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Noelle Maxwell

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USEA Clarifies Classic Training Three-Day Qualifications

This post was originally published on our sister site, Horse Nation.

Photo courtesy of Waredaca.

Recent discussion surrounding USEA eligibility requirements to enter training-level classic format three-day events prompted a closer look at the new requirements introduced earlier this year.

The current rule states: “Training 3 Day Event (T3D) – open to competitors of any age on horse four years of age or older. Both the competitor and the horse as a combination must have obtained Minimum Eligibility Requirements (MERs) at three Horse Trials at the training level or higher, plus an additional MER at the training level or higher with no more than 20 jumping penalties at obstacles on the cross-country test. A competitor established at the Preliminary level may compete on a horse which has obtained 2 MERs at the Training level or higher. Qualifying competitions must be completed within a 24-month period of the start of the competition.” The current MERs to qualify for a T3D are:

Dressage: no more than 50 penalty points.
Cross-Country: No jumping penalties.
Show Jumping: No more than 16 jump penalties.
The previous version of the rule stated: “Training 3 Day Event (T3D) – Open to competitors of any age on horses four years of age or older. Both the competitor and the horse must have obtained MERs at four Horse Trials at training level or higher, one of which must be attained as a combination. A competitor established at the Preliminary level may compete on a horse which has obtained 2 MERs at the training level or higher.”

We reached out to the USEA for comment and received responses from Gretchen Butts, Chair of the USEA Classic Series Task Force and Kate Lokey, USEA Director of Programs and Marketing.

Regarding why the rule was changed, Butts said, “The classic three-day event is designed to be the complete test of horse and rider at that particular level. While conducted according to the standards outlined in the rulebook, the test is meant to be one of championship expectations, which unlike horse trials, does include the full four phases of the cross-country test. In an effort to have horses qualified to safely compete at this type of competition and in the review of statistics from previous years’ events, the Classic Series Task Force felt [the need] to strengthen the requirements to insure that those same horse and rider combinations were experienced and successful enough to compete with undue risk from lack of preparation.”

Butts also emphasized that the task force felt it “very important” that horse and rider qualify as a pair.

When asked why the rule indicates a competitor could potentially compete at a preliminary-level horse trial prior to a training three-day, Lokey stated, “Inevitably, the Task Force made it standard across all Classic Three-Day levels that they may obtain qualifications at a level higher, instead of a level lower, to ensure the combination is fully prepared for the vigors of the four-phase endurance day with maximum level heights, widths, speeds and distances.”

As for how the rule change improves safety, “The revised change focuses more on horse and rider competing and qualifying as a pair, a ‘team’ if you will,” said Butts. She elaborated, “in the past, we had riders competing on horses they had only ridden once, yet separately, both were qualified. The intent of this type of competition is the partnership and evolving horsemanship that develops [through] this journey.”

Responding to the observation that the rule change was passed in January 2019 (per a note on the current USEF rules) but not put into effect until April 2019, Butts said, “the reason for delaying the effective date was a procedural issue, primarily. After careful review of previous statistics at all USEA Classic Series competition levels, the Task Force felt strongly that this was a safety issue, therefore needing to be approved and implemented as soon as possible rather than the standard time lapse from approval to effective period.”

Lokey further explained that the task force looked at data from the past two years, noting an extraordinary increase in both speed and time faults on phases B and D. “This was an overall safety concern,” said Lokey, “and the Task Force did what they could to instill immediate action after noticing many of the pairs who were having troubles had not earned MERs as a pair.”

According to Lokey, the task force “hoped this [rule change] would help those issues. It may not be the end-all solution but it’s one step forward to encourage safety.”

The timing of the rule change, while not typical per Butts, was intended to give “reasonable notice” to competitors “so that preparation and planning could be adjusted.” Butts added, “despite the delay, the revised requirements were felt to totally benefit riders, their horses and the Classic competition’s purpose.”

