Think you're safe from political mayhem inside your “little equestrian microcosm”? Kate Samuels has bad news.
Unless you truly live under a rock, you've gathered from the various news sites, social media networks and radio shows that there is a government shutdown happening right now. What's that mean? A government shutdown occurs when Congress fails to pass a spending bill and the government discontinues providing services that are not considered “essential.” Typically, essential services include police, fire fighting, armed forces, utilities and corrections. It also means that #ShutdownPickupLines is trending on Twitter.
I usually take the tactic of continuing on my merry way in Horse World and assume that all the absurd political befuddlement will resolve itself and I will remain fairly unaffected. I'm aware of the world outside the barn, but I don't spend my energy getting as worked up about it as roughly three-fourths of the other people on Facebook. I generally learn about politics the way it is most palatable: through BuzzFeed (Why The Shut Down Is Exactly Like Mean Girls). However, this time my interest was piqued, as I realized the positively massive effect that the government shutdown was having, even upon my little equestrian microcosm.
Parks & Recreation: The National Park Service, Fish & Wildlife Service and the BLM all fall under federal jurisdiction, and thus have been closed. All the employees are off on furlough, and that means you can't hack through their lands anymore! If you are a rider that depends on the use of a local park for your riding, you're just out of luck.
Veterinary Testing & Disease Outbreaks: Possibly one of the scariest negative side effects for the animal industry at large is the possibility of a disease outbreak occurring during the shut down. All veterinary tests that start after the shutdown will be stored by the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Services staff for later processing. Should something really freaky happen and a disease outbreak occur, only high-priority tests will be run on a case-by-case basis. On a less scary level, this is a huge inconvenience for our general veterinary practices with horses.
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Imports & Exports: The USDA is in charge of all equine import/export quarantine facilities. Border inspection is currently listed under the essential category, and these facilities operate on personal fees, so you actually won't see much of a disruption here.
Horse Slaughter: Here's an actual benefit of the government shutdown. The USDA controls and regulates the transport program for slaughter-bound horses, so the whole program will remain completely closed for as long as the government is as well.
Visas & Temporary Workers: All processing of applications for temporary agricultural workers and non-agricultural workers have come to a grinding halt. This will totally prevent any influx of valuable workers for a number of equestrian jobs throughout the disciplines. Visas for foreign competitors at U.S. events could also be delayed, so it's a good thing we aren't anywhere near Rolex!
Let's all just hope that this is resolved in an expedient manner, and we can get on with our lives and continue riding in the parks. I encourage the continuation of freebies for furloughed workers (free barbecue!) and also approaching the matter with a sense of humor and not a sense of apocalyptical panic. Get on your horses, and continue on your merry way!