American Horse Council opposes new child labor regulations for farms


Farm workersReforms to U.S. child labor laws aim to keep young workers safe, but the American Horse Council (AHC) believes that they will be detrimental to the horse industry.

The AHC is a Washington, D.C.-based group that lobbies on behalf of the equine industry. Earlier this month, they announced their opposition to RIN 1235-AA06, a proposed rule change from the Department of Labor that would tighten restrictions on workers under age 18 in agricultural jobs.

Currently, the regulations for agricultural employment for workers under age 16 are not as restrictive as those for non-agricultural employment. Youth workers are allowed to work on farms as long as they do not work during the school hours of the district where they live.

There is still a discrepancy between agricultural and non-agricultural labor laws in regards to the ages at which workers can participate in hazardous occupations, and the revisions aim to reduce that discrepancy. For agricultural workers, hazardous duties would include operating certain tractors and other motorized equipment; working with breeding stallions; participating in branding, breeding, vaccinating and other specified animal husbandry practices; and herding animals on horseback.

The AHC opposes the revisions in part because the definitions for “hazardous occupations” are far-reaching. In a letter to the Department of Labor, AHC President James Hickey wrote:

This HO is so broadly written that the prohibition on herding in confined spaces could
preclude a worker under 16 from walking into a corral or stall to place a lead rope on a
horse, one of the most basic actions that occurs when working with horses…As currently written almost every HO in this proposed rule is overly broad and
restrictive. The AHC supports the current method used to protect young workers that
prohibits youth from operating specific equipment or specific activities that are deemed
dangerous and inappropriate for their age and skills.

“Members of the horse community do not employ young people simply because they need workers,” says AHC Legislative Director Ben Pendergrass. “In most instances, they employ young people to give them the same opportunities they had to learn and do something they love. Young people don’t go to work on horse farms and ranches only for a pay check, but because of a desire to learn about and be around horses and to follow the traditions of their families…This proposed rule would deny most young people such an experience.”

The proposed revisions do not affect children who work on farms operated by their parents or a “person standing in place of the parent.” The latter may refer to a relative who is serving as the child’s guardian, even if just for a temporary period such as a summer vacation. Under the proposed revisions, children of any age will still be allowed to work on farms operated by their parents as long as they are not working during school hours. There are also some exceptions for youth enrolled in certain agricultural vocational training programs


  1. That is so stupid.I know they are just trying to keep kids safe but still.They are taking away all the fun in working with horses for kids.

  2. That is so stupid.I know they are just trying to keep kids safe but still.They are taking away all the fun in working with horses for kids.

  3. most kids on farms WANT to help and do work. Its what they call fun. I do to. I’m 12year old girl and i LOVE helping my family at our equestrain center,our farm, and anywhere else im needed. If there becomes a law about this it takes away all the fun we “country kids” do everyday. We get hurt everyday and we don’t care little bruise or a scratch no big deal. If anything we risk our own lives on a farm and thats our choice. Its a free country.

  4. why do they have to take away kids being with horses? it brings joy to them. Every day there is a kid somewhere in this country smiling up at a horse, everyday there is a kid in this country working with a horse, everyday in this country there is a kid riding a horse. Kids find joy in this. They love it and wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.

  5. This is what happens when we let our government impose so many regulations on us. Their objective is to keep kids safe (or more likely, to just hold power), but they end up taking away an essential part of being a horse-crazy kid. When I was 14-16 years old, I worked on horse farms all the time, even around breeding stallions! With this law, it would be absolutely pointless for kids to even work on a farm, because under these stupid rules they couldn’t do anything anyway! Because the animals are just oh-so-dangerous! Just for the record WE KNOW! And guess what? Its OUR CHOICE!

  6. I know 2 young sisters from a barn I used to ride at while in college. They are homeschooled in the morning and work at the stables mucking stalls, grooming lesson horses, cleaning tack, etc…and the eldest does some training with retired racehorses, teaching them to jump. And I have to admit that I envy their childhood since I did not discover horses until I was 20 and never had the chance to work at a stable as a kid.
    They are the happiest teenagers I have ever met, and always talk about how much they love their job, and with over 150 horses (from rescues to Throughbreds, and an sweet, blind mare named Maddy) it’s a tough job. They love their life and their work, and it’s a shame that some crazy new law could just take that away from them. 🙁


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