New Orleans, La.—Dec. 8
It’s been an ongoing struggle to find the best system to track and reward a horse’s performance over the show year. But at this year’s U.S. Hunter Jumper Association Annual Meeting, held Dec. 5-8, an updated points format earned a welcome reception.
Shelley Campf and Geoff Teall set out on the mammoth task of reworking the so-called “increment system.” That’s the scale by which most hunter divisions earn U.S. Equestrian Federation national points in classes. Open hunters currently use a system that relies on money won in divisions, not points. Campf analyzed the standings of results of the current system, which awards more points considering both the show’s rating and the number of entries in the class, based on a range of entries. For example, a class winner at a C-rated show receives 15 points if there are three-eight entries in the class, 20 points if there are nine-15 in the class, 25 if there are 16-25, and so on. Concern with this system stems from the perception that it doesn't award credit fairly.
A few months of number crunching showed that the current increments did provide an unfair advantage in some of these ranges. The USHJA Affiliates Council suggested a solution: award 1 point for each horse in the class and tack that onto a set number of points based on the rating of the show.
“It was a brilliant idea—a simple arithmetic progression that followed the rating levels,” said Campf, Bend, Ore. “We put together a rule change proposal with the chart the Affiliates Council created, and [the Council] agreed.”
The revamped increment system is only part of a series of well-received proposals dealing with how to award credit. To address concerns over the year-old money-won system that open hunters use, Teall and Campf also suggested creating two sets of USEF Horse of the Year standings for open divisions, one based on points and one based on money won. They created new point charts for classics and derbies to accompany the revised increment system. This will make it easier to compare the outcome of the two systems.
Campf also ran the numbers to compare the new system with the old one. She compared standings for the large junior, 15 and under; amateur-owner, 36 and over; high performance hunter and first year green hunter standings. She noted that while individual standings shifted within the top 20, only one single horse in any of the divisions moved out of the top 20. This is notable as these standings are used to qualify for championship horse shows like Devon (Pa.), the Pennsylvania National, Washington International (D.C.) and the National Horse Show (Ky.).Check out this chart, and other statistics compiled for the Annual Meeting on the USHJA website.
Other Items of Note
There were plenty of other conversations in the committee rooms and hallways of the Roosevelt Hotel, where the USHJA hosted the annual meeting. Check out the rule change proposals. Please note: During the Annual Meeting, rules are often re-written multiple times. Some of the rules posted on the USHJA website may have been updated since they were posted, and these available may not be the final versions of the rules that the Board of Directors voted on. Also, rules approved by the Board will only come into effect pending approval at the USEF Annual Meeting next month. They generally come into effect Dec. 1, 2012.
Other conversations included:
•A new version of GR1306—the amateur rule—earned lots of positive feedback. A task force with representatives from the USHJA as well various breeds and disciplines rewrote the rule over the last year, and the USHJA Board of Directors will take a close look at the new rule and vote on it during their January meeting. (Download that rule here.)
•The concept of a national children’s/adult jumper championship was introduced at the Annual Meeting. The idea of a championship competition—intended to debut in 2012—received strong support, but everyone wanted more time to hash out the details. As of now, the championship will be delayed till 2013.
•Bill Schaub proposed a well-received concept: award a special championship to the highest-placed owner/rider in junior and pony hunter divisions. He noted that these divisions are often dominated by a small group of top catch riders, which can be discouraging to other young riders. This concept will have a test run at this year's FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, which will award champion and reserve owner/rider ribbons in each of the regular pony and junior hunter divisions.
•In response to feedback at the Open Forum on Jumping that followed the National Horse Show (Ky.), President Bill Moroney announced that the USHJA is working on restructuring the organization's government structure, with hunter and jumper hierarchies, in order to better serve both disciplines. USEF President David O’Connor hosted another discussion in this series to help foster discussion on how to improve U.S. performances at the international show jumping stage.
•The USHJA Board of Directors passed a rule requiring everyone to wear a helmet while mounted on the competition grounds, which aligns with a similar Fédération Equestre Internationale rule passed last month. The Board also considered the so-called “return to play” rule, which introduces new requirements for a rider to compete following a riding accident involving loss of consciousness.
•An ongoing effort to create national standards for C-rated divisions did not progress at the Annual Meeting, and the related rules were all disapproved. Zones overwhelmingly preferred to continue to create their own specifications for divisions like the adult amateur hunter and children’s pony hunter.
•Several hunter committees realized that last year a rule implementing national specifications for the pregreen hunter divisions inadvertently found its way into the USEF Rule Book and became effective Dec. 1, 2011. The specifications for this division were previously governed by zones. The USHJA is working with the USEF to get an amendment effective this year stating that horses in this division do not have to jog for soundness. But because the mistake was discovered after the season has begun and would affect year-end points, it’s impossible to rescind the rule entirely, and the pregreen division will be run according to the national specifications for the 2012 season. The soonest the pregreen division can return to zone governance will be the 2013 season.
•A presentation about the future of the USHJA's Trainer Certification Program prompted plenty of lively conversation. Level I of the TCP debuted last year, while the upper levels of the program have been under development. The proposed continuation of the program introduced levels like bronze, silver and platinum that trainers may achieve. The show record of the trainer and his or her students played a major role in progressing up the levels, which garnered contraversy and plenty of feedback for presenter Campf from horsemen from all segments of the community. Some present pointed out that many factors play into whether a trainer chooses to show seriously or take students to major horse shows. Others argued that lifetime competitive acheivements may not be the best way to rank someone's training ability, especially apt for beginner riders. Others also pointed out that it felt discouraging for trainers to know they'd never be able to progress up the levels as the requirements were quite stringent. Many present also resisted the notion that the Association should rank trainers. Many who shared their concerns prefaced them by pointing out that they supported the idea behind the program but wondered how it would best serve the community.
•Attendees considered lowering the height of the jumps for large pony divisions at A-rated horse shows to 2’9”, while leaving the height at 3’ at AA shows. Ultimately they decided to leave the height of the fences at 3’, noting that shortening the distances in the lines might solve the preceived problem of large ponies struggling in the division.
•The Board passed a new rule clarifying how to combine first year green, second year green, high performance and performance divisions in the case of light entries.
•David Distler was voted onto the USHJA Board of Directors.
•The Board of Directors passed series of rules passed prohibiting riders from remounting in the ring after a fall.
For much more information about the USHJA Annual Meeting and details about the rule changes check out the Jan. 2 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine.