USEA Convention: Board of Governors Tackle Critical Topics Facing the Sport

USEA President Carol Kozlowski speaks during the Sunday Board of Governors Meeting. Photo by Jenni Autry.

The USEA Annual Meeting & Convention concluded today at the Westin Long Beach Hotel in Long Beach, California with the grand finale Board of Governors meeting. This was one of the meatier Board of Governors meetings in recent years, and EN has your back with all the details you need to know. Read on for a full summary of the key topics of discussion.

ICP Young Horse and FEH Update

First up, Robin Walker spoke about the new ICP Young Event Horse certificates introduced in 2017, with a successful test workshop held during the summer. “When you look at the ICP standards, they are quite high, and they are high for a reason — so you give the breeders the option of finding the most experienced people.”1

Robin also gave an update on the Future Event Horse program. The number of horses participating in FEH competitions remained stable this year on the West Coast and continues to grow on the East Coast, where competitions have now expanded into events spanning the entire weekend.

Robin said he and fellow FEH judge Chris Ryan have been impressed with the quality of horses on both coasts. “The quality of what we are seeing is improving,” Robin said. “Breeders are making better choices and doing a better job of producing young horses for competition.”

The FEH program added a 4-year-old class in 2017, with horses ridden at the walk, trot and canter in both directions, then stripped of tack and judged on conformation before going through a free-jump chute — “a perfect segue into YEH for those who choose that road.”

A new Central FEH Championships is in the process of being organized at the Texas Rose Horse Park, which is putting a jump chute at their own expense.

Robin also addresed the issue of negative feedback on judging in the FEH and YEH programs. “We are now at the point where our program has overtaken its infrastructure. It’s become apparent that more than a few of the present judges are in need of help.”

Robin proposed creating a continuing education system for judges, including apprenticing, hands-on seminars and online options for testing.

He also proposed creating a database for U.S. breeders to enter information about their breeding programs. Not only would it provide a full picture about who is breeding in the U.S., but it would also provide a resource listing to register farms, what they are breeding, whether they sell or keep what they breed, etc.

Additionally, Robin said the Young Event Horse Committee has received numerous requests to add 6-year-old and 7-year-old classed to the YEH program. A one-star and two-star championship could be held late in the season as an alternative to Le Lion d’Angers.

“It’s been difficult to hold our own against the programs available in Europe, and we feel like we’re getting there,” Robin said.

Report of the Annual Meeting

Jennifer Hardwick, USEA Senior Director of Membership Services, then gave a report on this year’s USEA Annual Meeting & Convention. A total of 361 USEA members registered for the convention this year, with 330 attending last night’s USEA Year-End Awards Dinner.

Attendance at the convention typically falls in the mid to high 300s, ranging from a low of 337 members in attendance when it was hosted in Arizona to a high of 702 members in Boston.

A live stream from Ride on Video was introduced for the first time in 2017, which prompted members to renew their membership to gain access to the full footage. Looking to viewership, Thursday had 185 unique viewers online, with 730 viewers on Friday and 498 viewers on Saturday.

There was concern that the live stream would take away from attendance at the convention, which played a factor in why the USEA delayed announcing it. The footage has been archived and will be available to watch on playback in the near future.

The 2018 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention will be held in New Orleans, Louisiana and will include a Hall of Fame induction. The 2019 Convention will be in Boston, Massachussetts and will also serve as a celebration of the USEA’s 60th anniversary. The location for the 2020 Convention has not yet been determined.

Morley Thomson, USEA Vice President of Admin & Finance and USEA Treasurer, said he does not think the current model of the convention is sustainable going forward, as the USEA generally carries about a $70,000 debt expense for each convention.

“It’s become a very significant debt expense,” Morley said. “I think we need to step back and look at what we are trying to do.”

The Board discussed ways to reduce the cost of hosting the convention and approved a motion to create a task force that will further examine the issue.

USEA President Carol Kozlowski added she thinks the convention “helps cement the feeling of community we have in the sport. These people are energized and they go back to their respective areas re-energized. That’s hard to put a price on.” (We agree 100%)

Education and Safety Grants

Rob Burk then gave a report on the USEA Safety and Education Grants given in 2017. LandSafe received a grant to allow Danny and Keli Warrington to travel to all 10 USEA areas and teach their rider fall safety system at a reduced cost to participants. LandSafe hosted 20 clinics with 143 participants in 2017.

The US Equestrian Frangible Technology Grant Program received $20,000 in funds to allow more events to receive grants to purchase frangible technology. Fair Hill International, Ocala International, The Fork at Tryon, Red Hills, Morven Park and Exmoor all received frangible grants in 2017.

