2017 USHJA Rule Change Debates

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Photo by Lauren Mauldin

BY ALIX MORRISON

As the annual meeting ramps up in San Antonio, and rule proposals are getting debated. Some of the hotly debated rules include: all of the rules pertaining to when and if safety cups are being implemented, HU133 and GR1113.2 (competing vs. completing), HU132.9 (recording results further), HU134.1 (jogging for soundness vs. trotting in and out of the ring to prove soundness), GR1302.2 and GR1302.2 (Safe Sport Initiative), GR801 and GR1316.4 (helmets), GR839.6 (reporting abuse of a horse), GR843.7 (reporting a collapsed horse), and GR309 (special competitions).

In some cases, these proposals were only debated because of the wording around them or how their intent matched up with their description. GR843.7 (reporting a collapsed horse) and GR309 (special competitions) are both this way. Members in the meeting were confused about what classified a collapsed horse vs. a fallen horse due to footing or an ill horse and if the burden of looking into it should be placed onto show management. Suggestions about the length of time to be out of competition also went around, from the entire week to having the vet sign off on the horse like a human would receive after a concussion. GR309 (special competitions) had wording even board members struggled to understand. Special competitions include the Olympics and International Hunter Derbies, and are exempt from the mileage rule. We will hopefully see a new draft by the end of the meeting week for these two rules.

GR839.6, reporting abuse of a horse, required more clarification from the USEF because of the wording. People are required to report to a steward abuse that happens to a horse at a competition. There were questions about keeping the reporting party private, and if it happened in an arena with several officials witnessing, was it still another exhibitor’s job to report the abuse? USEF concluded they will keep the reporting party private, and if an official sees the abuse then they already know about it.

The Safe Sport Initiative, GR1302.2 and GR1302.2, rules requiring that trainers have to take a course on drugs and medication, concussion awareness, and pass a criminal background check, received a lot of positive feedback. The biggest debate with this initiative was whether amateurs who sign their own entry blanks and parents who are not professionals should have to take it, or doing the courses through the Trainer Certification Program. Members discussed the balance between discouraging people by making them take the test, but ultimately having people more educated about drugs, medications, and concussions.

Helmet rules GR801 and GR1316.4, were another debate because they involved horse show management confiscating helmets after a fall, proving you bought a new one, and not owning a helmet older than 4 years past the manufacturing date. Many members had various issues with these points because helmet companies will give a discount if you sent a broken one back in, or a helmet kept in a climate controlled environment will last longer than one that is not.

In HU134.1 (jogging), Tom Brennan received a round of applause from the audience for asking if the 3’3” Performance Hunters should be C rated if no one was going to bother to jog, which sparked other debate about the attitude towards the division. The rule says that management can either have riders trot in and back to the in gate before the class (mounted), or jog after the class, and there was a lot of push back from the members at the meeting. Some said that trotting prior to the round was a good time saver because getting up to the jog after waiting long periods of time wasn’t ideal, but others asked about cantering in for the handy and the ability of a rider or martingale to cover up lameness.

However, the overarching theme of today’s debate was competing vs. completing. There are a few rules this year that come with it. HU133 is the first. This rule aims to eliminate the people that go in and make a circle to fill the divisions. Each horse must jump around and finish the under saddle in order to be counted as in the class. A rule closely tied to this is GR1113.2 which looks at splitting the points in a division if it does not fill due to people not completing the course. In this scenario, the division would run because it has the right number of people but two of them fell off so they did not complete the course. In this case, everyone gets half points for Zone and Horse of the Year.

More members agreed with the first rule because filling a division with a horse that just makes a circle can be considered a form of cheating; however, punishing a group with half points because someone went off course on day two was brought up. In rule HU132.9, the use of more markers than just DNP (did not place) on the USEF horse results page was discussed, which goes along with competing vs. completing and to what degree the rider did or did not. USEF IT attended, and said that many other disciplines already use that system so it would be easy to implement.

Overall, it was a positive day of rule changes and discussion.