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Post Time with Dan Gall

Post Time

As we hit the final month of the year, I thought now would be a good time to provide you with an update regarding some of the projects that Standardbred Canada has been working on.

There have been three external initiatives that we have facilitated, that have involved various associations, working groups and stakeholders to help re-define and re-set our business. These initiatives include; a Canadian Standardbred Rules Committee, an inaugural National Standardbred Horse Association meeting and the creation of a Canadian Industry Media Task Force.

1. Rules of Racing Committee:

In the recent past, we have provided details about the Rules Committee, including committee structure and the goal of working together to create a National Standardbred Rule Book. This has been a high-agenda item for our members and those participating in our sport, and there is a reason why one currently doesn’t exist.

Frankly, it is because it is an extremely tall order.

Working through seven different rule books and identifying similarities and unique differences, and having to discuss and understand why there are differences, takes time, patience and perseverance. Our Rules Committee has been extremely understanding with Standardbred Canada as we muddle our way through the process in determining how best to tackle this task.

It ain’t easy. But then again, if it was, this would have been done a long time ago.

So we are chipping away at putting into place a process that is workable and manageable, and with everyone’s input and commitment we should begin rolling along effectively and efficiently in the weeks to come.

The good news is there are a lot of similarities in our rule books. The bad news is there are going to be some contentious discussions around rules, and how jurisdictions negotiate through them will require good listening and a certain amount of selflessness for the greater cause.

To say that we have tackled a contentious issue would be incorrect but the committee is aware that we will be navigating into these waters very shortly and how we respond as a team to the first set of complicated and opposing viewpoints on the rules will assist in developing a further process to move forward.

At this stage, there are a lot of questions and apprehension due to the magnitude of the project. But the team has really been awesome to work with. The committee has been positive, honest, candid, and open to working through this and we couldn’t ask for more.

This is not going to be done overnight but if we can agree to stay in it for the long haul I believe that we can deliver to our members, and the sport, something that we need - a national rule book outlining the rules of racing for the country.

2. Standardbred Canada National Association Teleconference:

On Tuesday, October 31st, Standardbred Canada hosted and facilitated the first national Standardbred Horse Association meeting.This 90-minute teleconference had representation from horse associations across the country including those from PEI, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.

The idea for organizing a national teleconference came from a board meeting that we had where management was asked what we can do to reach out and communicate to our members more regularly. After that board meeting, we put together an agenda of topics that we wanted to address with the Standardbred Horse Associations, and invited them to the meeting.

During the meeting, we heard from 11 leaders from the respective horse associations and presented a Standardbred Canada update, asked for the associations input on the National Driver Competition criterion, and then had each association provide a status update on the good news and not-so-good news that is happening in their provinces.

To say this first national meeting was informative would be an understatement. Everyone on the call was totally engaged, on board, and ready to talk about the issues that we are facing as an industry.

It was also a great opportunity to ask our associations what they felt Standardbred Canada needs to be doing more of, and they provided ideas of how we can help going forward. My main takeaway was; why aren’t we hosting these meetings more often?

The 90-minute meeting went far too fast as we heard industry ideas, thoughts and concerns.

After the teleconference, we sent out a survey to see what the participants thought of the first meeting and the response was fantastic.

All associations that participated on the call also participated in the survey, and the results are very encouraging:

• 100% of the associations agreed the teleconference was informative and that Standardbred Canada should host more of these calls in the future, commenting that, “’s important to connect with other provinces on a regular basis to share information and concerns, as well as successes that may be applicable to our own provincial situation.”

• 75% suggested that we continue to host the calls either; monthly, bi monthly or quarterly, emphasizing the “need to exchange information at a provincial and national level as the industry is in challenging times and working together is important.”

• Additional comments throughout the survey suggested that we spend more time tackling issues rather than providing updates. It was noted that Standardbred Canada should take the lead in finding out real concerns and getting people together to discuss them. The associations also provided suggestions on topics that we should be talking about including; marketing, signal broadcasting to large markets, Rules and Regulation updates, external promotion of the sport, etc.

This inaugural National Association meeting bodes well for assisting in re-shaping and re-setting the sport, and I am happy to announce that we will continue these calls on a quarterly basis going forward.

3. Media Task Force:

The other external initiative that Standardbred Canada has focussed on is the formation of a Media Task Force to help identify how we can better promote our marquee racing events across Canada, develop and sustain a star system for our horses and drivers, and bring a national voice to our sport to assist mainstream media in identifying what is relevant to the horse racing fan.

This last initiative is surprisingly one of the more challenging; as the Task Force took the opportunity to enlighten me on the precarious position sports, and specifically harness racing, is in, fighting for air time or press time when it comes to coverage.

I didn’t receive a lot of positivity as to ways to achieve or raise the bar on the above objectives. Afterwards I thought maybe I am looking through rose-coloured glasses, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for the dose of reality that the Task Force provided me.

Don’t get me wrong, the meeting wasn’t all negative, just not all that positive.

But that’s ok. Better to know how the subject matter experts really feel than assume or believe we can make a difference when there is an overriding sense that we can’t.

It is always best to start at ground zero because you can only go upward from there.

And this is where we will begin with the Media Task Force. Having espoused what my thoughts are to them, it’s time to listen and learn from those working in the field to better understand the challenges and roadblocks that were identified in our inaugural meeting.

So, we will work with the Media Task Force to identify our purpose, outline our goals and objectives, and create a strategy that will eventually move us forward and raise the bar.

Staying status quo is just not an option. As General George S. Patton is believed to have said “Lead, Follow or Get out of the Way.”

As an industry we all must lead the way into the future, or at least at a minimum, into a New Year!

Happy Christmas everyone, and a healthy and prosperous 2018!

Dan Gall
President & CEO, Standardbred Canada
[email protected]

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