At the U.S. Equestrian Federation mid-year board meeting, July 22 in Lexington, Ky., board members voted to drastically reduce the size of their own group. The governance restructure plan, which has been in the planning stages for several years, will go into effect Jan. 9, 2014, the date of the 2014 USEF Annual Meeting. Thirty-three board members voted in favor of the new bylaws while two—Hope Hand and C. Mike Tomlinson—voted against. There were also three abstentions.
“In the evolution of the organization, we’ve been through the developmental years and are now in the stage of renewal,” said USEF President Chrystine Tauber before the vote. “The proposals of restructure are vital for renewal if we want to create a more agile, effective, efficient organization. The original governance structure is not functioning as planned, and restructure is necessary.”
Under the new structure, the Board of Directors will be represented by 20 members instead of the current 54, and the current four working groups will become three councils.
The new BOD will include the president (Tauber); vice president (Ellen di Bella, currently known as the secretary); Bill Hughes (secretary, currently known as the treasurer), four members from the International Disciplines Council; four members from the National Breeds and Disciplines Council; one member from the Administrative and Finance Council; two independent board members; two sustaining affiliates; and four elected athletes.
The titles of board executive officers were changed for more consistency with other organizations. “If the president were incapacitated, the title of vice president is well-recognized,” said Bill Moroney, U.S. Hunter Jumper Association president and vice president of the national affiliates council. “We wanted to re-title those offices without adding additional officers at this time.”
Some board members expressed concern that with the smaller board would come less representation by some of the non-Olympic disciplines. Those in favor of the new bylaws stressed that more power to control individual discipline issues will now be transferred to the councils, and the BOD will focus more on “big picture” issues.
“The clout people perceive occurs at the board level now because the board has been so involved with decisions [made within the sports], and it really needs to be transferred to the council level,” said Moroney. “That’s where the sport decisions will be made. It’s a big cultural shift for people. While some may fear a centralization of power, these changes simply redistribute this power.”
Additional modifications were made to the currently uploaded bylaws during the July 22 meeting, and USEF will have a full text of the new bylaws up on its website.
More Debate Over Drugs
Two proposed rule changes, GR414 and GR843, sparked debate before eventually passing. GR414 will go into effect Dec. 1, while GR843 begins Aug. 1.
GR414 is a prohibited practices rule in the drugs and medications section of the Rule Book. It states that, “No injectable substances may be administered to any horse or pony within 12 hours prior to competing, with the following three exceptions…” The three exceptions are: intravenous fluids for dehydration, the use of procaine penicillin as an antibiotic, and dexamethasone for treatment of hives. The three exceptions must still be given at least six hours prior to the start of competition and must be administered by a veterinarian. If the medications are given between six and 12 hours of competition, a medication form must be filed.
GR843, designed as a complimentary rule to GR414, makes mandatory the reporting of a horse or pony collapse to USEF.
Several board members stated concern that the rules, particularly GR414, are unenforceable.
“There will be some circumstances where we’ll get a positive result [drug testing] result, and we can enforce it that way,” said Sonja Keating, USEF senior vice president. “But most of the time, it’s going to come through the way other prohibited practices are enforced; it’s going to be through eye witnesses. I believe that’s going to be the evidence, and that’s the way this will be enforced more often than with an adverse analytical finding.”
“I know we’re going to see completely covered grooming stalls,” Moroney added. “We’re not going to be able to stop that. It’s going to be ludicrous when you see it. But there’s an awareness out there now that when that happens, someone’s going to say, ‘That barn has a completely covered grooming stall. Maybe I don’t want my horse in that barn.’ There’s going to be some in-the-field figuring it out that’s going to have to go on. But does this rule benefit us as sport even though it does have some potential issues that exist? Do the benefits outweigh the negatives? What can we do to overcome as many negatives as possible?”
Board member Bob Bell, whose Classic Company runs several large horse shows, added that the new rules give the USEF more recourse in the event of a violation.
"We’ve had horses that have died, and we don’t have a rule that stops that, or that enables us to go after the person who did the injection," he said.
Welcome, Western Dressage
Western dressage was officially accepted into the USEF as a national discipline, with a proposed start date of Dec. 1, and the discipline will be given its own section in the USEF Rule Book. The Western Dressage Association of America was approved as the national affiliate for the discipline.
The WDAA released a statement May 13 that it was seeking to become the USEF-recognized affiliate for Western dressage.
“The WDAA’s goal to affiliate with the USEF is motivated by numerous factors. One is the desire to provide a platform and resources for USEF Breeds to offer classes in the discipline of Western dressage. Another is the determination that any competitions that offer this discipline will be bound by the USEF mission of horse welfare, in particular to the drug and medication rules,” stated the release.
Another governing body for Western dressage, North American Western Dressage, released its own statement encouraging the USEF to accept both groups as a joint affiliate.
“By working with both applicants, the USEF will benefit with more members and participation. By recognizing only one, the USEF will further divide a sport in which there is already mass confusion. We all have a responsibility to set our differences aside and work for the good of the industry,” stated the release.
SafeSport Announced As Athlete Protection
USEF rolled out detailed plans for its new SafeSport initiative, a program concept originally designed by the U.S. Olympic Committee to protect athletes.
“A lot of sporting organizations are developing these programs with respect to allegations of misconduct,” said Keating. “We’ve seen what’s been done to some organizations—like Penn State—and as a result of misconduct, and what’s become a best practice is to have some sort of initiative in place that enables an organization to recognize and respond to different forms of misconduct, including sexual misconduct.”
A USEF task force spent 18 months working on developing its program for equestrian sports. The new program provides an athlete protection policy—defining misconduct—and it allows for reporting of misconduct, training and education, develops a criminal background check policy and also sets up an enforcement policy. Those now included in the background check policy include the USEF Board of Directors, USEF staff, USEF licensed officials, and anyone USEF appoints to a position over or who has frequent contact with an athlete, such as a North American Junior and Young Rider Championships coach.