The Two Deeply Flawed Principles of USEF—And the Obvious (Resisted) Solution

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Photo © Heather N. Photography

By Brian Sean Wee, CFP

I am very much energized by the recent changes that USEF has made, and applaud them for the recent work from the Amateur Task Force and Competition Task Force. 

However, as long as they continue to make policies embracing incredibly flawed principles— even if the results might be slightly better—they will still be deeply wrong. 

Please allow me to explain.  

USEF is tasked with the challenge and responsibility of separating its athletes into different competition pools with their own sets of awards. However, USEF’s methods for separating athletes and providing recognition will always be deeply problematic and broken as long as they continue to embrace their two core principles and resist the obvious solution.

Deeply Flawed Core Principle Number One

Riders who choose and are financially able to compete at a more expensive facility will be put into one category, and riders who choose or are only financially able to compete at a less expensive facility will be put into a beta category.

This can be seen with USEF’s latest Channel 1 and Channel 2 system.

Yes, creating two awards for different categories of athletes is an acceptable concept. No, the criteria for separation should not be those who compete at expensive facilities vs those who compete at less expensive facilities. That more or less separates athletes by their income level.  Instead, USEF should use a criteria that more closely measures an athlete’s skill level.

Could you literally be the worst rider on the worst horse and still enter and compete at a USEF “premier” horse show? Yes, you could.

Could you literally be the best rider and be riding the best horse and choose to show at a regional show?

Yes, you could.

Are there any sort of merit-based filters or mechanisms in place to make sure that these two things don’t happen?

No.

Deeply Flawed Core Principle Number Two

The way in which a competitor generates their income is used to categorize them into the correct show pool.  

Our current USEF system places great stock in how their members generate income. This is both wrong from a privacy standpoint, and is also not an accurate metric to measure someone’s skill in the saddle. 

Currently, if you can convince someone to pay you to take them to a show, USEF considers you a professional.  

While I appreciate the Amateur Task Force’s recent efforts, and I believe they have made some improvements, we are still using this deeply flawed principle.  

It’s time for a more sophisticated system to measure our rider’s skill levels other than how they generate income. 

The Obvious (But Resisted) Solution 

USEF should be placing its members into competition pools based upon their show record and standardized tests attempting to measure a rider’s skill and knowledge. This would be a vast improvement. 


This is an op-ed article. The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of The Plaid Horse.