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January 16, 2012

News And Notes From The 2012 USEF Meeting

While rule changes are the focus of the annual U.S. Equestrian Federation meeting, it’s also a rare opportunity for horseman from all different backgrounds to get together and talk about issues that affect all horses.

One of the most discussed topics of the 2012 meeting, held Jan. 11-14 in Cincinnati, Ohio, was a national young horse championship and festival for 2013. This extravaganza would feature young horses from dressage, eventing, hunters, jumpers, driving and endurance as well as in-hand classes and free jumping. It would also offer educational seminars, demonstrations, a trade fair, a parade of champions and possibly an auction.

The purpose is to promote American-bred horses by showcasing the young horses and creating a better market for them as well as promoting young horse owners, breeders and trainers.

It will be structured based on the disciplines and the sport horse paradigm, which means all different breeds would be welcome, but they’d be judged as sport horse prospects, not to the breed standard.

The Young Horse Committee has big dreams of a mini-World Equestrian Games like atmosphere with spectators coming from all over the country to see the best young horses strut their stuff.

However, some of the disciplines that already have established young horse programs, such as dressage and eventing, were wary about how they’d fit into this new horse show.

Sally Ike, the USEF managing director of show jumping, said she envisioned disciplines dropping their pre-existing individual championships into the bigger show.

George Williams, U.S. Dressage Federation president, pointed out that the dressage championships have just added a young Grand Prix portion, which goes through age 10.

“What is the committee’s definition of young horse?” he asked. “We want our people to see the 4-year-olds and the Grand Prix horses. We don’t want to separate. We’ve spent 10 years building what we have. We don’t want to dismantle it to do this.”

“It’s your definition, not ours,” replied Ike.

While the details definitely aren’t ironed out, the committee has a date and location for the first championships: Sept. 9-13, 2013, at the Kentucky Horse Park. By March 1 of 2012, the committee was hoping to know a few key things from each discipline:

  • In or out for the first one?
  • Discipline manager suggestions
  • Approximate numbers who might be competing
  • Qualifying criteria
  • An outline for the format of the discipline’s competition

Dressage was definitely out for the first year because of a date conflict with a big New England Dressage Association Fall Festival, although they were willing to talk about doing an exhibition during their time slot. USEF Young Horse Coach Scott Hassler warned about trying to do too much too quickly.

“A lot of things have been tried in this country and haven’t gone well,” he said. “You’re talking about a lot of uniqueness. You’re incorporating an auction and an educational branch. That’s a beast of its own. We’re not all on the same page. We have a lot of work to do.”

Vocal Veterinarians

Horse health is another topic that spans the disciplines and breeds, and one of the major duties of the USEF is to keep the horse safe from overzealous competitors who want to get an edge via modern medicine.

As of Dec. 1, 2011, horses may only show with one non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug in their system instead of two, as in years past. This was a hotly discussed rule change when it happened, and the past year was an educational period where trainers were still allowed to administer two NSAIDs, but they had to file a form with the USEF each time they did it.

This year gave veterinarians access to data they never had previously: Exactly how many trainers were giving two NSAIDs and to how many horses? Before, they could only look at blood samples from the horses they tested, but now the forms provided much more data.

In 2008, 4.8 percent of the blood samples collected showed two NSAIDs. In 2009, it was 3.1 percent. After the NSAID disclosure forms were introduced, from the period of time between April 1, 2010, and March 31, 2011, overall use was 2.4 percent.

NDFs were filed at 22 percent of all horse shows held during that year. Of nearly 30,000 trainers, 3.4 percent filed at least one NDF. About half of those only filed one, and 75 percent filed three or fewer NDFs. The veterinary committee found that 8.4 percent of the trainers who filed forms filed 61.2 percent of all the forms filed.

If trainers filed an NDF, they received educational materials from the USEF about the rule change. If they got caught with two NSAIDs and no form, they didn’t get penalized. They just received a letter telling them they were in violation and why.

“The way this was handled by USEF was exemplary. The issues we had were minor, and the education was excellent,” said committee member C. Mike Tomlinson, DVM.