The USEA Volunteer Committee received $10,000 to produce a jump judge training video in partnership with professional videographer Sybil Miller. Rob showed a preview of the video, which will clearly show examples of disobediences, holds, overtaking, dangerous riding and falls. (The preview video looks fantastic. Well done to the team working on it!)

The video is expected to be completed in the spring of 2018 and will be posted on the USEA’s website, as well as available for organizers to purchase on DVD for a small fee.

The costs to produce the video will be higher than originally anticipated, and the USEA Volunteer Committee proposed doubling the budget to $20,000. The board approved the motion to increase the budget.

Report on Current Committee Action Items

Area Affairs: VP of Area Affairs Debra Dealcuaz said a task force is being created to look at area boundaries, and “to see what would happen if a state wanted to move to a different Area or if an Area dissolved all together.”

Volunteers: Only 74 out of 283 USEA events are utilizing the new Volunteer Incentive Program (VIP), the online management portal introduced in 2017. Sunsprite Warmbloods generously sponsors VIP, which is designed to streamline the volunteer process for both volunteers and organizers. Kate Lokey, USEA Director of Programs and Marketing, encouraged events to take advantage of the program.

Young Riders: Eventing at the North American Junior & Young Rider Championships is facing an uncertain future. Rebecca Farm stepped in to host the eventing portion of NAJYRC this year, and the USEA received incredibly positive feedback. The Broussards have generously agreed to host NAJYRC at Rebecca Farm again in 2018 and 2019.

Competitions: Jonathan Elliott, USEA Vice President of Competitions, gave an update on calendar discussions with the USEF and USEA areas. The Competitions Calendar & Rules Committee is suggesting streamlining the process to approve calendar changes, like adding a level to an existing competition, a date change due to unforeseen circumstances, an area calendar shift due to a loss of an event, etc. A motion to take this to the Eventing Sport Committee was approved.

Education: Jerry Schurink, USEA Vice President of Education, gave an update on new officials. Fourteen individuals passed the USEF Licensed Officials Final Examination at Richland Park Horse Trials in August, so we have 14 new officials! There are 22 potential candidates who have expressed interest to take their Final Examination in 2018.

Adult Riders: Dawn Robbins, USEA Vice President of Membership and Program Development, said there was some concern that a professional rider competed in the Preliminary Rider division at this year’s AEC. The USEF rule on eligibility to compete in Rider divisions states that competitors must not have completed an event above the next highest level in the five years preceding the date of the competition, while the AEC rules only requires two years.

The concern came that it’s allowing very experienced riders to enter the Rider level,” Dawn said. The board voted to recommend the AEC rule be changed to align with the USEF rule starting in the 2019 season.

Information Technology

Robert Winter, USEA Director of Information Systems Management, spoke about the initiative to develop a new event management software to “make the experience of entering an event easier and the management of the event easier,” as well as address the concern of the rising cost of the systems currently in use.

The timeframe to develop the new event management software is estimated at 12 to 18 months. The USEA is currently evaluating proposals with an estimated capitalized cost of $108,000 to 400,000. The development process is expected to begin in January.

EquiRatings

Last but not least, EquiRatings Managing Director Diarm Byrne gave an update on the progress made in 2017 to implement the EquiRatings Quality Index risk ratings system in the U.S. Through examining the quality of performance in the sport, it is possible to identify a portion of riders who carry a much higher risk of incurring a horse fall than the rest.

In April, the USEA announced a partnership with EquiRatings to bring further information and understanding to the risk management solutions within eventing. Since then have been a number of strategic and technical meetings between EquiRatings and the USEA, and the algorithms and processes have made huge strides in the last 12 months.

EquiRatings have now analyzed more than 10 years of historic national data in the U.S. and worked with the USEA technical team on a slew of formatting and transfer methods to ensure the quality and speed of the results and ratings being exchanged. The partnership will continue to develop in 2018 as the USEA and EquiRatings work to implement the ERQI tool in the U.S.

That’s a wrap on the USEA Convention! Thank you to everyone who followed along with EN’s coverage this weekend. As always it has been a wonderful time to sink our teeth into pressing topics facing the sport at the national level and work together in pursuit of a better sport for ourselves, our horses and the next generation.

If you have never attended the USEA Convention, EN strongly encourages you to do so. It is an incredibly valuable experience, and the more members who participate the better. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun. Until next year … See you all in New Orleans! Go Eventing.

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