Top 3 Thoughts from the Board of Governors’ Meeting

Since a the Board of Governors meeting covered such a wide array of issues, many of which are excruciatingly boring, I have decided to choose three key points for discussion.  

1. The USEA is doing really well financially.  The USEA had an income of $3,781, 123 and expenses of $3,701,491 for an operating surplus of $79,632 over the last fiscal year.  This “profit” is extremely good news considering the bad US economy and a real concern earlier this year that membership, starter, and sponsorship numbers were down.  

Membership revenue was holding steady at approximately $900,000 (a rolling total for the past 12 months) until around October ’09 when it fell precipitously to $800,000 in February ’10 but since then it has recovered stabilized at $860,000.  The other income figures such as sponsorship revenue and overall revenue show a similar trend of dipping severely in early 2010 and then a strong recovery over the past 6 months.  It is clear that the financial picture of the USEA looked fragile earlier this year but now looks very strong.

I think that several factors deserve credit for the strong financial status of the USEA.  First, the financial folks at the USEA need a lot of credit for taking the necessary steps to balance the budget and keep revenue as strong as possible.  Also, the local areas have been instrumental in keeping the USEA strong; nearly 60% of the USEA’s operating surplus comes from the local areas.  Finally, it seems that a slight recovery or at least stabilization of the US economy in late 2010 has helped revenue figures.  

2. The USEA’s approach to safety can start to turn from reactive to proactive.  The tone regarding safety in the Board of Governors’ Meeting was noticeably different today from the tone on ’09.   Today the conversation was much more about looking forward rather than damage control.  The safety discussion was focused on the new helmet requirement proposal (see below) and increased efforts to expand frangible technology and support the cardiovascular studies.  

Dr. Mark Hart gave a presentation on findings by the USEA Cardiovascular Committee investigating non-traumatic horse deaths.  The number of deaths has mysteriously increased starting around 2002 and the goal is to figure out why.  Dr. Hart explained several pilot studies his committee had conducted including the continuous ECG monitoring study at Plantation Field ’10, as well as a cardiac troponin study at Rolex 2010 which involved blood tests.  Dr. Hart said that we have made big steps with the pilot studies in understanding what needs to be studied and that we should expand the studies to gain larger amounts of data.

There was also a long discussion about the USEA’s informational survey sent to riders after they fall.  The goal of the survey is to gather information from riders about falls.  Some new information has been learned as a result of the survey, such as that nearly half of the riders who fell had fallen either at a competition or at home at least twice in the past year, but without sufficient statistical controls in the survey it’s hard to glean meaningful numbers.  For example, what percentage of riders who do not have a RF fall off at least twice in the past year?  

3. Every indicator is that helmets will be required at all times when mounted at US national competitions starting soon.  The wording of the rule change that was presented to the Board is: “all riders, when mounted, must wear an ASTM certified helmet.”  It doesn’t get much more clear than that.  President Baumgardner then said that “it is fair to say that [the helmet rule] will get passed.”  The Board of Governors voted unanimously to support the rule change, which, as President Baumgardner said, will send a clear message to the USEF that we strongly support the rule change.  To go into effect, the rule change needs to be formally approved by the USEA and USEF.  Rule expert and Board member Malcolm Hook said that his best guess was that the rule would start at competitions on March 1st, 2011.

An important thing to note is that the helmet requirement will not effect FEI divisions, which are governed by FEI rules.  There is no word if or when the FEI might act on making helmets mandatory at all times.  As another FEI note, Board member Robert Kellerhouse mentioned that he would not be surprised if the FEI made airjackets mandatory before they make helmets mandatory in the dressage.

As an extension of the  helmet discussion, it also seems likely that a rule will pass to create mandatory suspensions for riders who experience concussions from rider falls.  The rule proposal involves a 7 day suspension for showing signs of concussion and a 21 day suspension for unconsciousness and prolonged signs of concussion, as determined by a medic at the competition.  Another part of the proposal is to shorten the suspension if the rider can prove they have returned to their baseline cognitive performance level by comparing test results after the fall to results from a test taken before the competition.

More soon and go eventing.

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