Rule Changes and a New Outlook on Equestrian Sport in the Desert – Day 2 of the USHJA Annual Meeting

By Elizabeth Evans | Photo: It’s A Haggerty’s

After a long drive out to the desert late last night, it was up early to make it to the Omni Hotel for registration this morning.  With my name tag and new USHJA backpack in hand – overflowing with rule change packets, brochures from the amazing sponsors, and all kinds of other goodies – it was time to grab some breakfast.

To begin the day, Bill Moroney welcomed the attendees and gave an outline of what to expect over the next few days.  Murray Kessler, the USEF president elect, was next to speak.  His presentation covered the new and improved USEF that will be unveiled at the USEF Annual Meeting next month.  Everything from a new logo, to a new website, to changing the way membership will work, the strategic plan and complete overhaul of the USEF for 2017 and beyond sounds exciting, and we cannot wait to go there with them.

We then jumped right into rule change proposals in the Rule Change Forum presented by Equine Exchange.  The next couple of hours were spent going over the majority of the rule change proposals.  It was a great opportunity to read through the proposed changes while people gave their opinions and asked questions, to help add perspective and hopefully help the rule pass – or in some cases not pass.

After a snack and drink break sponsored by SideLines Magazine, it was back in to finish the Rule Change Forum and then split off into the Hunter and Jumper Working Group workshops.  I attended the jumper workshop, and got to hear the Jumper Working Group Task Force go through all of the jumper rule proposals and talk out each rule and what they thought of it.  Hearing the opinions of top riders, trainers, and show officials, while also hearing from the meeting attendees, regarding specific rule changes, was a great way to see multiple perspectives for one rule.  Sometimes all were in favor or all were not in favor, while other times there were very good arguments made for both sides.  This ultimately led to some rules being approved while others were denied.

All of this debating was followed by a lovely buffet lunch sponsored by World Equestrian Center.  Immediately after lunch we got to hear the working groups’ thoughts on the proposals, and how they voted.  With the chair of each working group comparing notes and the general opinions of the group, the changes to the proposals started to flesh out.  Some changes were as simple as changing the grammar or wording, while others turned into a complete overhaul of the rule.

A quick snack break provided by Bridget Price and Scampi Babick helped revive us with a bit of sugar and caffeine.  Then it was back in for the Sport Growth Presentation.  The topics covered in this presentation were the prospect of a USHJA National Championship Horse Show, the pathway of the show jumping athlete from the bottom to the top of the sport, and the new USHJA Recognized Riding Academy Program.

Tom Struzzieri of HITS presented on the USHJA Championship Show and was asking for thoughts on when and where it should be held.  With the Championship Show still very much in the works, member input was greatly appreciated.  Larry Langer and Lizzy Chesson then discussed the athlete pathway for today’s show jumping riders.  They covered the three stages of rider – emerging, developing, and elite – and how each level plays a part in a rider’s career and ascent to the top of the sport.  It was great to hear how both the USHJA and USEF have programs to help riders along the pathway.  The USEF is very serious about looking ahead to building the future of the USA in the sport of show jumping.  To finish out, Larry Langer returned to talk about the newest USHJA program, the Recognized Riding Academy Program.  The idea is that riding academies and schools from around the country can apply to be recognized and partner up with the USHJA.  If accepted in the program a riding school can expect to be listed on the USHJA website, access to the Affiliate Equitation Awards Program, as well as discounts on the Trainer Certification Program manuals.  In return the USHJA will gain more recognition among the grass roots community of the horse industry.  Trainers of approved programs are asked to promote USHJA educational programs such as the Horsemanship Quiz Challenge Program and the Emerging Athletes Program as well as showing programs.

The last meeting of the day was the board of directors meeting with elections.  The board of directors voted on the incoming board members and positions on the board.   Once adjourned, there was a bit of time to prepare for the trip out to the HITS Coachella Horse Park for the Welcome Reception.  We closed out the night in the VIP area with dinner presented by HITS and a wonderful demonstration from the Foxfield Drill Team.  All in all it was a very busy, but extremely educational day for me.  Tomorrow looks daunting in terms of number of meetings, but I now feel ready to face it, having gotten a handle on things today.  I’m really looking forward to the next two days!