Conversation Erupts at USHJA Town Hall Over Proposed Rule Change

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By APRIL BILODEAU

On Monday, April 17, 2023, USHJA hosted a town hall meeting with Mary Knowlton. This marks the first of four meetings, resulting in one a month through July.

“This is an open night at USHJA,” said Knowlton to the hundreds of participants who joined the call at 7pm. “One of the reasons we hold town halls is to hear what you want.”

The first topic of the night was the Horse of The Year Awards.

The second topic was the new rule proposal surrounding the Adult Amateur Hunter division.

The last topic was to turn things around to the members on what else they would like to see from USHJA.

While some participants chimed in about the first and third topics, the majority of the conversation was on the new rule proposal for the Amateur Owner Hunter and Adult Amateur Hunter divisions.

The rule proposal is for a new division to open up for the Adult Amateur Hunters to show in the 3’3 and 3’6 divisions. The rule would not eliminate the Amateur Owner Hunter division, but rather add additional options for non-owners.

Photo by Winslow Photography.

Here are a few quotes from participants surrounding the topic:

“My concern about opening the door to an amateur hunter rather than an amateur owner can be a slippery slope.”

“The new rule could hurt the professional divisions, it could hurt the Amateur Owner division.”

“This will impact the sales in our business.”

“There’s a reason this has been an owner division for so long.”

“There is no reason to change it.”

“Why not split the performance hunters? Pro and non-pro?”

“The whole industry is going to shift in a negative way financially.”

“The Amateur Owner division has been the backbone of our industry.”

“The amateurs are the ones who have invested in our sport and we have to protect them.”

“I do not believe there is any room for any additional classes of any type at any show in the country. Especially indoors.”

“Shows can’t track the ‘who pays the entry fee as it is’. It would only encourage more cheating.”

Additional comments came from top professionals including Archie Cox, Louise Serio, Peter Pletcher, and Susie Schoellkopf.

One participant pointed out that although it seems like no one is in favor of the change, she questioned whether a survey would be worth sending out to members.

Knowlton commented that while a great idea to survey members, the overwhelming majority may overrule further consideration of the rule change. Knowlton also admitted that the idea came from a board member and USHJA made up this experimental division idea from that conversation.

As for next steps on the rule, Knowlton insists she “is not a dictator” and will be bringing all comments back to the board for discussion.

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