USEA Convention Thursday Roundup: The Quest for Good Footing & Beyond

The Board of Governors’ Reception at #useaconvention has some special guests!

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Hello from the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention in Long Beach, California! The festivities kicked off today at the Westin Long Beach Hotel, and as always the EN team is here to bring you behind the scenes.

While the Convention is always a wonderful time of the year for our American eventing family to catch up and celebrate the season, we would be remiss not to say that we remain extremely concerned about the wildfires blazing throughout the greater Los Angeles area. Our thoughts are with all affected by the fires, especially the horse owners who are fighting to save the lives of their beloved animals.

Read on for a summary of today’s meetings. Stay tuned for much more from the #USEAConvention, and remember you can watch many of the sessions online thanks to the live stream from Ride On Video.

The GoingStick being used on a British racecourse. Photo courtesy of TurfTrax.

Professional Horseman’s Council

Matt Brown is taking over as chair of the Professional Horseman’s Council starting in 2018, and outgoing chair Tamie Smith led her final session today before officially passing the baton. PHC tackles a variety of pressing topics in American eventing, and EN encourages professional riders who haven’t previously gotten involved with the council to do so.

Case in point: The PHC is considering using a special type of device called a penetrometer to test the quality of footing on cross country courses throughout America. Penetrometers have long been used in the racing world, with The Jockey Club mandating the use of a specific model called the GoingStick at all British racecourses since 2007.

“If we had a few strategically located devices out there, we think it could improve footing nationwide,” Tamie said. “We need to make an attempt to do this in coordination with some organizers. … We don’t want to attack anybody. We just want better ground for our horses.”

The Racing Post wrote an excellent piece on the GoingStick device, explaining that it “measures both the penetration (the amount of force required to push the tip into the ground) and the shear (the energy needed to pull back to an angle of 45 degrees from the ground). These two measures taken in combination represent a scientifically based proxy for the firmness of the ground and level of traction experienced by a horse during a race. The information is automatically stored in the GoingStick memory and an average of all readings can be provided instantly.”

While the GoingStick is a newer concept in eventing, it has been used previously by British Eventing at major events like Burghley. Click here to read about the GoingStick’s use in British racing. Click here to read a thorough breakdown of the scientific nitty gritty behind the device.

Jane Murray, co-chair of the Carolina International Executive Committee, said the concept of using a device to evaluate the quality of footing means “it’s no longer subjective. It adds an element of technology and analysis that I think is helpful for organizers.”

As for other topics addressed in the PHC meeting, multiple concerns were raised about FEI stewards attempting to enforce incorrect rules at various events in America this season. Concerns about improper stewarding should be directed to Janis Linnan, Chief FEI Steward in the US.

Click here for contact information for all of the dedicated volunteers who generously give their time to serve on USEA Committees and Task Forces.

USEF High Performance Athletes

Nosy reporters in attendance at today’s USEF Eventing High Performance Athletes meetings will have to wait two more days for new US Eventing Performance Director Erik Duvander to unveil his plan for 2018 and beyond.

Erik presented his plan in a closed meeting today to the USEF Training Listed Riders & Eligible Athletes Committee this afternoon, and the plan will now go forward for approval from various USEF committees before being formally presented on Saturday.

If you’re not familiar with Erik’s extensive experience as a successful coach for other nations, click here to read EN’s exclusive interview. He spoke briefly in the open High Performance meeting today to introduced himself, saying it’s “a great honor but a huge challenge” to take on the coaching role.

He has spent the last seven weeks traveling around the U.S. meeting the riders and horses and getting to know their programs. “Hopefully I’ll be able to find the right recipe to get American riders to win at the highest level,” Erik said. “I promise you I’ll work my butt off for that.”

USEF Managing Director of Eventing Joanie Morris then addressed the High Performance athletes, first speaking about the athlete drug testing that took place at the Ocala Jockey Club Three-Day Event last month.

“The FEI has hired a new company to do their testing, and the amount of testing will increase,” Joanie said. With that in mind, she is recommending that all athletes who competing in FEI competitions download the Global DRO app on their phones.

Similar to the Clean Sport app for horses, the Global DRO app allows athletes to enter the name of a prescription drug or supplement they are taking and instantly know whether it is legal for competitions.

Joanie also addressed the slew of new FEI rule changes coming down the pipeline, in particular the sweeping overhaul of the star system set to be implemented in 2019. “It is going to be very complicated as we transfer data to re-classifiy events based on the new star system,” Joanie said.

With that in mind she asked that anyone who contacts the USEF with questions regarding qualifications be mindful of the massive amount of work that will be taking place on the administrative side to implement the new star system for 2019.

Joanie also clarified that the 50-penalty flag rule is not a USEF rule, and riders can still ask the fence judge at National events if they were inside or outside of the flag. The FEI is still tweaking this rule and recently formed a sub-committee to look at re-writing it, so stay tuned for more on the flag rule.

