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May 13, 2014

Redefining The Green Hunters: A Five-Year Plan

USHJA and USEF representatives like (from left) Geoff Teall, Mary Babick and Betty Oare, led discussions about redefining green eligibility at a USHJA Open Town Hall Meeting. Photo by Alexandra Beckstett

A group of horsemen and women passionate about buying, breeding, developing, and/or selling hunters gathered May 12 at a USHJA Open Forum in Lexington, Ky., to share ideas for redefining and reorganizing the green hunter divisions

U.S. Hunter Jumper Association President Bill Moroney, Vice President and USHJA Hunter Working Group Chair Mary Babick, and U.S. Equestrian Federation National Hunter Committee Chair Geoff Teall led a panel of hunter task force members that proposed potential new rules for green hunter divisions, eligibility, and incentives that could be instituted over the course of the next five years.

Last November, the USEF Executive Committee passed an extraordinary rule change to HU103, the definition of green status. The previous rule defined a first year green hunter as one competing in classes where national specifications require horses to jump 3'6" or higher. But horses don’t apply to compete in a green division (unless it’s a reinstatement), and the USEF doesn’t check records for eligibility unless there’s a problem. In practice most hunters imported from Europe start their careers in the pre-green or first year green ring, regardless of what height they jumped in foreign competition. 

The current rule (post-extraordinary rule change) clarifies that USEF, Equine Canada and Fédération Equestre Internationale competitions count toward a horse’s green status. The rules also allows horses under 6 years old that competed above 3'6" at FEI competitions to compete as pre-green or first year horses, and those under 7 competing at 3'6" or above as second year horses.

The extraordinary rule change, which applied the new definition of green status starting Dec. 1, 2013, caused much discussion and discontent. So, the USHJA is conducting a series of open forums to gather information and opinions on how to further refine the rule. 

Why restructure a system that’s been in place for decades and is steeped in tradition? It must be the prize money.

With the institution of highly successful and lucrative programs such as the USHJA Pre-Green Incentive, questions have been raised about certain horses’ eligibility to compete as “green” hunters. In particular, people have pointed fingers at imports that competed at 1.20-, 1.30-, 1.40-meters in Europe before beginning their hunter careers in the States.

So Babick proposed a new definition to green hunter status, with emphasis on the word “proposed”—the USHJA has not written a another rule change yet and realistically won’t be able to institute a one until the start of the 2016 competition year. But the new definition might sound something like this: “A horse’s hunter career starts when it competes in his or her first hunter or equitation class with jumps 3’0” or higher in the United States or Canada.”

Yes, this means for the time being your 6-year-old pre-green horse might be showing against a 9-year-old with grand prix miles back in Germany. It's a stepping-stone, however, toward developing divisions that offer green horses a more level playing field and helping prevent "cheating" by falsifying horses' ages and records.

But this is only a proposal. Here are the key talking points you missed from the meeting:

-       Doing away with the first and second year green divisions. Teall described a restructuring of the green and working hunter divisions to include the following:

Performance Working Hunters
4'0" High Performance Hunters
3'6" Performance Working Hunters
3'3" Performance Working Hunters
3'0" Performance Working Hunters
 
Green Working Hunter
3'9" Green Working Hunter
3'6" Green Working Hunter
3'3" Green Working Hunter
3'0" Green Working Hunter
 
Green Conformation Hunter
3'9" Green Conformation Hunter
3'6" Green Conformation Hunter
 
Young Working Hunter*
3'6" Young Working Hunter (age 8 & under)
3'3" Young Working Hunter (age 7 & under)
3'0" Young Working Hunter (age 6 & under)


*Initially, only an awards, incentives and special events division requiring breed registry papers for eligibility.

-       Resolving the (nearly impossible) issue of age verification of horses in the United States

-       Establishing consistency in which divisions jog for soundness

-       Prize money: More sweepstakes and stakes classes would help owners pay to bring green horses along 

-       Fairness: Showing like kind against like kind (e.g., age groups, level of greenness, etc.) 

In conclusion to a productive meeting, Teall said, “I don’t think we’re that far apart on what we all want. If you look down the road in five years, we might have age competitions for young horses if we can verify it. The issue is how to best get there—we’re in the chicken or the egg phase.”

“There are no rules written or in the pipeline yet,” said Moroney. “That’s why we’re having so many in-person forums; we want to get something that’s right in the end.”

The USHJA has already hosted a few meetings on the topic across the country and has more planned. AThe time and dates for these upcoming meetings are tentative, so please email Mary Babick to confirm. 

•Zone 1: New England Medal Finals, Westhampton, Mass.—Oct. 16

•Zone 2: Stirrup Cup Finals, Harrisburg, Pa.—Aug. 23

•Zone 4: Atlanta Summer Classic I, Atlanta, Ga.—June 11

•Zone 5: Showplace Spring Spectacular Final, Wayne, Ill.—June 17

•Zone 6: TBD

•Zone 7: Lake St. Louis Indoor Preview, St. Louis, Mo.—Sept. 6

•Zone 8: TBD

•Zone 9: Oregon High Desert Classic I & II—Date TBD

•Zone 10: TBD

•Zone 12: Zone 12 Finals, Anchorage, Alaska—July 11

Already occurred

•Zone 3: Lexington Spring Encore, Lexington, Va.—April 24

•Zone 5: Kentucky Spring Classic, Lexington, Ky.—May 12

•Zone 8: Scottsdale Spring Festival, Scottsdale, Ariz.—March 12

•Zone 9: Spring National Hunter, Monroe, Wash.—April 10

For more detailed coverage of the meeting and further explanation of potential division requirements, see the May 26 print edition of The Chronicle of the Horse.

 

 
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