USEA Convention Saturday Highlights: William Fox-Pitt, High Performance, EquiRatings + More

USEA CEO Rob Burk thanked outgoing USEA President Diane Pitts for her hard work and dedication over the last three years. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld. USEA CEO Rob Burk thanked outgoing USEA President Diane Pitts for her hard work and dedication over the last three years. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Saturday at the USEA Annual Meeting and Convention is one of the busiest of the week, with the continued scheduled committee meetings and a number of educational sessions offered to attending members. It is also the day of the Annual Meeting of Members and Luncheon with special keynote speaker William Fox-Pitt, and still to come tonight is the USEA Year-End Awards. Catch up on the news of the day below and be sure you’re following EN on Instagram for more photos.

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USEA Annual Meeting & Keynote Address

USEA members bid a bittersweet farewell to outgoing USEA President Diane Pitts at today’s Annual Meeting of the Members.

“When I think of words to describe Diane Pitts, I think of passionate, committed and a lover of the sport,” USEA CEO Rob Burk said. “She’s been an amazing leader for this association. I have officially learned the meaning of ‘little spitfire.’”

New USEA President Carol Kozlowski delivered an excellent first message in her new role, aptly saying that Diane “put her heart and soul into her presidency.”

“She has been nothing but kind and gracious to me this past year,” Carol said. “She has done everything she could to make my path forward a smooth one. Her commitment to keeping us all on solid ground has been an inspiration.”

We also said goodbye to outgoing members of the USEA Board of Governors: Sarah Broussard, Tremaine Cooper, Phyllis Dawson, Peter Gray, Mark Hart, Janet Horton and Diane Pitts. Jerome Broussard is also stepping down as USEA Foundation Trustee.

The USEA has an excellent recap of the business portion of the Annual Meeting, so click here if you want to delve into the nitty gritty. (We also have to send a special shout out to good friend of EN Leslie Mintz, who was honored for five years of employment with the USEA.)

William Fox-Pitt’s keynote address then took us on the most incredible journey through his fall and recovery, as well as special horses that have impacted his career.

“I’m lucky to be here. We’re all involved in this amazing sport and I’m now part of a happy story and a good ending. I want to share that with you because it has been quite a journey,” William said.

“My saving grace has been my family. They’ve gone on this journey with me and encouraged me and fought for me to get better because when I came out of my coma, I couldn’t do anything.”

We’ll be bringing you a full report on William’s keynote address soon, but in the meantime, read the names of these superstar horses and reminisce: Steadfast, Chakra, Cosmopolitan, Macchiato, Stunning, Tamarillo, Ballincoola, Cool Mountain, Lionheart, Oslo, Parklane Hawk and Chilli Morning.

Keynote speaker William Fox-Pitt charmed the crowd and EN's own Jenni Autry presented him with a special painting of William and Chilli Morning competing at the Rio Olympic Games. The painting was done by Julie Lawther with a Jenni Autry photo as reference. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Keynote speaker William Fox-Pitt charmed the crowd and EN’s own Jenni Autry presented him with a special painting of William and Chilli Morning competing at the Rio Olympic Games. The painting was done by Julie Lawther with a Jenni Autry photo as reference. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

USEF High Performance Riders

Today’s USEF High Performance Riders session touched on much of the same information David O’Connor discussed on Thursday, with a few new tidbits of information. (Click here if you missed Thursday’s report.)

The USEF Eventing Selection Committee is planning to meet before Christmas to select riders for the USEF Eventing High Performance Winter/Spring Training Lists. The timeframe for when the lists will be released is still unclear.

Leslie Law will continue his role as USEF Developing Rider Coach, and High Performance is also looking at bringing him on board to help coach at the senior level during major events, like Nations Cups and championships.

David discussed that the new WEG format means teams will only be allowed one individual slot, which he said is disappointing in part because “it was always a great chance to use those individual slots to develop riders for teams and let them practice in that environment.”

The U.S. selection period for WEG will run for 18 months, starting with CCI events in the spring of 2017. David is encouraging all riders looking to make the 2018 WEG team to run a CCI selection trial in the spring of 2018. As for who will ultimately be selected to a team: “We will be taking the best of the best.”

As always, consistency in results is key, and riders who can consistently score 45 or under in dressage, deliver fast and clear cross country rounds, and leave the poles in the cups for show jumping will greatly increase their chances of being selected.

“Don’t ever give the selectors a reason not to put you on the team,” David said. As we discussed on Thursday, the High Performance riders will now be assessing their own results and will work with David to set target markers to improve performance in all three phases.

In addressing the changes to the Olympic format of three riders with no drop score, David said “we don’t know what that will do to the sport for awhile.”

If a team horse is eliminated or has to be withdrawn during the competition, a reserve horse can be substituted and accept penalty points. The number of penalty points that would be given for using a substitute is still being debated, David said, but 50 points is the number that’s currently on the table.

Lastly, USEF Managing Director Joanie Morris highlighted some notable FEI rule changes for 2017, which we’ve outlined in detail here.

Joanie noted that the FEI is “testing out” the new rule next year that allows riders to miss a flag on cross country and continue on without being eliminated, taking 50 penalties instead. It’s very likely we’ll see that rule continue to change and evolve, David said.

Every seat was filled and people spilled into the hallway during the eye-opening presentation by Sam Watson and Diarm Byrne of EquiRatings. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Every seat was filled and people spilled into the hallway during the eye-opening presentation by Sam Watson and Diarm Byrne of EquiRatings. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.


The Convention is buzzing about EquiRatings after co-founders Sam Watson and Diarm Byrne delivered a stats-packed presentation on equine data analysis to a standing room-only crowd this morning.

