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Piper speaks with the newly appointed USHJA President Britt McCormick about his new role and plans for the future. Brought to you by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services. Listen in!
GUESTS AND LINKS:
- Host: Piper Klemm of The Plaid Horse Magazine
- Guest: Britt Mccormick has been an owner, rider and trainer for over 25 years at Elmstead Farm LLC in Parker, Texas and was just recently selected as the USHJA President. Britt has been the show manager of many Premier, National and local horse shows and has served as a licensed official at top horse shows across the country as both a Judge and a Course Designer. Britt has chaired several committees at the USHJA and USEF and was also on the Board of Directors at USHJA.
- Title Sponsor: Taylor, Harris Insurance Services, Taylor, Harris Insurance Services (THIS) was founded in 1987 to provide specialized insurance for all types of equine risk. THIS places their policies with the highest rated and most secure carriers, meticulously selected for reliability and prompt claims settlement. THIS is proud of their worldwide reputation for responsive and courteous service, and welcomes the opportunity to discuss your equine insurance needs and provide you with a quote.
- Photo courtesy of Britt McCormick
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This transcript was generated automatically. Its accuracy may vary.
Piper Klemm [00:00:54] This is the Plaidcast. I’m Piper Klemm, publisher of the Plaid Horse Magazine. And coming up today on episode 348, I talked to USHJA incoming President Britt McCormick about his new role and his plans for the future of the organization. This episode is brought to you by Taylor Harris Insurance Services. Before we get started on this interview with Britt McCormick, I just want to say that this year, as every year it seems, it was a contentious election. And I think people are very passionate about the fact that so many parts of our sport need to go in a better direction. I hope Britt McCormick will accomplish so much of this for so many of us. I believe that we all need to get involved. We need to vote in USHJA elections wherever we can. We need to keep applying to be on committees and task forces. We need to support people who are doing a lot of work and we need to not give up. I think USHJA, One of our legacies in the last ten years will be that they took a lot of excellent people and drove them to the point of giving up on the organization or giving up on giving back in a governance manner. And we are going to have to fight that legacy. We are going to have to step up. We are going to have to overcome our own pain and our own hurt and our own feelings and then try to start over. And we might be wrong. And we have to put ourselves out there regardless. And we have to try because we have an opportunity right now. We have new leadership, we have change. And now is the moment that we all must dig in and get back involved and know that it’s for our sport, it’s for our horses, it’s for our kids, it’s for our next generation, and put all of those feelings above our own of how we were all made to feel and treated in the last decade.
Piper Klemm [00:05:04] Britt McCormick has been an owner, rider and trainer for over 25 years at Elmstead Farm LLC in Parker, Texas, and was recently selected as the incoming USHJA president. Britt has been the show manager of many premier national and local horse shows and has served as a licensed official atop horse shows across the country as both judge and course designer. Britt has chaired several committees at USHJA and USEF and was also on the board of directors at USHJA. Welcome back to the plaidcast, Britt.
Britt McCormick [00:05:34] Thanks, Piper. Thanks for having me.
Piper Klemm [00:05:36] Congratulations on becoming the next USHJA president.
Britt McCormick [00:05:40] Thank you.
Piper Klemm [00:05:41] You know, I’ve thought a lot about, you know, all of the things in the recent weeks. And, you know, you’re you’re not you’re never one to shy away from tough conversations. You always talk to me and I want to give you credit for that. You always talk to me. I always have a lot of questions. And I think that moving forward on leadership, it’s. It’s going to be the people who aren’t. Don’t need everyone to like them and aren’t afraid of that going forward. And, you know, I think it’s you’re in a really interesting place. And I also think you’re going to tackle all of the things that need to be addressed and we haven’t been tackling in recent years. So with that said, I want to kind of just jump right in on stuff. I was at a horse show on Sunday and there was a horse that did nine rounds on Sunday alone in A-rated divisions. I was appalled. I mean, that’s wrong. I don’t think there are two ways. I don’t think there’s any argument that a horse should be doing nine rounds, jumping rounds over fences, rounds of an A rated division. And I’ve kind of been thinking since then about how that evolved and how that happened. I don’t think this stuff happens overnight. I don’t think it’s, you know, one person’s fault necessarily. But, you know, you kind of sit here and this horse did all these derbies and it did all these classics. And now we have more divisions and ever more heights than ever. Where do we start on making horse shows more fair to horses?