The April 2019 effective date, per Butts, didn’t conflict with any Classics on the USEA calendar and the USEA was diligent, posting the change online on the qualifications page, updating the Classic format guidelines and including it in the January calendar announcement. “It is,” Butts said, “each member’s responsibility to be aware of changes to any portion of the rule book.”

The USEA Safety Task Force will host an open forum at the 2019 USEA Annual Meeting and Convention. Lokey emphasized that competitors, organizers and owners are all welcome to voice their opinions and offer additional suggestions there.

Best of HN: Meet Bob Long, Mongol Derby Winner

Long (center) with other competitors after the ride. Photo by Sarah Farnsworth.

Described as “tougher than a box of concrete,” Bob Long, 70, of Boise, Idaho, won the 2019 Mongol Derby. Long, the oldest winner, said in the race summary, “Age is just a number – preparation trumps youth.”

He went into the race and did his best, saying, “It turned out that was good enough to win, that’s all.”

Joking he “didn’t even know how to spell ‘endurance’ until January,” Long’s spent his riding career working cattle and riding western performance horses. He grew up in Wyoming, competing in junior rodeos and paid his way through college training rodeo broncs.

Photo by Sarah Farnsworth.

He was inspired to pursue the 650-mile trek across the steppes, which touts itself as “the world’s toughest horse race,” by watching Derby documentary All The Wild Horses, saying he entered because “I’d hate to think I can’t.”

In his heart, he wanted to win. “Mentally, I knew I had to compete,” he said, “but there were a few in my circle who I told I was going to win. Somebody had to win, it might as well be me, was my approach.”

Long went in as prepared as possible. How prepared? “I spent January, February and most of March in Arizona riding endurance horses and competing in endurance races,” he said.

He conditioned endurance horses, competing in two races during that time, riding 100+ miles weekly on four to five horses. He returned to Idaho in late March, staying at a cattle ranch through July. There, he rode four to five horses daily – barrel racers, ropers, cutters, “anything needing wet saddle blankets.”

Photo by Sarah Farnsworth.

The biggest challenges were language barriers and “getting on a green broke horse and expecting them to break [into a run].” Usually, he continued, “it was a dead run.”

On language barriers, Long, who only spent one night in an Urtuu (horse station), would knock on a door and ask families if he could stay, saying “they were hospitable and warm, but the communication barrier was significant. When veterinarians came to check the horses, they had translators who Long used to tell families how grateful he was for their hospitality.

Why camp with families rather than stay at Urtuus? Two reasons. “Number one,” he said, “I was interested in camping because they said you shouldn’t. At the beginning of orientation, they made a big deal of camping out – it was discouraged, they didn’t want anyone doing it. So, I figured that was something I should try.”

Second, stopping at Urtuus meant risking the lead. Riders staying at Urtuus left all at once in the morning. Long elaborated, “If I had two minutes of riding time left in a curfew, they wouldn’t let you leave after 7:30 PM. One time, I left at 7:28 PM, riding four or five miles to get to a family Ger where I stayed. So, I didn’t collapse my lead and nobody caught up with me at that last Urtuu, but somebody could’ve and they would’ve been locked in for 30 minutes, where I was able to cover ground.”

Photo by Sarah Farnsworth.

Two horses were particularly memorable. “One was a little horse,” not very tall, he said. “It took two herdsmen to hold him while I mounted.” Once the horse was loose, the herdsmen “pointed in the right direction” and the duo took off, running hard. That was the morning of day three, muddy, sloppy and wet.

Long continued, “I tried crossing a road and the horse slipped and fell.” They slid 15 feet in the mud. “I got off, he was on the right track of the two-track road, I was on the left. I jumped up and jumped back on as he was getting up because I knew I wouldn’t be able to get on without help. He took off again, running. The riders trying to catch up with me rode up far behind and were yelling to make sure I was alright and ‘how did I feel?’ I turned and said I was ‘scared sh-tless and loved it.”

