USHJA Meeting Day 2: Everything’s Bigger in Texas


Brace yourself, day three was almost as big as the state itself

Today was another early morning start. As Alix and I walked to the meeting, we discussed the hot button topics of the previous day and how those would spill over into today. After some breakfast sponsored by the Oklahoma Hunter Jumper Association, we got right into the thick of it with the rule review.

In this, the votes of the working groups from Monday are reviewed while also allowing further comments to be made by both board members and the audience. There was a fair amount of time spent on a few topics when the board members asked the audience to examine the fine print in some of the proposals. Some rules were voted against, while others required some verbiage changes before they would be considered. The hour and half went by quickly and the proceedings were cut a little short in order for the next meeting to take place.

The emerging athlete meeting covered both senior and junior pathways, how we intend to keep the USA reaching for the top of the sport, and how to stay there once we have reached that point. With Robert Ridland and Anne Kursinski both in attendance, they were able to report on both the experiences and statistics of how the US team has done from the highest levels down through the programs designed to funnel the junior riders of tomorrow. Ridland was happy to report that programs such as NAJRYC (which now includes a children’s level) and the Zone jumper championships have produced a great turn out and results amongst riders. This means that there will be an abundance of young, up and coming riders, who will eventually represent our country in international competition. We finished up the meeting by discussing the growth of these youth programs and how the board intends to improve the programs in the coming year.

After quick stop at the tea station, I was off with my two cups of tea to the hunter working group. In a bit of a repeat of the morning’s rule review, the Hunter working group went over any changes to the proposals that the boards suggested the day before. One rule was changed to simply add the word “not” as there was a typo in the original draft. Further small changes were made to several proposals while others were fiercely debated on whether the board of directors should present them to USEF. The majority of the time was spent voting or amending, but even with those few proposals that got some passionate responses we managed to end on time.

Next it was off to the jumper working group. Since the group had gotten through the proposals the day before, it was on to the task force review. The board members went over what the duties of each task force, made a few changes to each task force’s focus and direction, and even merged a couple task forces. Once task forces had been gone over, the conversation switched to the role of safety coordinators at horse shows and the rules surrounding them. This topic was riveting. Sally Ike pointed out that in the eventing world the role of safety coordinator is taken very seriously, and that this person makes the Boy Scouts look sloppy in how much they plan and how well they do their job.

However, when taking a long hard look at the Hunter/jumper world, the job of the safety coordinator is often overlooked. A few key situations were mentioned about falls that happened at shows this past season at prominent Hunter/jumper shows and how the medical, and management’s, responses were lacking. This would not have happened, some said, if the right medical staff had been hired. The basic medical personnel hired for the show did not possess the authority to call in a helicopter in one situation, which had devastating consequences for the victim of the fall. All of this is supposed to be the safety coordinator’s job. So the long hard question is, when will our industry start to take safety for the human athletes more seriously? This is not to say all shows are guilty of this, in fact some are fantastically run. But for those managers cutting corners to save money, or appointing safety coordinators who don’t really have plan in place and have an open dialogue with the staff, need to realize that those shortcuts could cost someone their life.

This fantastic discussion came to an end just in time for lunch. A nice little walk across the street to get to the Hodges Badge Company lunch was a welcome stretch for our legs. First stop after lunch was concussion training with Dr. Lola Chambless, MD and Roy Burek of Charles Owen. Both presentations were very well done and very educational. Dr. Chambless started out with statistics and a basic education of what a concussion is (it’s actually a mild TBI). She covered how to tell if someone is exhibiting symptoms of a concussion and what the appropriate ways to act are. Being a neurosurgeon, she is able to give first hand knowledge of how TBIs (mild or severe) affect everyone differently. Working alongside the NFL she has witnessed the horrors of players going back into the game before they’re truly ready to return. The results were disastrous for those who sustained a second brain injury during this period and implored to everyone to take their recovery seriously if they ever find themselves concussed. She does not advocate the getting right back on the horse mindset, she says it’s best to take a few minutes if you do fall off and make sure that you are truly well enough to get back on.

Once she had finished, it was time for Roy Burek, managing director of Charles Owen, to take to the stage. Roy discussed the research that Charles Owen has been taking part in. The main focus of the presentation was how biologically women recover more slow from an injury to the brain than men do. Considering the vast majority of people who ride in this country are female, this was a very interesting topic. According to the research groups that Charles Owen has become involved with, they have found that hormones play a big role in recovery. The hormone progesterone – in theory – should protect the nerves and thereby speed up the healing process, unfortunately it has the opposite effect. It even goes so far as to affect recovery by where a woman is in her menstrual cycle when she sustains the injury. Of course, this is all research at this point, but it will be interesting to see how this will impact the medical field in the future.

After a question and answer session with Roy and Lola, it was time to go to the TCP committee meeting. I was especially looking forward to this as it had been floating around the meeting that eventually USHJA would like all trainers that attend rated Hunter/jumper shows to be certified. Now this was just an idea, but this would be a great committee to actually discuss the viability of such an idea.

We started off with a fantastic PowerPoint presentation covering the newest system and how they ended up with these levels after years of working on it. The biggest new addition that we covered was the online education aspect for the future of the program. In the new system there will be two ways to advance through the levels, education and results. We got to see a great example film put together by Bernie Traurig and Julie Winkel of how the education side of things would work from an online perspective. I personally loved it and thought the system has a lot of promise. You will also be able to also attend TCP clinics in person for live education testing. The criteria for results based ascension was also released and created a bit of a heated discussion.

Some thought the criteria was too hard and not achievable for the average everyday trainer. However, when reminded that they could use both results and education to move up in level everyone settled back down. The meeting ran over the allotted time so when I emerged from the room I had missed the break sponsored by the Missouri Hunter/Jumper Organization and Greater Oklahoma Hunter/Jumper Horse Shows. Having also missed a rather large portion of the USHJA board meeting, Alix and I decided to run back to our hotel to get ready for the Evening of Equestrians sponsored by USHJA Zone 7 and the Awards Dinner After Party sponsored by Parlanti.

A nice walk outside back to our hotel, a wardrobe change, some make up, and we felt refreshed and ready for the evening ahead. Sitting at the media table we had a great view of the stage and we quickly became friends with everyone at our table. The evening kicked off with dinner before the awards, salad followed by a delicious entree. Once everyone had finish eating the awards presentation officially got under way.

We started off with the two youth awards, and the two young ladies that won are the epitome of what the youth in our sport should strive to be. As we moved through the awards we got to hear about owners who have helped the sport by supplying top horses to riders, horse show staff that is so great they awarded for their hard work, amateurs who show such sportsmanship that their peers thought they deserved an award, wonderful volunteers who are always ready help and work tirelessly, and the two recipients of the lifetime achievement award.

The presentation put on for the lifetime achievement awards is so well done, you get to watch a short documentary style film on the life of the recipient. By the end you can see that they truly have dedicated their life to our industry and have made a lasting impact and will forever leave a mark as to the part they played in making our sport better. This year’s recipients were Dianne Johnson and Philip A. DeVita, and their stories were absolutely amazing. When the videos are available on the USHJA website I would highly recommend watching them. As soon as the awards were given out, the after party presented by Parlanti kicked off. Dessert was served and everyone started to descend on the silly photo booth and dance floor. Alix and I got our picture taken and enjoyed chatting with different people throughout the evening. When we left, the dance floor was packed and everyone was having a great time.