EN has been a longtime supporter of EquiRatings, both because of their critical work to bolster safety in the sport but also because of the game-changing implications data analysis can have for how we manage High Performance both at home and major competitions.

We’ll be bringing you a full report on EquiRatings’ excellent presentation soon, but in the meantime, if you’re not following them on Twitter, you should remedy that immediately here. Click here to learn more about EquiRatings.

Town Hall and Summit Recap

USEA CEO Rob Burk, outgoing USEA President Diane Pitts and incoming USEA President Carol Kozlowski discussed the results of the Town Hall sessions that took place in every Area in 2016. The intention of these sessions was to expand upon the Sport Summit that took place at the Convention in Washington, DC last year so that members around the country who could not participate could be a part of the discussions to improve the sport and the Association.

The structure was usually one moderator and one note taker, with a current USEA Board member or Area Chair participating in one of these rolls. For every speaker who had a complaint or raised an issue, they were also asked to provide a potential solution or direction to address the problem.

Discussion topics included eventing costs, membership growth, 21st century sport/business, calendar of events, education, organizing events, professionals, adult amateurs, safety and more. Ultimately, the USEA received almost 200 unique recommendations (consolidated from thousands) which were compiled and published on the Eventing 2016-2026 Project Tracker, which can be viewed on the USEA website.

Recommendations have been distributed to appropriate committees, task forces and staff members and the USEA staff will be able to update the Project Tracker as each item is addressed. Additionally, all of the information gathered will be reviewed by the USEA Executive Committee and Strategic Planning Task Force for incorporation into the Strategic Plan.

Diane said that the value of the Town Hall sessions and subsequent development of the Project Tracker shows members that their input is valuable and gives them a platform for their voice to be heard. Carol stated that because Annual Area Town Halls will be a fixture for USEA she hopes attendance will improve in the future: “You the membership has to be part of the bigger picture.”

Volunteer Incentive Program

Nick Hinze developed a pilot program for the Volunteer Incentive Program and ran it in Area II in 2016. The VIP is now being developed to be applied across all Areas. This program will do a number of things to benefit the volunteers that are so important to the success of events and also be a valuable tool for organizers to help fill volunteer positions, track volunteer hours and generate volunteer leaderboards.

Sunsprite Warmbloods is sponsoring the VIP and is making it free for organizers in 2017. Learn more at

The new USEA President Carol Kozlowski addresses the membership. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

The new USEA President Carol Kozlowski addresses the membership. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Rule Change Open Forum

USEF Eventing Committee member Malcolm Hook led the Rule Change Open Forum, which reviews the rule change proposals that have been voted on at the USEA Convention and will now go forward for approval by the USEF in January. Malcolm also went over new rules that will go into effect in the coming competition season.

One significant rule change proposal written by the USEA Cross Country Safety Task Force adds to the provisions for using frangible technology, specifically on oxers. Put simply, it will mean that builders must use MIMs on the front rail of oxers and MIMs or a reverse pin on the back rail. The language of the rule allows for future frangible devices to be utilized under the written requirements of the rule without requiring a rule change for every new technology. This provision will apply at the Modified level and up. Read more about this rule change proposal and the science behind it here.

There will be rewrite of EV105 which refers to the loss of qualifications. Malcolm said the proposal was done “with the best intentions but wasn’t vetted well.” The change will appear in the Rulebook very briefly, but will then be removed. The change meant to reflect the FEI’s recent rule changes with regard to qualifications/MERs but USEA has to find a way so the language works for both national and international competitors.

The FEI recently included in the 2017 rules that missing a flag on cross country at a corner or narrow fence would incur 50 penalties instead of elimination if the rider continued on without re-approaching the obstacle. The USEA meant to reflect this rule change but Malcolm said they discovered that the FEI has made this change on an experimental basis for 2017 so the proposal from USEA has been withdrawn until the results of the ‘experiment’ are known.

For many years, the USEA has encouraged a necropsy be done on horses that have died in competition. Now a general rule change proposal from the USEF Horse Welfare Initiative Task Force will require a necropsy to be done on any horse that dies at any time while on the grounds of a USEF sanctioned competition. There are also provisions included that help with costs for transportation and lab work. Read more about that proposal here.

“This is a huge step forward for the USEF to take this for all disciplines,” Malcolm said. “It’s fairly easy to understand if a horse jumps a fence and shatters a pastern and has to be euthanized, but the majority of the deaths we look at occur in stabling and no one knows why they occur. It is a source of huge concern to the veterinary, drugs and medications, and welfare committees in the Federation.”

Some nosebands have been added to the list of permitted tack for dressage and those illustrations will be available online soon. Read more here.

It has been proposed to allow spur rowels to rotate vertically and horizontally instead of just vertically, as was the previous requirement, in order to reflect the FEI rules. Read more here.

See all of the eventing specific rule change proposals here.

Read up on important rule changes going into effect for the 2017 season here, and check out the complete 2017 USEF Rules for Eventing here.

Following the discussion on rules, Malcolm brought up a change to how the Watch List is managed. The Watch List was created in 2008 as a way “to keep an eye on individuals that in the opinion of officials (etc) gave the appearance of being at risk to themselves or their horses.” Malcolm said list has not been heavily used and at any one time there are usually fewer than five names on the list.

In reviewing it, the USEA and USEF wanted to make sure it is effective and better utilized. They have expanded the ways that people can end up on the Watch List; for example, now any rider issued a yellow card for dangerous riding will automatically go on the Watch List. The new specifications will be made available on the USEF website.

Finally, Malcolm said he has received permission from the new USEA President Carol Kozlowski to form a task force including officials, organizers and course designers to study and attempt to deter bracket or level ‘creep.’

Jenni Autry contributed to this report.