The other memorable horse was a “really good” four-time Naadam (national festival) winner. Long said, “His family met me on the steppe and followed along in their little black car. It turns out he [horse owner] was an elected official.”

Long and the family took pictures, and Long gave them a ribbon to thank them for the “honor of riding their horse.” “That was a fun exchange,” he said, as the family was excited about him riding their horse.

Long tied blue ribbons in his mounts’ tails when leading, “Anointing that horse as a champion,” he said, and presenting the ribbon to herdsmen at the Urtuus. The ribbons were the idea of Long’s friend, Stephanie Nelson, who he said was supportive of the race from the beginning.

“We’ve always kept our blue ribbons,” Long said, “it was one of those things, we’d throw them in a box” after competing. Nelson discovered that blue is a color of honor for horsemen, herdsmen and horses in Mongolia and suggested Long take a handful of blue ribbons.

“I didn’t think much about it,” said Long, who put the ribbons in a baggie. “Then about the third day, when I started leading, it occurred to me that I should recognize these horses.” Long pulled out the ribbons and tied one in his horse’s tail – on the first horse, he had to tie a knot in the tail to attach the ribbon, afterwards, herdsmen started wrapping tails so Long could attach the ribbon, and would even compete for Long to ride their horses.

Photo by Sarah Farnsworth.

“For me to have won,” said Long, “is a highlight of my life and personal best.” He wanted to thank the Derby management crew for hosting the event which was “flawless in execution” and admired the dedication and commitment of the “dead-serious, thorough” veterinarians.

Finally, Long said he couldn’t say enough about the hospitality of those who took him and the horses in during the journey.

Grassroots, Public Access and a Venue For All: Flying Cross Horse Park

Courtesy of Mary Lowry/FCHP

Flying Cross Farm H.T. in Goshen, Kentucky, is a beloved fixture on the Area VIII eventing calendar. Taking place this year from Sep. 13-15, the USEA recognized horse trial offers Beginner Novice through Prelim divisions with courses that are educational for all levels and offer a great variety of questions. The feeling of the event is friendly and supportive — and now that ambiance is extending outward.

The acquisition some three years ago of an adjacent 40 acres has birthed a new vision, Flying Cross Horse Park (FCHP). The former Thoroughbred facility added acreage to the horse trial’s cross country courses, and more developments are on the horizon for this beautiful swath of land. The park, a 501c3, will include a dog park and an exhibit on Thoroughbred racing in Oldham County with horses on-site; the horses will educate visitors on retired racehorses and second careers.

Flying Cross Farm H.T. organizer Mary Lowry’s enthusiasm is readily apparent. “We want not just to be a horse show facility for all breeds and disciplines but to also offer public access,” said Lowry. “We talk about how we (the horse community) have access; we want the community to have access as well. We want non-equestrians to come pet a horse, watch a horse show, sit on a bench and enjoy the green space!”

A horse jumping out of the once-iconic barn jump at Flying Cross Farm. Photo courtesy of Mary Lowry.

The idea to create FCHP came five years ago when that 40-acre property was for sale. The land was at risk of development before being purchased by Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown, who’ve leased it to FCHP in a 100-year lease. Wilson and Brown, with Lowry and another Oldham County resident, Nina Bonnie, were behind the park’s formation.

“It’s been a dream of mine for 30 years,” said Lowry. “I moved to Oldham County 34 years ago from Maryland and was surprised they didn’t have a horse show facility. Most shows were held on private farms where, in Maryland, they had more public space for horse events.”

FCHP is named for Flying Cross Farm as a nod to farm owner Allen Northcutt and everything he’s done for his community. The names refer to the Distinguished Flying Cross Medal Northcutt earned in Vietnam. Northcutt bought Flying Cross Farm in 1989 and is the facility’s third owner since it was built during the 1800s; it’s now a popular eventing venue, has hosted a mini horse trial since 1996 and currently hosts an annual USEA horse trial, four mini-trials and a jumper derby. The farm was put into a conservation easement with the Bluegrass Land Conservancy two years ago and is permanently protected.