Lastly, Joanie encouraged athletes to submit feedback about events at the National level and asked for suggestions on how the USEF could make it easier to collect this information. The idea of creating an app that allows riders to quickly answer questions about an event received positive feedback.

Get FREE Tax Money for Your Event

USEA CEO Rob Burk discussed several avenues that event organizers can take to get government grants, awards or loans to help support their event. Events that have.been able to tap into some of these funds are the American Eventing Championships at Texas Rose Horse Park, Fair Hill International, Rebecca Farm and Red Hills.

“(These funds) will not solve all your problems but is potential for additional sponsorship,” Rob said.

Fundability varies and depends on the size of the facility, number of spectators, land features, location, if you host non-profit or not-for-profit activities, and your openness to work with the federal, state, and local governments. 

Here are some tips to help event organizers find and procure these funds. 

1. Make a Business Plan. A business plan includes a cover sheet, statement of purpose, an overview of the business (description of business and market, management structure, sources of funding, SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats).

2. Do an Economic Impact Analysis. Examine the effect of an event on the economy in a specified area. It usually measures changes in business revenue, business profits, personal wages, and/or jobs. There are firms that can help you do that but they can be costly. Rob is looking into developing a relationship with IMPLAN to help events analyze their economic impact. 

“Having a basic understanding of the economics of running your event is important,” Rob said. 

3. Set your goals first then figure out how to get a grant or loan to help fill those needs. Don’t just find a great program and then try to shoehorn your way in if it’s not what the grant writers are looking for.

4. Determine Your Needs. What does my event need to fulfill our goals? i.e. capital, infrastructure, everything. Where is it being held? Being on private, public or preserved land is key: Bonding authority on a public property versus funding for infrastructure on private land. 

5. Investigate what programs might fit your event/property: there are grants/awards/loans from federal, state, local, public and private entities. 

  • Federal Programs: US Small Business Administration Loans and Grants, general small business loans, USDA Rural Development
  • When you’re looking for state programs, look for programs and agencies that have pertinent key word in their titles like business, commerce, agriculture, natural resources, etc. 
  • On the local level, the Chamber of Commerce is usually a really good place to go as a first step and ask if there are business incentive grants. 
  • Private programs: Examples are the USA Equestrian Trust, Home Depot-Community Impact Grants Program, Lowe’s Small Grants Program, Walmart-Community Grant Program

4. Get to Know Your Local Leaders. Invite them to your event, let them get to know the value your event brings to the community (preserve open space, tourism, local economic impact).

5. Don’t Count on These Funds. In most cases these funds are supplemental. Funding is unpredictable. View this as a bonus!

Intercollegiate Program Open Forum

Intercollegiate Committee Chair Leslie Threlkeld presented an update on the Intercollegiate Program. The Intercollegiate Program is still relatively young but has been growing rapidly and there is strong interest from college-aged riders. 

College-aged USEA members are eligible for a membership discount of $25 if their school is a USEA registered affiliate, which is a cost of $75. 

In 2017, there were 215 Collegiate Memberships and 33 colleges and universities registered as affiliates. Areas 2, 3 and 8 have the most affiliates (six or more) while Areas 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7 have only one or two affiliates. Areas 9 and 10 have none. Reaching out to event organizers and schools in the less active areas in order to promote the Intercollegiate program is a focus of the Committee going forward. 

In the first two years of offering affiliate memberships it was free for schools, however with 33 affiliates (an increase over the first two years) in 2017, the cost does not appear to deter schools from becoming an affiliate. An affiliate membership is required for the school to compete at the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship. There are no other Championship qualifications at this time.

The 2017 Intercollegiate Championship at Virginia Horse Trials saw an significant participation increase from the inaugural year in 2016. More than 80 students from 17 colleges and universities made up 21 teams at the 2017 event. The winning team, Clemson, won tons of prizes and awards from USEA sponsors. The Spirit Award winner, Texas A&M, were given refunds on their entry fees from the Virginia Horse Trials. 

The Intercollegiate Championship and most other team challenges with mixed level teams use a coefficient system to account for level of difficulty. At the Championship, the Beginner Novice level is assigned a 1.1 coefficient. Could this discourage schools from putting lower level riders on their team? The Intercollegiate program encompasses all levels of competitors and there is a strong contingent of Beginner Novice riders participating. Further surveys and discussion will be done to determine if the coefficient system should be adjusted.

In 2017, 23 out of 33 affiliated schools participated in one or more intercollegiate team challenges. Four non-affiliated schools participated in an intercollegiate team challenge. There were no team challenges on the West Coast, however, so promotion and outreach in that region of the country is especially important. 

The Intercollegiate Committee has created a guide to assist students in forming teams at their college or university and also a guide to assist organizers in running a collegiate team challenge at their event. Those documents are available on the USEA website here and here. 

Stay tuned for a full summary of Max Corcoran’s excellent sessions on Making Good Decisions. Things are just heating up at the USEA Convention, with a full day of meetings slated to take place on Friday. Keep it locked on EN for much more from Long Beach.

Editor’s Note: Leslie Threlkeld is amazing and contributed to this report.

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