Britt McCormick [00:07:14] So there’s a proposal that’s in the system or going in the system right now that’s looking at this. And I think if you look at the history of this or let’s say let’s go back to the 50’s, let’s just say 70’s or 80’s when a typical horse show division was two jumps and a flat, maybe a couple of medals, maybe a classic. You know Three and four day horse shows, not not five day horse shows. And then we started and we changed the rating system. We went to four jumps and a hack. And so it’s just been snowballing. And then you have. Along with that every equitation class under the sun warm up classes to your point, derbies. You know, it’s just gotten to the point where your normal horse owner with one horse who’s trying to play on all the different playing fields. It’s just too much. And so I think there’s a couple of different discussions to be had. So let’s say a cross rail horse or short stirrup horse doing to your point nine classes- ok nine is probably too many for any horse but you know low impact, right? Verses a 3’6″ hunter. And I’ll tell you, one of the things that I looked at in the Green and Derby incentive championships which we had- I was just curious and I wonder how many of these horses are doing both divisions where the greens walking over doing the incentive. And then we had six incentive horses in the derby. And to their credit, those trainers, when I went and looked at it, were not doing the full division at the horse show. But it begs the question of not only how many classes are, quote too many. And I think that’s a trainer decision and an owner decision, not an organizational decision first and foremost, but. Should a championship be a stand alone so that we can prevent it in that way? Is there a horse welfare aspect that is you know in the jumper you’ll typically do two maybe three classes a day and that’s it, But you’re also jumping twice as many jumps per round. So I think it’s one of those things that we need to socialize, we need to talk about it, we need some medical input from the vets, we need trainer input, if you have a super green horse, it might need six trips before it’s ready to walk in and really be calm at the beginning of its career. If you’ve got an older horse probably doesn’t need a warmup, so it’s going to do two or three trips a day. I think it’s a matter of us bringing the topic forward discussing it, looking at different parts of the country from different angles, and figuring out what the best set of parameters are that are not so restricted that we’re preventing training and experience, that they’re not just what we have now, which is a free for all.
Piper Klemm [00:10:16] But, you know, I see this as a breakdown in education and a breakdown in, you know, you know, you brought up Derby finals. I a little bit see this in a breakdown of Derby finals. And you know what I see the point of the green incentive, as you said, to that be standalone because to me, a horse that’s jumped 12 trips before it walks in the International Derby like we’re not we’re suddenly not rewarding the most brave horse or, you know, or things that were originally part of the Derby.
Britt McCormick [00:10:47] Yeah, that’s one of the discussions, like I said, is a championship a championship or is it just another part of the horse show? And just so you’re aware, we we talk about these things constantly on the Derby and Green task Force and where where the best fit is for those classes, where the best fit is for those Championships to your point, making sure that we have a championship playing field. So I think we’re getting there. It’s it’s slow to be sure, but it’s definitely in discussion.
Piper Klemm [00:11:21] I don’t want to take away from training, but like at some level, are we just admitting that many people live on the road and we’re doing horse training up at the horse show? You know, USEF and again, this is so many factors go into this. USEF mandated that a lot of these horse shows to get their rating become longer and longer. A lot of these are rules that I think from both USEF and USHJA that had essentially unintended consequences that that usually fall on our horses when they’re unintended consequences. So we’ve created this this lifestyle, and we have this view that everyone lives on the road and everyone’s at horse shows all the time. But I was very interested to read a couple of days ago that USEF statistics are their average member shows like six or seven times a year. I mean, that that’s very antithetical to this narrative that everyone lives on the road.
Britt McCormick [00:12:17] Yeah, I think it depends on what part of the sport you’re in. For sure, it’s different for a lot of trainers. Their business model is an on the road traveling business model. You have people and I just use myself as an example, you know, we try to average maybe two shows a month across the year some months that might be three in a row, some months we don’t do any. And I mean, I’m a horse trainer at heart so I do my training at home and then I go show my horse and that’s the way it’s been done. And I think there are more people like me than not, you know, for those barns that their business model, and for those horse shows where their business model revolves around being on the road constantly, I think that’s where the USEF has done a really good job of trying to implement standards that include minimal stall sizes, numbers of paddocks, having off weeks for the facilities to take a breather because they get tired too. Not just the horses and people you know, the facility get tired and need a refresh. And a lot of work went into that a couple of years ago. And I think we’re at a point now where it’s probably time to circle back with our show standards group and and take a look at that. You know, one of the other things that I think a lot of us that are involved in governance especially become aware of is you have about every four or five years a changing in show patterns. And so the migration of people either, for example, during COVID to stay close to home, now that we’ve come out of COVID, we’re back to going to the mega show centers for weeks on end. Is that a good thing? Is it a bad thing? Is the capitalist part of our industry working or not? Those are all of the things that go into licensing and show standards. I think ultimately it’s the owner and the trainers decision horse by horse what they think is best. And again, for me personally, longevity in my horses is very, very important to me. I love having the barn full of teenagers because that means I’m doing my job correctly and maintaining. And I think most people feel that way. I think that the Live on the road group is a minority to your point.
