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April 4, 2011

IHSA And USHJA Leaders Are Working Toward A Common Goal

Photo by Mimi Wroden.

Our partnership is already having an effect, and we expect that there’s much more to come.

The U.S. Hunter Jumper Association’s mission statement says that we must “offer broad-based education for our members.” And the USHJA’s leadership has taken that directive seriously, as demonstrated by two programs we’ve created in our first six years: the Trainer Certification Program (and the trainer symposiums and clinics that are part of that program) and the Emerging Athletes Program.

We’re looking ahead to the future of our sport, so in 2010 we created the Young Professionals Committee to make sure that the next generation of trainers becomes excited about and involved in our sport’s governance early in their careers. In the same vein, the USHJA’s leaders reached out to the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association’s leaders to develop a membership partnership that creates a connection between collegiate riding and the hunter/jumper sport that we promote as the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s affiliate.

Our partnership with the IHSA is now entering its second full year, and the leaders of both organizations are just beginning to understand and develop the full potential of this joint venture.

Certainly one tangible benefit is the $7,800 contribution that the USHJA will make this year to the IHSA’s Intercollegiate Equestrian Foundation Scholarship Fund. Also, IHSA competitors who reach the zone or national finals will receive USHJA exhibitor bags, and the winner of each individual or team class at zones will be awarded an embroidered saddle pad, while the riders on the national champion team will receive commemorative jackets. The Cacchione Cup winner receives an automatic berth to an Emerging Athletes level I training session or a complimentary registration at a trainers’ symposium.

While these benefits have an impact on only a small portion of the IHSA membership, every IHSA/USHJA collegiate member receives a copy of In Stride magazine and the USHJA E-News to keep them up to date on important issues and information.

Additionally, because each of the eight IHSA zone chairmen is a member of the USHJA Affiliates Council, the IHSA has a strong voice in the programs we’re developing. Actually, at our annual meeting in December, Lori Cramer, chairman of IHSA Zone 5, was elected to the USHJA Board of Directors, taking one of the seats designated for an affiliates council representative.

I’ve been the director of riding at two colleges, so it’s especially exciting for me to see the strengthening of this partnership. After all, many of the collegiate riders of today are the future professional and amateur exhibitors of the future.

We hope that eventually all collegiate hunter seat coaches will become USHJA-certified trainers, because so many of them are mentors to future professional trainers and riders.

For more than 40 years, the IHSA has been developing a strong competitive program that provides a clear structure for teams and individuals to advance through the levels and to qualify for the national finals. Bob Cacchione founded the IHSA because of his desire to share his passion for riding and to make sure that finances didn’t preclude any college rider from having an equestrian experience if they want one.

So the IHSA’s mission statement notes that the “association was founded on the principle that any college student should be able to participate in horse shows, regardless of his or her financial status or riding level. Emphasis is on learning, sportsmanship and fun.”

That’s also a tenet of the USHJA’s Affiliate Awards Programs, which was developed to recognize the great job that the hundreds of local and regional organizations are doing in providing educational and competitive opportunities to riders of all levels and economic status.

Another educational program that’s a great fit for the many college students who are pursuing an equine studies major or minor is the Equine Junior Apprentice Program. It allows junior or collegiate riders to apprentice for a day with a competition official (a judge, show manager, show secretary, steward, course designer, veterinarian or farrier). These members get a chance to develop a better understanding of the duties and responsibilities these officials have and, through first-hand experience, to discover if they might want to pursue such a career.

We believe that one of the USHJA’s most important roles is to be as inclusive as possible so that anyone who shares a passion for hunters or jumpers is represented and engaged.

Partnerships, like the ones we’ve established with the IHSA, are central to the USHJA’s mission. I believe that we’ve just begun to really understand the many ways in which this partnership can provide opportunities for both organizations and their members.

The strength of our sport depends on the many organizations that represent the diverse needs of our constituents. We must work together with a unity of purpose and join together to grow and promote our sport by making it accessible to everyone who wants to experience the thrill of riding a hunter or jumper.

DVDs, Discounts and Awards

To support the obvious commitment that collegiate coaches have to creating quality instructional programs, the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association is providing each coach with a copy of the Get Connected DVD. This educational DVD features U.S. Equestrian Federation equitation tests 1-19, explained by Olympic dressage rider Debbie McDonald, Cynthia Hankins (USEF R-rated judge and USEF Medal Final winner) and Michael Moran (USEF judge and horse show announcer).

Each USHJA collegiate coach member also receives a 15-percent discount to trainer symposiums and trainer certification clinics and on category I certified-trainer application and exam fees.

We’re also excited to see leaders of IHSA Zone 4 make creative use of the USHJA Affiliate Equitation Awards Program this year to recognize the accomplishments of their riders who aren’t eligible for the Cacchione Cup competition and who don’t qualify for the National Finals.

They’ll be offering the USHJA Affiliate Equitation Awards at their Zone Finals. They’ve created three categories that work under the IHSA competition format, reaching across their four regions to recognize the top riders in
the novice division (flat and fences), intermediate division (flat and fences) and mixed division (any flat and any fences).

Each regional chairman will submit the results of the top three riders in these categories from their region, using the points from each rider’s top five shows. The top 10 high-scoring riders in each section will receive an award from the USHJA, with each section’s champion receiving an embroidered garment bag.

It’s a great way to use our partnership to recognize the accomplishments of riders below the open level. The ability to participate on a collegiate riding team, even if a rider never competed on the USEF circuit in the 3'6" equitation, is one of the best aspects of the IHSA format.

Since each IHSA zone is a USHJA affiliate organization, we hope that the IHSA zones will also make use of the Affiliates Sportsmanship Awards Program. Each USHJA affiliate can create its own criteria for recognizing outstanding service and sportsmanship by amateurs, professionals, juniors and riding instructors. And then each September the affiliates submit the names and biographies of their award winners as nominees for the four regional winners of the four USHJA Affiliate Sportsmanship awards.

Shelby French will take over as the USHJA’s chief executive officer in May. She’s now the director of riding at Sweet Briar College (Va.) and was previously the director of riding at St. Andrews Presbyterian College (N.C.). She created the DVD series The American System of Forward Riding.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more like it, consider subscribing. "IHSA And USHJA Leaders Are Working Toward A Common Goal" ran in the April 4, 2011 issue. Check out the table of contents to see what great stories are in the magazine this week.

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