canada is just weird.

I think I might be scooping a story  here when I tell you that Equine Canada sent a letter to the six ‘hell no’ provinces last week, in which it was expressed in the tidiest of prose that EC is officially pushing back its chair from the negotiating table. No more to-and-fro, no more he-said she-said, no more jabs of the verbal sword or ridiculous offers disguised as compromises. As our fearless leader Akaash Maharaj said to me last week, the only time he’s ever seen a case of negotiation where one party offers LESS with each interchange was in a Bugs Bunny cartoon – but that’s what the hell no provinces tried to pull on EC in their final-final-really-final offer. Loony Tunes indeed.

 Personally, I’m glad to be from BC – a province that signed a service agreement with EC, charged its members $5 more  so that EC can do what the provinces have long criticized it for not doing (supporting members who prefer a nice trail ride over a weekend at a horse show), and put some dough into programs for non-competitive activities with our favourite four-legged herbivores. I can’t honestly understand what the big deal is. Even when my EC membership contribution increases to $10 in 2011 that is less than I spent at a certain coffee chain last Saturday (I’m not talking about Tim Horton’s). 10 bucks a year is 83.3 cents a month for jeebus’ sake. 

If I sound a bit impatient with the six provinces that are now left standing on an empty battle field (from west to maritime: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Nova Scotia, PEI, NFLD) it’s partly because I think they’re nuts, but also because they did something two weeks ago that I didn’t appreciate very much. I appear to be the only dimwit in Canada willing to wade into the equi-political quagmire and try to make some sense of it for those readers who take enough interest not to just flip the page when they see no photos of horses. Call me naive but I think members of organizations like EC and provincial federations should care at least a little tiny bit about how their membership dollars are used. Back to my beef with the hell-nos: as I researched an update article on the EC vs. provinces debate, I tried really, really hard to write something fair and balanced. I interviewed presidents of ‘ heck yes’ provinces, EC CEO Akaash Maharaj, and Richard Mongeau, the Exec Director in Quebec who is the official spokesman for the six hell no provinces. I honoured Richard’s request that financial and other details of the negotiations not be put in the article because the six provinces had agreed with the EC Exec not to share news with their members or with the media until there was ‘mutually something to report’ (though Akaash told me he was not aware of any such agreement). That made my article a little lean on gory details, but I thought it was the responsible road to take.

 The September issue of Horse Sport went to press near the end of July. On August 4th, the six we-say-nay provinces sent a newsletter to their members (and posted it on their websites) disclosing every last financial detail of the negotiations. My article will appear in the September issue and boy is it going to look like I was a slack-assed researcher. Richard was very nice and forwarded me the newsletter on the same day, but it was a bit of a barn-door-closed-horse-already-bolted situation since it was much too late for me to revise the article. I love print media but this is one case where the internet wins in spades. I suspect that the hell nos decided to share the details and contradict their own agreement because they had a sneaking suspicion EC was about to pull the rug out – or perhaps because it was feared that their members would read my article and begin asking them why they were hearing this from an independent magazine and not their own executive boards. But I’m just speculating here. 

In researching my latest article – which will come out in October’s issue of Horse Sport – I had a nice chat with Akaash in which I attempted to perfect my reading-between-the-lines skills, which are woefully inadequate at times. He had some interesting things to say which I didn’t have room to include in my article; here is one that, to me, nicely expresses how I feel after a year of covering this unbeloved tale: “A year ago I could understand reluctance and skepticism [to signing a contract with EC] but now it’s starting to look like outright intransigence.” Especially since the heck yes provinces are happy as clams with the whole arrangement they have with EC.  Another thing Akaash pointed out is how retarded it is (my words not his) for these provinces to go on and on about what a terrible hardship 42 (2011) or 83 cents a month (2012 and beyond) will be for their members and in the same breath attack EC for ‘punishing’ its members because they didn’t sign on. If I concentrate really hard, I think my between-the-lines skills are telling me these provinces have just got a big hard on for EC and they kind of like it and don’t know what they’d do with themselves if they didn’t have EC to fight with.

If you are a member of a hell no province and joined both EC and your provincial federation this year (you didn’t have to join your provincial one, in case you thought you did – that requirement exists only in the  heck yes provinces), you have paid twice for insurance. Richard said something to me about the provincial insurance including an accident clause that isn’t in the EC insurance but basically you are double insured. If the current situation remains the same, meaning the six provinces stay in that great big bed together holding hands and singing Kumbayah, next year those six provinces will be offering less to their members, giving you less reason to join. You might decide to instead use your provincial membership dollars to join a different association, or like I did a few weeks ago (it’s all Jason Priestley’s fault in those TV ads with the sad dogs) start donating monthly to the SPCA. Or you could move to BC, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario or Yukon (maybe too cold) where I believe members are getting the best service from our provincial associations. Of course, there is nothing preventing any of those six provinces from breaking free of their cult of no and giving Akaash or Mike a call. My bet is that the last to cave will be Alberta and Quebec – which, I would like to point out, are the two provinces with active separatist parties.

If this goes on long enough, maybe I’ll have to write a book about it that will be made into a movie and make me rich beyond my wildest dreams: Lord of the Horse Flies.