Piper Klemm [00:14:38] I’m speaking of horse shows and trends. I honestly hadn’t looked at who was on the USHJA board of directors. Until the last couple of weeks, probably in a few years. And honestly, I was horrified by the number of horse show managers. I don’t I don’t know how many of them got on there. I don’t know. I mean, USHJA is a black box to the members. I mean, how people how anything happens there is is not obviously disclosed to the public. But I, I really struggle with how this group is is representative of the actual membership. And, you know, horse show managers are are not always they’re not horse trainers they’re not known for putting the horses first. Whether they have good intentions or not, they don’t. You know, a lot of them don’t have the know how to put the horses first. They’re trying to run a great event. And running a great event in the short term is about the people. And running a great horse into its teens is about the horse training. And and I think those two can go in concert, but they can also be antithetical. And I really I was really disturbed looking at this list. I mean, it it seems to me over half of the members of the USHJA board of directors are horse show managers.
Britt McCormick [00:16:03] So so a couple of things about that. You are correct in your assessment. No doubt there have always been a lot of show managers in governance. I think that they gravitate towards it. When we look back at the the previous incarnation of USEF with was the American Horse Shows Association, it was an association of Horse Shows not of members. And so I think we’ve come a long way, especially with USHJA, to be more of a member driven organization, now having said that, the only people that end up on the board are the people that run for the seats. So the more that we can get a variety of members running and variety of members elected people likely abridgment and get on board for a little over a year. I think that reads the diversity that we’re looking for. And as far as the black box goes. One of my goals as president is to be as transparent as we possibly can. Keeping in mind that a lot of the things that go on on the corporate side really don’t have as much to do with sport that sports. We need to be wide open. I think the sports side needs to be socialized as much as possible. We need input from many different people in different parts of the country as possible. And that’s the only way that we’re going to come up with the correct solutions to the issues at hand. And one of the other things that is a priority for me is to make sure that we start tailoring our support for the individual locations and geographic areas of the country, because what might work in New Jersey probably won’t work in Arizona or Idaho and vice versa. And so that’s where we need the input from members that we can get. And I encourage anybody that we should get involved. Do what I did. I mean, I started at the zone committee level and before there was ever even a USHJA, I was part of the AHSA and worked my way up through that process of going from the committee level that the zone committee level to the taskforce level. And they started creating working groups. And I ran for the board three times before I got elected the first time. So it is possible for those of us out here in flyover country or where ever you happen to live to get on board, you just have to be persistent.
Piper Klemm [00:18:44] I’m going to take that. I’m going to not agree with that because I have talked to, you know, over the last decade, I have talked to so many people and I’ve had I had the same discussion on the plaidcast with with Tom Brennan five or six years ago. And he he gave the same advice. Just get involved. Just be persistent. Just put your hat in the ring. And many people I know, all of whom happen to be women, have applied to be on any committee to do anything over and over and over and over, and getting your foot in the door. The ones who give me this advice all happen to be men. And is that coincidental? I mean, I think I have enough interviews that that’s beyond anecdote and into the data territory. But I think there’s a mentoring aspect of governance, just like there’s a mentoring aspect of training, and I don’t think it’s as open as. You know, people think I mean, so many members have. I mean, I’ve talked to people who have applied eight or nine years in a row to be on any committee and do anything or they get on one committee and the committee was dissolved and no one told them. They get on one task force and, you know, no one told them that the task force was dissolved after they had done a ton of work. I mean, I don’t think it’s I would love for it to be that simple and that transparent. And I would love for you to make it that way. And you have the power to make it that way. And I hope you do. But there’s a lot of distrust right now because, I mean, a lot of people have been screwed trying to volunteer in the last ten years.
