USEA Convention: Top 5 Thursday Thoughts

Check out Kat’s Thursday report at the Chronicle, and this from the USEA.  

1) Mark Phillips had some very interesting things to say regarding the FEI progressive list issue at the USEF Active Athletes Forum.  To be clear, this was a meeting fully open to the public.  Mark Phillips said:
The new drug rules are far from a done deal.
The new levels set are performance enhancing.
They [FEI] haven’t exactly thought through testing procedures.
The progressive list will probably be postponed again until January of 2011.
The sense that I got is that he thought many people wanted to have the ability to reasonably treat their horses without reaching a performance enhancing level, but the new rules were hastily put together and did not completely accomplish this goal.  He emphasized the turmoil going on in Europe, and seemed convinced that the FEI needed and would get more time to figure out the new regulations.  An interesting aside was that he mentioned that bute alone is not very performance enhancing, but you get the real boost in performance when you mix it with other drugs (legal, illegal, testable, or untestable).  
2)  At the USEA Professional Horseman’s Council Meeting, several riders made an interesting point that at European novice and below (US prelim and below) level competitions, the galloping fences are harder (have more ditches, scary design, etc.), while the combinations are less technical than at the equivalent US levels.  Their point was that this design style encourages European riders to use forward aids more to the jumps, as the horses hold themselves from the spooky European galloping fences, whereas US riders tend to use their hands to slow down more.  There were also requests to reduce the number of obstacles and space them better to allow the horses to develop a rhythm on course.  Of course, there is always a tradeoff between making the cross-country easier/simpler and maintaining it as an important determiner of competition results.
3) People here love eventing and work really hard to help our sport to get better.  There are a lot of big egos here, and most of those egos have a history with each other.  I felt like everyone was quick to put their differences and pasts aside and work toward making the sport better.  I don’t know if it’s bad that I was so surprised by this, but I hope I see more of the same throughout the weekend.
4) The issue of professionals riding in amateur divisions is getting some attention from upset riders at the convention.  The Chronicle has been covering the story for a week or so, and we should have been linking to it sooner, so my apologies everyone.  The Chronicle wrote this piece about pros pretending to be amateurs.  The USEF, not the USEA, governs amateur status with this rule.  The short version is that you are an amateur if and only if you never ever accept any money relating to horses.  The trouble is that firmly proving that someone is not an amateur is hard because the USEF does not have access to financial records.  People are upset because there are some professional eventers, whether by ignorance or intention, have been competing as amateurs.  Once this story comes out more, I think most of the violators will shape up to avoid getting publicly called out, which would be a PR nightmare.  If you suspect someone of violating the rule, this Chronicle guide lets you know what you can do.  The Professional Horseman’s Council is rightfully concerned about the issue, as it reflects poorly on law abiding professionals, and they are working on a means of notifying offenders that they are violating the rule.  
This is a completely off topic, but why does the Professional Horseman’s Council need to be called the Horseman’s Council, rather than the Professional Horseperson’s Council?  I tend to not worry about stuff like this, but the later just seems to better reflect the nature of the Council.
5) Mike Hart, who owns Amy’s horses has started the Event Owners Task Force at the USEF.  The Task Force has made a website (not yet released to the public) that seeks to give riders an opportunity to find owners by making a facebook-style profile for them and their horse that prospective owners can look at.  Mike talked about the Task Force on ER Episode 24.  I love the idea of trying to unite riders and owners, but several riders made the point at the USEF Active Athletes Forum that potential abuse of the system would lead to some very negative PR for the USEF.  As always, it only takes one abuser to ruin everything for the rest of us.

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