Lexington, Ky.—Jan. 20
The grand finale of the USEF Annual Meeting occurs when the board of directors votes on proposed rule changes, which, in general, will hit the Rule Book for the following year. Many of these rule changes are administrative in nature, but others address serious issues of safety or horse or human welfare.
One philosophical conundrum the federation has struggled with is whether to try to legislate fraudulent behavior in horse transactions. “I believe it is a major issue in our industry,” said USEF President Murray Kessler. “I know a big sponsor who has walked away from the industry as the result of a fraudulent horse transaction.”
GR702 would have included “engaging in fraudulent behavior related to a contractual agreement in any horse sales or lease transaction” as a violation. While board members agreed fraudulent horse sales are an issue, they worried about enforceability.
“Wouldn’t our role be educating people?” asked board member Judy Sloan. “We can’t enforce the contract, but we can provide education and guidance.”
“I think it should be withdrawn,” said board member Cindy Mugnier. “I don’t think we’re in a position to legislate.”
“I think it’s a big issue that warrants discussion and buy-in,” replied board member Elisabeth Goth.
The Hearing Committee recommended a task force to explore the issue, and the board agreed that was the best plan moving forward, choosing not to pass the rule change.
Another ethics-based rule change proposal that caused conversation was an addition to GR839, Cruelty to and Abuse of Horse, which would make it “a violation of this rule to witness cruelty to or abuse of a horse at a Licensed Competition but fail to report such misconduct.”
“I see some real enforcement issues with this,” said board member Diane Pitts. “We’re going to get into he said, she said. I think the idea behind it is good.”
“This federation has a long history of championing rules that cannot be enforced,” said board member Lisa Gorretta.
“Just because it’s unenforceable doesn’t make it wrong,” replied Goth.
The rule was referred to the mid-year board meeting.
An addition to GR1302, Duties, would have made it mandatory for all professionals to complete SafeSport training, the program run by the U.S. Olympic Committee to teach individuals how to recognize and prevent sexual misconduct and other forms of abuse. This is already required of licensed officials and USEF staff and representatives.
“I strongly urge you refer this to a task force,” said Pitts. “Everybody thinks it’s a good idea, but there are so many different definitions [of professional]. Let’s get together and figure out what works.”
U.S. Hunter Jumper Association President Mary Babick asked if the rule could just be approved for non-FEI hunter/jumpers, as they are comfortable with it and want concussion training added to the rule as well—it had been previously been in the rule change proposal and had been removed. “Our sport is poised for a problem,” she said. “We feel very strongly about this. The world has changed, and we have not changed with the world. As a sport we are so slow. The USHJA board is happy to be the trailblazer on this one. We hope the rest of you catch up to us.”
The rule was pushed to the March board meeting in order to include concussion training, and the board agreed to put together a task force to examine how to implement this rule for the rest of the federation.
GR309, Special Competitions, is in the midst of a re-write. “The problem with current special competition rule is that it has been used to get around going through the proper processes,” said Kessler. “People are using it as a loophole.”
In theory it’s meant for Olympic Games and special championships, but it’s also been the primary method for getting standalone hunter derbies recognized. It was tabled until the March 5 meeting, as the most recent revision of the rule hadn’t been examined by the USHJA board yet.
One more rule change proposal caused some consternation: GR151, Rule Change Procedures, which would make it mandatory for individuals to be a USEF active member for five years before submitting a rule change proposal. People who didn’t qualify could submit rules through their affiliate or USEF committee.
“People with no affiliation with the breed or discipline were trying to change the rules,” said Mugnier.
“It takes up a tremendous amount of staff time,” added Goth. She pointed to one individual who had submitted 18-20 rule change proposals per year, which had not been adopted.
But others defended the current rule that allows any federation member to submit a rule change proposal. “You can be shut down as an individual,” said Babick. “You might have the world’s best rule change, and there are moments where you will not be heard. It’s a fundamental right of members to state their case. A person who is new to the industry is not necessarily a fool, and a person who has been in the industry for many, many years is not necessarily a savant.”
“It’s changing a fundamental principle that’s been there for a long time,” agreed USEF CEO Bill Moroney.
The rule change passed 8-5, with many of the active athletes voting against it including Beezie Madden, Pete Kyle, Catherine Haddad and Allison Brock, as well as Tom O’Mara.
A number of rule changes passed with no discussion at the board level after being vetted by the affiliates and various councils and committees.
Some notable ones included a group of rules related to a fall of horse or collapse of horse on the showgrounds. In GR842, EQ107.1.i.1, HU132.8 and JP139.6, a judge shall report a fall of horse in competition to the steward, and the steward in turn must include the details of the incident on the report from the show. GR843 would prevent a horse from competing for 72 hours after it collapsed anywhere on the showgrounds, unless a veterinarian has examined it, at which point it could return to competition 24 hours later.
A few rule changes dealt with the schooling ring. GR844 and GR839 prohibit poling of any type on showgrounds. Eq108.15, HU157.2 and JP103.7 all require FEI safety cups in the schooling ring, although national hunter shows and equitation will have an additional year to make the switch—they’ll become mandatory Dec. 1, 2019, while jumpers must have safety cups in the warm-up by Dec. 1, 2018.
In the eventing rules, EV115 will allow horses to compete in wraps that don’t extend above the hairline of the hoof, which will allow barefoot horses some additional protection. Brown helmets and helmet covers will also be specifically allowed in the rules for dressage and show jumping in EV114.5.
HU104.5 changes the height of a small hunter to between 14.2 and 16 hands, opening up that category to include more horses.
HU131.5 will allow saddle pads for side-saddle classes.
A few new rules will help track results more accurately in hunter classes. GR1214.1 says that competition results in over fences classes must differentiate between “did not compete” and “did not place.” And HU132.9 adds that, “Judges are encouraged to mark their cards with (RT) for competitors who entered the arena but voluntarily retired before completing the course; (EL) for competitors that were eliminated; and (OC) for competitors that did not adhere to the course as documented and were subsequently eliminated.”
JP111.1b makes clear that Irish martingales are permitted in all jumper classes.
JP152.2 adds a children’s jumpers division to the FEI North American Juniors and Young Riders Championships.
Get a complete list of the proposed rules and their actions on the USEF website.