Britt McCormick [00:20:20] Sure. So, again, we’re coming up on a receding year. I think at the end of this year, maybe it’s might work out. So the nuts and bolts are receding, which I was I was involved with a little bit last last go around. So let’s say, for example, I’m just going to pick a number, let’s just say we have 28. I think we have between 28 and 32 task forces and committees between nine and 11 people on each one so you’re talking about less than 150 people probably involved at the committee level of governance. And I can tell you what happens is when you’re seating these task forces and you’re looking down the list and you have people that you don’t know and you have people that you do know, that are confirmed workers, people that you know are going to put in the effort. You tend to gravitate towards them first. And I think that’s not an excuse. That’s just the reality of how the human brain works. So for me, one of the ideas that I’ve had when I’ve been thinking about this reseating process is making a conscious effort to not have the person sit on for sure more than two task forces and probably one and try to get more people into the pool. And as inevitably happens, people get appointed to a task force and maybe it’s one that they didn’t ask to be on, but it was the only one available. So that’s where they can and they get in the system. I think that once, you know, workers and people that really do participate are identified, then you tend to stay within the system. And it’s a really, really hard process because like I said, you get so many people that fill out the interest forms and they’re typically single interest members. So they want to be on an amateur committee or task force. They want to be on Derby task force. And so you do your best to get them in. And that’s one thing. And I do want to take a hard look and I’ve got a good group of people behind me to help me sift through all of that and find a way to give everyone a voice. And, you know, one of the other things that I’ve been thinking about is, to throw it out there is to obviously try to promote participation at the zone level because it’s pathetic. We have very, very little participation by the masses of people that do participate at the zone level. They do yeoman’s work and they and those people per zone do 99% of the work and they’re great at it, but they need help. And so encouraging subcommittees, ad hoc task forces, all the different things that we can start thinking about to have more membership involvement, direction in heading it. And it hopefully it works. But ultimately, like you said, it’s going to be up to me to try to fix that problem. So I’m willing to take it on.
Piper Klemm [00:23:22] I talk to so many people every day who want to volunteer and get involved. And maybe the answer is not to be on a committee or do something, but like we’re we have so many good intentions, smart, hardworking people in our industry. You know, maybe there’s a system that we can we can funnel them in. And when you said the zone thing, it literally didn’t occur to me until like, right this second I moved over the summer. So I live in a new zone, which I never I didn’t even think about because I don’t really care. But that’s like the problem, like why I changed my address with USEF and USHJA and, you know, there can be an. Even an email with that of like, Hey, you’re in a new zone- here are some volunteer opportunities or places you can get involved in making the sport better.
Britt McCormick [00:24:09] And I’m sure they would love to have you so, you know, reach out and say, Hey, I’m a new member. Let’s see what we’ve got cookin.
Piper Klemm [00:24:17] Yeah, but I think that, you know, I think there’s thousands of people who want to volunteer in some capacity and do they need to be on a task force or in governance like. No, but so many people want to make the sport better and they feel stuck because they don’t know where to put that energy. Like, you know, how can we take the positive and channel it somewhere locally, as you said?
Britt McCormick [00:24:40] Yeah, and I think that’s a little bit of that is going to be I think that’s a great project for some chairman to start because they’re the closest to the ground as far as our governance structure goes. And obviously I’m kind of keep my eye on it because one of the things and you and I have talked about this before, it’s dear to me- is sport growth. And sport growth has to happen by definition at the local level and in the local, the local watershed. And so if we can get the volunteers back involved at the competitions and I think that will transfer into governance, it’s going to take a while. But I think that’s our best bet.
Piper Klemm [00:25:23] And, you know, I. Look at Sweden beating us at the Olympics, and the fact that their country of 9 million people has 900 recognized riding academies by the Federation, half of which 450 of those have school horses available. I mean, it’s it’s accessible in a way that that is hard to do in this country because it’s so massive. But at the same time, I think we have a lot of people who would volunteer and get involved if there were programs to. To create more opportunity here at the grassroots level, and that shows in international results.
Britt McCormick [00:26:01] Yeah, And you know, USHJA has the recognized riding academy, and then we just had the new roll out of the instructor credentialing and I think those are a good start. You know any time you’re trying to create a nationwide program, it’s obviously a big need to get rolling. Right. And so, you know, it’s going to take off in some places where it’s natural. It’s not going to take off in others. I think that’s another area that we could look at. I was on a USEF committee a couple of years ago and they had the most intriguing heat map is what we called it. But it was it was basically a map of participation with concentration circled. And there were huge areas of the country that were white, which was showed no concentration. And it didn’t mean that there weren’t people riding in those areas. It just meant that they weren’t riding under a recognized sport. And so I think that’s one of the places where I’m going to look to our affiliates at the state level with our affiliates to help us figure out what we can do for them to provide more education, provide more opportunity, and not as a as a membership grab or anything like that. But as I said in my in my presentation to the board on Monday, my goal is to have as many people throwing a leg over a horse as possible. And yet even better yet, if they try to jump something. And so that’s kind of my basic outlook on all of this is is getting people involved in the equine industry at whatever level works for them. And so I think that’s where we start, we’ve got some good programs in place that are in their infancy that we just really nurture, grow.
