BY ELIZABETH EVANS
Fortunately Alix and I aren’t completely crazy party animals, so waking up bright and early for our last day of the meeting was easily done. I have grown fond of our morning walk to the meeting, it’s a refreshing way to start our day (considering we then spend the rest of the day inside). Per usual, upon arriving we had a delicious breakfast and looked over the schedule to determine which meetings we each wanted to go to. Then I was off to the sport integrity task force, where we reviewed the attitude towards some of the rule change proposals from a sport integrity point of view.
The most discussed rule change was regarding the fall of a horse while in the competition ring. The main reason this rule was such a big deal is because there are many reasons for a horse to fall (footing, drugging, accidental misstep) and the USHJA wants to know the reason to improve the circumstances, so it doesn’t happen again. The other thing this rule change will do is to hold everyone responsible for reporting falls to a steward. Many people are afraid to report on fellow trainers or riders, but both the USHJA and USEF have assured everyone that it comes down to safety for horse and rider. If a fall goes unreported the USEF will not be able to include it in data collection into why horses fall at shows or be able to change the underlying reason the fall occurred. The biggest hope for this rule is it makes the general public more comfortable with reporting to stewards and the organization without fear of backlash. Once everyone had been heard on ideas of how we could improve the industry to move ahead with sport integrity, it was time for a break.
This break, presented by the Northwest Arkansas Hunter/Jumper Association and the Arkansas Hunter/Jumper Association, was a quick opportunity to grab some tea and coffee between more meetings. Once I had my two cups of tea in hand, it was off to the Emerging Jumper Rider Task Force.
Larry Langer unveiled the new platinum level of the emerging athlete pathway that will officially start in 2019. The platinum level will be a 1.40/1.45m championship held in three regions (west, central, and east) in the style of nations cup. Qualifying for the platinum championships will be the same as qualifying for zone championships. You must ride in the division throughout the show season to accumulate points and submit an application in order to participate in the finals. However, unlike zones, a rider can choose to participate in whichever one of the three regional championships they want.
The biggest difference between zones and this new regional level is the addition of U25 to the list of riders that can qualify. This opens up the emerging jumper rider pathway to a group of riders that the task force feels will go on to represent the US at international events. I’m very much looking forward to watching this program take off in a few years.
Once questions about the rules had been answered it was over to the Emerging Athletes Committee. I always look forward to this meeting to hear what the board has in store for this great program. The first thing we did was review the mission statement of the program. We had two EAP riders in the meeting and they had great feedback on how the program has changed them for the better, both as horsewomen and in their everyday life. It’s always wonderful to hear how this program has helped riders over the nine years it’s been going.
We then started brainstorming on ways the program could improve in the coming years. Many ideas were thrown around, less riders at regional clinics/smaller groups, finding more time in the day so the riders don’t feel so rushed, to possibly adding more three foot sections in the future. Another interesting idea that was discussed was marrying the EAP regional clinics with Trainer Certification Program clinics. Both are based strongly in education and many trainers already attend regional clinics to audit, it would be easy to add a TCP element to an already top level clinic. This was all just talk, but I hope in future these two programs will be able to share clinics to bring education to all.
After the EAP Committee concluded it was time for lunch, sponsored by USEF. Alix and I were able to catch up about the day so far and the meetings we attended. I started to look over the revised schedule to see what meeting I wanted to go to next. The zone jumper championship task force I had planned going to had been combined with the NAJYRC task force earlier in the day, and took place while I was in the EAP committee meeting. So I decided to head down the media room to catch up on some writing and to go over my notes of the meeting thus far before the sport integrity presentation. I was really looking forward to picking up the topic of sport integrity again and seeing what a different crowd from this morning’s meeting would say.
Mary Babick started off with some numbers of how the positives have come down, unfortunately these percentages were in the hundredths or even thousandths of a percent, and weren’t as high as hoped. The feeling in the room was, there will always be the people who do things the right way but they’re always going to be held back by the people who cheat. Many in the room would like to move forward with getting and keeping the sport clean, and so many ideas were discussed. Everything from improving the ways of reporting on illegal behavior to improving education of the membership so they can make educated decisions about trainers and their horse’s care to taking the drug testing out of in-house USEF labs and into private labs with no stake in the case were discussed. Everyone had something to say and I feel like there are a lot of good people out there that really want to see the sport improve. I felt this was an amazing note to end the meeting on.
Leaving and heading home and feeling like we want to change the world. Alix and I grabbed some dinner at the hotel bar before heading back to our hotel for our 4am wake up call. Of course we went with delicious Tex-Mex food for our last night in San Antonio. I have to say this year’s annual meeting was a great experience and I felt like more people spoke up this year. If we all keep pushing forward with the intent of change, if there are enough of us, we may just succeed.