Courtesy of Mary Lowry/FCHP.

Underlying our discussion of FCHP’s plans were Lowry’s beliefs in public land access, land conservancy education and community involvement. “The other big piece of this,” said Lowry, “is that Flying Cross Farm is in a conservation easement and land conservation is crucial to the horse community because, no land, no horses. We want to make the public aware of what a conservation easement is, what it means to preserve green space, how important our land — farmland — is and understand that we can’t take the land we have for granted. It’s important to preserve and leave a legacy for our grandkids’ grandkids.”

Lowry elaborated, saying she believes it’s important for the public to understand land conservation because, “I think until land is threatened, we take our green space for granted. We’re very fortunate in Oldham County to have had a number of families step up and do an outstanding job preserving land and farmland, and I think until a piece of land is threatened, especially if it’s in someone’s backyard, we never really think about what it means to lose that land.

“I think we, as a community, need to be proactive and understand that without green space, which is environmentally important, there’s no access to parks and public land. No land, no horses, no farms, no food. I think oftentimes people drive up and down Route 42 in Oldham County and see the beautiful green space and horse farms and don’t realize how hard the community works to preserve that.”

Runners participating in the “Goshen Gallop.” Courtesy of the Flying Cross Farm Facebook Page.

FCHP’s plan is to provide a venue for the grassroots community. “The Kentucky Horse Park is great,” said Lowry, “but for smaller shows and venues, it’s too expensive.” FCHP currently has two 24-stall barns needing renovation, which is part of this year’s plan, along with putting in new fencing and a new water system. Eventual goals include building an indoor arena and several outdoor arenas. The park has a long way to go to meet their goals; this year’s goal is raising $250,000.

Readers can follow the park’s progress on Flying Cross Farm’s Facebook page (an FCHP page is in the works). Community involvement and public access have been core themes since day one. On June 14, FCHP hosted the Goshen Gallop, a 3K Run/Walk. Other fundraisers will be held throughout the year.

Access info about the 2019 Flying Cross Farm H.T. via its USEA listing here. Entries open July 30 and close August 27. View FCF’s complete 2019 calendar of events here.

USEF Announces Positive Tests for CBD Will Result in GR4 Violations

Yesterday the USEF announced that positive tests for CBD in equines will be classed as a GR4 (drugs and medication) violation as of September 1, 2019. The USEF Drugs and Medications Program consistently monitors new products and product claims; over the past several years cannabinoids (CBD) have gained increased attention and become more mainstream.

USEF rules will prohibit cannabidiols (CBD) and their metabolites. While hemp doesn’t contain more than 0.3% THC, it does contain CBD. Both natural and synthetic CBD are likely to impact a horse’s performance due to their anxiety-reducing effects; this substance is no different than legitimate therapeutics that impact behavior in horses. For these reasons, the USEF is prohibiting CBD and all related cannabinoids. Horses competing under USEF rules who test positive for cannabinoids [natural or synthetic] or other cannabimimetics will be considered in violation of GR4 starting September 1.

Analytical methods to detect CBD and similar cannabinoids are being implemented. Both the USEF and FEI list natural cannabinoids, synthetic cannabinoids, and other cannabimimetics as prohibited substances. As published literature doesn’t exist noting detection times of these substances in horses, and because products can vary widely in compositions and concentrations, detections prior to September 1 will receive warnings. They will be considered to be in “prior” violation if there are additional detections of cannabinoids following September 1. GR411 Conditions for Therapeutic Administrations of Prohibited Substances do not apply for cannabinoids and medication report forms also do not apply.

Due to the varying compositions and lack of regulatory oversight from the FDA, caution is advised when using products containing CBD as there’s no guarantee of safety for use in horses and products may not be representative of their label claims.

Further information about USEF GR4 Rules can be found here.

Edited from a press release.

[USEF Announces Positive Tests of Cannabinoids (CBD) Will Result in GR4 Violations as of September 1, 2019]