Piper Klemm [00:27:47] We had Sybil Green on the podcast earlier this year from from Omaha, and she was talking about how, you know, yeah, exactly what you’re talking about given geography and. Literal, you know, space considerations. I mean, they have to drive eight, 10 hours to get to their closest rated show most of the year. And so even to just go to your first rated, show it to do an opportunity or an outreach class, by the time you’re honest about the expenses and all in, I mean, you’re probably close to $7500 and that that’s a tough, tough thing to ask a family who doesn’t even know if their kid likes this.
Britt McCormick [00:28:27] Yeah, agreed. And the idea that this is not an expensive sport, I think we can dispell – it is. It’s really expensive. It’s expensive at every level. You’re talking about feeding an animal that eats a lot requires a lot of housing, requires a lot of care. It’s expensive. It’s an expensive sport. There’s just no way around that. You know, I wish there was that. There’s not.
Piper Klemm [00:31:38] I think one of the conversations I have with people, though, is that the less you can do both as a rider and as a horse person, the more the exponentially more expensive it’ll become pretty much at all times. And to kind of clarify that, like the more the better basics you have and the more different types of horses you’re able to ride. The more opportunity you have available to you instead of looking for something very specific. You know, for example, when you’re horse shopping or something. But that’s such a chicken and egg, because to get the experience, you need to spend the time in the barn and invest in yourself. How do we break that cycle a little bit? I think when I talk to people, it’s kids don’t hang out at the barn anymore. There again, a myriad of reasons for that. I in the last week, I’ve talked to parents who say, you know, I don’t know if I want my kid to specialize this much in one thing. My trainer says it’s, you know, doesn’t want the kids running around because they’re worried about safe sport and keeping an eye on them and following all the rules. We have parents that are really busy and want to rush their kids out of the barn and they’re not Parents aren’t dropping their kids off the way they used to. How do we get kids kind of that mileage both in and out of the saddle in a world that is not just, you know, you can’t ethically tell parents like, oh, just leave your kids at the barn until dark, you know, which is how most of us grew up.
Britt McCormick [00:33:07] Yeah. And, you know, part of that is that we’ve gotten to a point in our society where that’s the new rules of the game. And obviously there’s regulations in place now that that prohibit a lot of that. Like for me, if I, if I had a kid that was totally horse crazy There’s so many different ways to be involved with animals, whether in my area, for example, we have a couple of therapeutic riding centers that always need volunteers and is it riding – No, not necessarily, But it is being involved with the animals and the care and people that are looking to get into our sport. You there’s working opportunities, I think, just about everywhere. You know, it just takes a little bit of initiative and it takes on the trainer side and the other side the willingness to give somebody a chance to work or an earned lesson know. I mean, I think of how many people that cleaned stalls to ride. They did whatever menial labor, chores there were to ride and it doesn’t have anything with their economic status, that’s just the desire to be in that barn. So if you’re there working versus sitting on a tack trunk on your phone all day, you’re going to get to ride more, you’re going to get to do more more. So I think it’s a little bit on for us to put the responsibility back on the riders to say, Raise your hand. What can I do? Can I clean some boots, can I clean some tack, you know? And eventually, if they’re around long enough that you can just say, Hey, why don’t you go flat that one that hasn’t gotten out yet? Or whatever the case may be? I don’t think it’s the parent’s responsibility. I don’t think it’s the trainer’s responsibility solely. But I do think a lot of it falls on the rider that wants it in. And we just have to be realistic about that.
Piper Klemm [00:35:01] But I mean, that kind of leads to like one of the places I think we are really lost right now as a sport as this kind of developmental stage versus winning stage. And because we have horse shows at all levels and things at all heights and we are so inclusive, which is good in a lot of ways, and it provides horses, a lot of jobs on the way up and the way down and lets people grow incrementally. But also we’ve kind of confused the developmental stage with the winning stage because we’re trying to win all the time and we’re trying to peak all the time. And I do think that like this conversation of, you know, you might spend a few weeks. A few months, a few years, doing something before it really pays off because we haven’t conditioned young riders and parents and young trainers about that of how important the developmental stage is because we’re so focused on the winning stage off the bat, we’ve kind of lost that that basic in the sport.
