BY ANNIE BIRMINGHAM
While dozens of rule change propositions were offered for approval at this year’s USHJA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, committee members have already begun discussing potential additions for the 2021 competition year. Among those discussed in the Jumper Working Group was the idea of removing the Amateur Owner Jumper division in order to create just an Amateur Jumper division. Board members discussed at length the pros and cons of this potential switch, and offered ideas in order to still encourage ownership among amateur jumpers.
Charlotte Skinner-Robson (chair of the Working Group) presented the idea to a group of committee members and USHJA members who had mixed reactions. In order to be eligible to compete in the Amateur Owner Jumpers, a competitors horse is required to be owned by the rider, an LLC owned or partially owned by the rider, or a riders family member. As Robson explained, the issue with the vague writing of this rule (particularly the clause including family members) means that a horse technically does not need to be owned by the amateur in order to compete in the division. This leads to an increase in horses who may also jump higher divisions to concurrently compete in the Amateur Owner division, causing what was referred to as an “unlevel playing field.” In turn, the committee is offering the idea of creating just an amateur division where any amateur may compete—regardless of who owns the horse.
The concern of many committee members in regards to this topic is the potential of discouraging ownership among amateur jumpers in the industry. As committee member Oliver Kennedy expressed, removing this division also removes the incentive for Amateur Owner jumper riders to compete for high-score and Horse of the Year points. In an attempt to remedy this, Kennedy suggested the idea of creating a separate award for horses owned by their riders within this proposed division.
While talks are ongoing (and decisions will not be made until the end of the 2020 competition year), this topic is one that is sure to garner attention from juniors, amateurs, and professionals alike as the group works towards deciding if an Amateur Jumper division is included in the future of our sport.
About the Author: Annie Birmingham is an 18 year old equestrian from Long Island, New York. A freshman at Long Island University studying equine management, Annie can usually be found spending time at the barn and grooming at horse shows up and down the East Coast.
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