The success of the program and the apparent reduction of use based on the hassle of having to file a form led the veterinarians to discuss a similar form for dexamethasone.

“If you really need dexamethasone, file paperwork. People don’t bother giving that second NSAID because they’ve got to fill out the paperwork,” said Stephen Schumacher, DVM, chief administrator of USEF drugs and medications. “If there was just a slight obstacle for dex to be used in the manner in which it’s being used now, it would not be used.”

Requiring paperwork for dexamethasone would need a rule change, but when it comes to substances that are administered illegally with no known test, there’s no rule change or warning required if the USEF develops a test.

One example of this is Carolina Gold, a calming product with the main active ingredient of Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, a collection of amino acids.

“In this case there’s no practical use,” said Kent Allen, DVM, chairman of the committee. “If we determine the testing protocol, we can turn it on at any time with no warning. If we confirm this and get it on our administrations, it can get turned on, and they can be up in front of the hearing committee.”

He also said they were well on their way to being able to test for intravenous administration of magnesium and were determining allowable thresholds.

Don’t Forget The Rule Changes

Although the “one fall” rule was the most vigorously debated rule change proposal at the 2012 USEF annual meeting, there were plenty of other significant rule changes that also got air time.

The USEF Board of Directors approved a new version of GR1306, the so-called “amateur rule.” The changes to the new rule are largely structural. The old version outlined an amateur’s permitted and prohibited activities, while the new rule defines activities of amateurs and activities of professionals.

“It became clear that a lot of people didn’t understand the old rule,” said USEF vice president and U.S. Hunter Jumper Association president Bill Moroney. “The new rule hasn’t changed that much, but it’s just been clarified in much greater detail.”

The new rule spells out rules for college interns who compete as part of their internship and allows amateurs to take athlete grants. Previously, amateurs could not engage in specific activities with horses owned by spouses and family members, and the new rule has added cohabitants to that list.

To view a full account of changes to the Rule Book, check out rulechanges.usef.org. Most of the rule changes come into effect Dec. 1, 2012. Significant rule changes include:

—All riders mounted at hunter/jumper competitions anywhere on the show grounds must now wear ASTM/SEI approved helmets while mounted according to a revamped GR801.2 and GR801.7. Board member Anne Kursinski summed up the mood of the board, which voted unanimously for the rule: “Get a helmet or get off the horse.”

 —Junior exhibitors aboard pony jumpers will now be prohibited from using draw reins or a German martingale at any time, according to JP111.3.

—Dressage riders have a new list of approved bits according to a reworked DR121.Fig1. Dr. Bristol bits have been disallowed, while Myler Level 2 bits and a variety of snaffles with rotating parts are now allowed.

—The national CCI*, CCI** and CCI*** championships have been streamlined according to changes to a series of approved changes to rules including EV162, EV 163.1 and EV 164.3, with several divisions combined at each championship.

—Sidesaddle riders may no longer wear top hats in the under saddle class thanks to a change to HU129.1.

—The Board of Directors approved a new hunter increment system for changes to GR312.2 and GR313.6. Dual awards for money won and points will now be awarded to professional hunters according to GR1131.3.

—Changes to GR1008.2 and GR1009.2 expand the classes over which R- and r-rated dressage judges may officiate, while amendments to GR 1004.7, GR1011.6 and GR1011.9 clarify that guest FEI** judges may judge only through Prix St. Georges. 

—GR1047 has been expanded to make it easier for advanced drivers to earn a technical delegate license.

—Much discussion preceded the changes to GR202.1 and GR1210.14, which prohibit organizations other than the USEF and its recognized affiliates from requiring a mandatory membership or non-member fee at USEF competitions.

—The so-called “return to play” rule regarding concussions (GR1317) didn’t go to a vote at the Board of Directors meeting, but it was referred to the midyear meeting. That rule change would suspend riders who have an accident resulting in unconsciousness or a concussion for seven to 21 days unless they can demonstrate they’ve suffered no impairment by comparing the results of a USEF-approved neurocognitive testing program such as IMPACT to a previously established baseline.

Read the complete story from the USEF Annual Meeting in the Feb. 6 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse.

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