Britt McCormick [00:36:02] Yeah. And again, I would put that on the trainers we have, unfortunately in this country, we don’t have a system in place where you have to earn your way up the ranks. And so for me as a trainer, I try to always have a hallmark, especially, you know, for the junior and honestly for the amaeturs, too. So if you for me is I’ll give you my benchmark. So let’s say I have a student that’s jumping around the three foot and they want to move to the three three or the three six, when they can successfully compete. And I don’t mean win, I mean compete. And they can walk in that ring pretty regularly and not have any major errors. They’re accurate. They can hold the lead. They can do the leads. Their course management is correct. They look like they belong out there. I don’t mind giving them a shot at something else but if they’re chipping, running, blowing leads and they just want to put on a different outfit and enter the ring, whether it’s jumpers or hunters, because it sounds cool. I don’t play that game. And I think as trainers, it’s time for us to stand up and say there is an expected level of competency that you have to reach before you go to the next level. And until we do that, we’re not driving the sport anymore. So I put that fully in the trainer’s hands and you have to have that willingness to look at a client in the eye and say, I’m sorry, but this is dangerus for you to go to jump this level because you’re not ready yet or you’re not ready yet because of a confidence and have that hard discussion and get back to being in control of what we do in our sport. Until we do that, it’s not going to take.
Piper Klemm [00:37:48] Is some of that, though, like getting people to think about the horse and from the horse’s perspective earlier. I mean, I, I came to the sport with not horse parents. My, my mom found my first farm in the yellow pages of the phonebook. And I think. Like a lot of parents don’t intuitively think about the horse, you know, especially if it’s not their passion and it’s their kids passion and they do so much to support it. But to me, what you’re saying is like. Most fundamentally, it’s unfair for your horse for you to move up and. How do we get that conversation going earlier in the game at the grassroots level, at the beginner level, So that that that comes that thread goes all the way through. And I think it’s so related to how many classes you want to do with your horse in a day and all of these things. I think that. And in governance. I mean, I and that’s where I am at having so many show managers on the board. I think this threat of not putting the horse first is what’s, you know, capsizing so many parts of our industry right now.
Britt McCormick [00:38:57] Yeah. So there’s a lot to unpack there, obviously. So I think you start on the on the parents level or on the owner level, let’s say, by educating the owner of the horse as to the fact that the horse is an equal partner in, in on the team with the rider. It is an athlete. You do have athlete development both on the human side as well as the equine side. And that just takes time. And you have to just explain that to people. It’s not a bicycle. You don’t just put a quarter in the slot, goes and does what it does, has a flat, and then you go get another one right, that you have to do some education there. As far as the show manager thing. I think that they keep in mind that these these people for the most part. We’re not born show managers. Most of them that I know were, if not horsemen to begin with were involved in the horse industry. If most of them at the trainer or rider level and gravitated to the manager level. So I think that while the. A common held viewpoint is, is that they’re out there just trying to make as much money as they can. You have to remember that without managers, we don’t have horseshows and without horse shows we don’t have anywhere to go compete, which means that we don’t need the trainers as much. So I think the partnership and the symbiotic relationship between all of us has to be recognized. Now, having said that does there need to be a better balance? Absolutely. What that balance is I don’t know. We we we try we try not to deal in absolutes, but I think everybody kinda gravitates that way. You start thinking, well, if there were few show managers we could have more of this or more of that, and then they end up with a board full of amateurs and then everybody goes, Oh my God, they’re all amateurs, They don’t know what they’re doing. I can remember when I first started in governance, most of the boards I was on were dominated by professionals because it’s our industry and that’s what we do for a living. And everybody was like, Oh, you get so many professionals on there. This is why nothing gets better. So I think somewhere in there there’s a good mixture. I don’t know where it is yet, but I think I speak to your point. We do have to keep the diversity out there as a as a benchmark and we need to work towards that and more education is always a good thing at every level. And more discussion is always a good thing at every level. And then like you said, when we started getting rid of this, I think we called it the black box mentality for the association. We have to be able to have the hard discussions and you have to be able to talk to each other civilly. We have to be able to disagree civil. And it’s not personal, it’s sport. And I think when we get to that point, then a lot of these issues may not be solved, but at least we will have had the discussion and always keep the discussion going.
