USHJA Annual Meeting: Proposed Rule Changes for Equitation

Lauren Scuillo and Concrego in the ASPCA Maclay at Summer in the Rockies at the Colorado Horse Park. Photo © Tori Weed

BY TORI WEED

Day two of the USHJA National Convention was spent discussing proposed rule changes for USHJA hunter, equitation, and jumper divisions and general rules. Every proposed rule inspired active conversations about whether or not the changes would improve or hinder the association. Members with all different levels of expertise took to the floor to voice their opinions with the board of directors in regards to these topics. 

Two important proposed rule changes for the equitation divisions sparked colorful conversation about what the divisions should look like, and its function preparing riders for the future. 

Changing Flat Points

The first proposed rule change for the equitation division was for equitation sections consisting of only three classes. For these sections, points won in flat classes would only count for half of what the over fences points were calculated at. So if an over fences 1st place awarded ten points, the flat would give five. 

The intent of this rule is to help eliminate ties between riders, therefore making the calculation of Champion and Reserve easier for show management. This rule specified that all classes counting toward a championship will count equally when calculating results except for sections of only three classes. Meaning divisions of four or five classes would give equal point value to both over fences rounds and the flat class. 

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

The two opposing opinions for this proposed rule were:

  • Against the rule change, because there is already a lack of emphasis given to the importance of flat work in the sport. A question brought up was: you have most likely seen a lot of jump schools at a horse show, but when was the last time you saw a flat lesson being taught?  
  • In favor of the rule change, because there is more value placed on jumping in the hunter/jumper discipline than flat presentation. 

Numbering the Fences

The other proposed rule change for the equitation divisions was to require all equitation finals and/or championships to number all of the fences. The intent of this rule is to establish a clear track for riders, and eliminate possible confusion of course direction—especially during the third round tests where riders are mounted in the ring. 

The general consensus from the audience members were that the equitation is designed to present appropriate challenges for the riders in order to let the winner shine through. The audience emphasized that knowing the course and understanding the test at hand is a huge part of equitation. It is supposed to be difficult. USHJA officials, trainers, and riders generally seemed to agree that the mental challenge of equitation tests are what create the best riders. And that when an error is made by an equitation rider (for example: forgetting their jump numbers) then it will be a huge learning experience that motivates them to not make the same mistake. 

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

Although it seemed as if most people agreed to be against the proposed rule change, the opposing opinion believed that the equitation should require numbered fences, because the test is about riding ability and not about focusing on jump numbers – especially in high pressure situations like an equitation final. 

These rule change proposals and others will continue to be discussed and eventually be voted upon at the USEF Annual Meeting on January 7th in West Palm Beach, Florida. Check back to ThePlaidHorse.com for further coverage from the USHJA Annual meeting throughout the week. 

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