Piper Klemm [00:42:04] My take on the board is that it’s under so much scrutiny because it has so much power. I mean, USHJA was clearly designed where the board has an unbelievable amount of power. And, you know, I. I wouldn’t necessarily if I if I thought that the board was doing a good job, which I’ve made it clear over the last decade, I don’t think a lot of things have gone in the right direction. You know, it would be easier to not worry about ultimatums of who was on the board or if I felt my interests were being represented or the sport was going in a good direction. But given that that board has so much power and. You know, you’re going to get so much more scrutiny when that board has such an outsized. Arm yielding this a power that that the membership is really excluded from. And I do you know, I don’t know how much more of a member organization we are then than the AHSA. I mean, I look at that board and I, I, I can’t really sit here and say we’ve made a ton of progress. I don’t think members are listened to. I don’t think they’re engaged with I even think people are going to speak out on social media about the election. I mean, I think that that’s a desperate move for desperate constituents who feel like no one’s listened to them.
Britt McCormick [00:43:35] So if you make an interesting comment. So the USHJA as the national affiliate, to USEF their power is limited to the creation and management of their program. And when it comes to rulemaking, we make recommendations. We can come up with rules. Everything goes to the USEF as far as the rule making the actual governing body responsibilities that come along with governing the sport and with regulation, whether it be shows, classes, whatever. So the USHJA’s power is actually quite limited and I don’t like the word power, but that’s the one we take, right? So we have influence, but we don’t have the ultimate say in anything rule related any more than any other affiliate does at the national level. Now, when it comes to the programs, yes, the board is the ultimate decision maker on the programs. And one of the things that I’m looking forward to and have already started discussions with people that are in governance on the USHJA side is to try to find a more direct path from the task force level to the board level while still incorporating the working groups because they provide an essential function for not just oversight, but just a fresh set of eyes to look at something. And so, again, we can’t have 43,000 members trying to make a decision on every program. There has to be a mechanism in place to get things done with the smaller group of people. So what is the right idea? We’ve tried in the past elections that are membership elections. If we get between three and 5% participation, that is a lot. It’s typically 1 to 3. With the exception of Alaska. And they’re really good about voting because there’s not that many of them. So I would say putting it back on the social media, that people that like to voice their opinion online, vote. Get your friends to vote, if we could get even 10% participation, then I think you would see a different outlook on how to communicate with the members and get their feedback. Right now, they just haven’t been doing the party. And this is not recent. This is since the beginning.
Piper Klemm [00:46:14] I mean, I think with the turnover that we have in our sport, you know, I, I do not- I look at every email and I do not remember being asked to vote for anything in the last five years. And I could be wrong and there could be an email and but like I, I do not fail to participate in things that come my way. And I have not seen anything that I can participate in.
Britt McCormick [00:46:38] Well you’ve got a New zone election coming up, so we’ll see how that goes. You know, I think, again, those are the primary election points. And then, you know, the other place that unfortunately we’ve seen a huge decrease in participation is at the annual meeting, and that’s where we do the business of the association when it comes to rules, when it comes to discussing programs. And, you know, it’s a little bit, like you said earlier, a little bit of a chicken and egg issue, because let’s say we have 15 task forces meeting at a meeting and nobody shows up. Okay. So now we’ve rented all these rooms, everybody sitting there pencil and paper in hand ready to discuss the topic and there’s no audience. And so I think that’s another place. And I and I get it’s a financial burden to get to those meetings. It is on me too, right, I pay my way. But hopefully now that COVID is over, we can start doing more in-person forms. I plan on continuing the online forums that have been started by the current president that it’s not my style, my style , my style is much more to be in person because I like looking at people in the eye and having interaction. So I’m planning on trying to travel around as much as I can and getting member input feedback, bringing liaisons with me if I can. You know, we’re just starting over again and getting everybody excited about being involved in the USHJA in the USEF And it’s a it’s a heavy lift but I think it’s time.
Piper Klemm [00:48:08] I think it’s more that there are horse shows that week of the annual meeting more than the financial. I mean, the financial burden is hard. But I you know, we have customers that want, you know, their horse shows covered and they go that week. And it’s always been an absolute. I’ve always felt with both USEF and USHJA that they don’t want us to come to annual meeting because if they wanted us to come, they would not put horse shows on those weeks or that one week, or I don’t even really know why we show in December. I mean, I think that’s totally unnecessary and you don’t have to answer that. That’s my own opinion. But like, if we want people to come to annual meeting and take this seriously, why why are we putting more shows that week?
Britt McCormick [00:48:55] I personally, I’ve been fighting for a black out date for those things for a long time. So I’m with you on that. I think it’s an important week of the year. I think the US annual meeting in the U.S. annual meeting are quite important. I would love to see a blackout week before that. I don’t know that it’ll help. I think one of the things that we’ve been looking at on the USHJA side is if people won’t come to the meeting, maybe we can move the meeting to them. And in trying to alternate coasts possibly, or taking heavy participation centers at that time of year to move the meeting closer to our members. So that’s one idea that we’ve thrown out there. But I’m with you on on getting more people. And I’m just here to tell you the invitation is out there for anyone and everyone that wants to come.
Piper Klemm [00:49:48] All right. Well, hopefully- it’s in North Carolina this year, right?
Britt McCormick [00:49:52] Correct.
Piper Klemm [00:49:52] All right. So hopefully, we see we see a lot of people in North Carolina getting involved and giving the tides of change a chance. And, you know, I think the reality of all this is, is that there’s a lot of damage to repair. And then that’s always the hard and it is always possible. And we all need to put the work in and. You know, I think that that question of how and what can the average person do. And I would love for you over time to to really think about the out of what what is an ask that you can ask every member of that that elevates our sport because I think most members want want to do that and want to be a part of it. And you know, if the answer is voting at the zone election level, like let’s let’s tell people that, let’s make sure that they’re on the email list, make make sure that they’re getting stuff. I mean, I think honestly, if responses are that low, I mean, to me that there’s some email delivery issue there. So there are a lot of issues that go into that. And let’s make sure that people are seeing it, because I, I can’t imagine. I mean, we got about 37%. I think if eligible adults voting in presidential elections for our country and I don’t see why we couldn’t at least match that with USHJA.
Britt McCormick [00:51:14] No, I agree with. There’s a lot of the deal with the emails. USHJA has so many programs. We send out so many notices and a lot of news blurbs. And I think a lot of people just see the headline and click trash and then don’t take the time to look at it. And we know that we have a huge loss on the open rate when it comes to emails and communications. And I think I think that’s just cultural, I don’t know if that it’s specific to USHJA but we definitely need to do a better job. And you you’ve known me long enough to know that I am by no means trying to be the smartest person in the room. I need as many people helping me as I can get. And so I welcome all comments of all people from every background because you never know where that golden nugget idea comes from. So I’m always here to listen and try. If I can get a good idea, I’ll try to implement.
Piper Klemm [00:52:11] All right. And last question I have for you. I know you’re an environmentalist. The first easiest thing that I would change as an environmentalist is allow people to opt out of their ribbons if they don’t want them before us, even makes them spend some money, supports them. You know, I think I think there are people who love their ribbons and that’s great. But I think there are a lot of people who get ribbons in the mail who don’t care.
Britt McCormick [00:52:38] Yeah, I think we could ask that question, obviously. You know, and one of the- and I apologize cause, I think they still do this, that I know that Ron and Danny had for a long time, the ribbon collection campaign, they ended up getting donations for that. I think the remains an interesting thing. You take a lot of criticism and I’m one of the worst about it. If I’m at awards show and I got to go dig through a rummage to go find some back room to get my ribbons. I like ribbons. I think they’re great. I mean, it’s that the one minor token you get for all the work that you put into walking in that arena, and I don’t care that blue or brown, I want it. I think ribbons are great. But for those people who don’t want them, I think there are a number of places that they can be donated and they can be recycled. I think this idea of printing years on ribbons is archaic. I think that part of the problem is they become trash when they say, you know, 20, 23 and it’s 25, use it. I think we could do a better job there. But absolutely, we did put in place things to try and help them.
Piper Klemm [00:53:51] Awesome. Britt McCormick, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for engaging in conversation. I’m optimistic that there’s a lot that that’s going to change and it’s it’s going to be difficult and it’s going to be unpopular in places. And I hope you make all the changes for the horses and the people that are sport is healthy for a long time to come.
Britt McCormick [00:54:11] Well thanks for having me and for you and anybody listening to this, keep those ideas coming because that’s the only way that we’re going to improve everything is with everybody’s involvement and everybody’s help.
Piper Klemm [00:56:00] To learn more about anything we’ve discussed on today’s show, visit theplaidhorse.com. You can find show notes at theplaidhorse.com/Listen. Follow The Plaid Horse on all the social medias. You can subscribe to the print edition of the Plaid Horse magazine at theplaidhorse.com/subscribe. Please rate and review the plaidcast anywhere you listen to it. And if you enjoy this episode, please share it with your friends. I will see you at the ring!