Eighty-three rule change proposals will dominate the conversation at the upcoming U.S. Hunter Jumper Association Annual Meeting, which takes place Dec. 10-14 in San Antonio, Texas.
Any rule change proposals that are approved by the USHJA Board of Directors at that meeting will go forward to the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s annual meeting and a vote there will ultimately determine the proposal’s future.
The rule changes addressed here are more general rules that affect all hunter/jumper riders. Check back tomorrow for rule changes that affect hunters, jumpers or equitation specifically.
Here are the pros and cons of a few of the more controversial topics, followed by a synopsis of other proposals.
“Safe Sport” And More Training For All Pros
A proposed change to GR1302 would enhance the requirements of trainers and professionals. Professionals must complete a background check and USEF Safe Sport training, complete USEF concussion training, and complete USEF drugs and medication training. SafeSport training, an effort of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, addresses keeping athletes safe by defining and prohibiting bullying behavior, hazing and harassment (including sexual harassment).
This rule wouldn’t apply to parents or guardians who are not professionals under USEF rules but act as trainer or coach on behalf of their junior child.
- Safe Sport training will protect trainers and students, and bring equestrian up to speed with other sports.
- Licensed officials already have to perform Safe Sport training, but it’s arguably more important for trainers, who have more contact with riders, to complete the training.
- Concussion training can help professionals handle students’ falls and mishaps more safely.
- Criminal background checks will increase transparency and accountability for professionals.
- Drugs and medication education can bring trainers up to speed on cross-contamination, testing protocols, the sometimes hidden dangers of using therapeutic medications, and so on.
- While there are efforts underway to align the USEF and USHJA background checks, so applicants can pay one fee and have the same check for multiple purposes, this isn’t a done deal yet. It’s cumbersome to have to do this process for multiple purposes (licensed officials, trainer certification and now, perhaps, just to be a professional).
- This adds to the expense of professionals and requires more paperwork and testing from them.
- Background checks can be seen as intrusive.
- Implementing this rule would be tough.
Following Up On Falls
One group of rule changes proposes that all horse falls in the hunter, jumper and equitation rings must be recorded by a steward. It doesn’t matter if an EMT isn’t called; the falls are to be recorded regardless.
Fall data can be used to request footing improvement at horse shows and to collect data on whether there’s a pattern in why horses fall. Eg. If there are five horse falls in one ring, that provides concrete data to support re-examining the footing.
- More paperwork from judges.
- Adds an additional responsibility for stewards.
Punishing Unethical Horse Sellers
A proposed change to GR702.1, a rule which lists a host of unsportsmanlike conduct violations. The proposal would add “making untruthful statements, misrepresentations or engaging in fraudulent behavior in any horse sales or lease transaction” to the naughty list.
- Unethical transactions have plagued every corner of our sport, and this will allow the USEF to punish bad actors.
- Some fear this will turn into a “he said, she said” argument, making it unenforceable.
- Some think this rule could bring forth a long list of complaints that the USEF would not be able to handle. Will this increase expensive litigation fees for the USEF?
A proposed change to a general rule states: “It is a violation of this rule and Chapter 7 to know of cruelty to or abuse of a horse at a licensed competition but fail to report such conduct. Reports must be made to the competition licensed officials or directly to the Federation.”
- Abuse of horses should not be tolerated, on a showgrounds or anywhere else.
- We need to police ourselves, or else a high-profile incident could send in the government to police our realm for us.
- Where is the line between appropriate discipline and abuse? It’s possible some see the line differently, or a correction seen by a bystander out of context could appear to be abuse.
- Some fear retribution for reporting abuse.
A proposed change to HJ203.7 would establish a maximum number of horses that may be longed simultaneously within a defined space to ensure safety and horse welfare, based on a circle approximately 60 feet in diameter.
- This could dramatically increase safety in longeing areas.
- Difficult to enforce—it’s impossible for a steward to police the longeing areas all the time.
- Several variables (experience of handler, sex of horse, size, etc.) affect how much room a horse requires to longe.
• Two related rule changes would mandate that any horse or pony that collapses is prohibited from competing for 24 hours. The Rule Book has only recently required collapses to be reported. Some argue that 24 hours isn’t long enough, and that perhaps the horse should be pulled from the competition entirely.
Some More Proposals…
• One proposal offers that: “A horse’s Federation Recording may be made retroactive to cover bad points earned at Federation Licensed Competitions (Exception: Dressage) so long as a complete horse recording is received by the Federation within ten days of the Federation sending notification of bad points earned to the owner.”
In other words, if you show but your horse isn’t recorded, you have 10 days to get him registered for your points to count.
• Another proposed rule change allows horses to have either an annual or a life USEF recording to be eligible for an FEI or national passport.
• A series of rules would unify all the schooling rules for hunters, jumpers and equitation, requiring that safety cups must be used on the back rail of all obstacles in warm-up areas. Poling and offsets would also be prohibited.
• Two proposed rule changes regarding helmets are up for discussion. The first includes multiple changes to GR 1316 and states that in the case of a concussion or unconsciousness, the helmet involved in the fall will be given to show managers, and the exhibitor may not return to competition until they’ve provided proof that a new helmet has been purchased. The changes to GR 801 would mandate that the safety harness on a helmet is tight enough that it cannot be pulled over the chin, or the helmet cannot be removed without unfastening the harness. The rule would also require that all helmets used at competitions must be less than four years old.
• Proposed changes to HU 201.0 creates a new hunter derby subtype of rated hunter competition to allow for standalone hunter derby competitions without having to get “special competition status.”
• A proposed change to GR844 eliminates poling in all breeds and disciplines.
• A proposed change to GR 1011.2 adds the USHJA 3’3″ Jumping Seat Medal Finals to the list of exceptions for guest judges.
• A proposed change to GR 1063.3 affects the requirements for jumper course designer applicants.
• Proposed changes to GR 1133.2 would align children’s, adults, pony and young jumper points with those earned in the hunters and equitation.
• A proposed change to GR 151.1 would require that individuals who submit rule change proposals are involved in the breed or discipline that such rule changes would affect.
• A proposed change to GR 302.2 adds language that would allow competitions without mileage conflicts to submit applications for licensing between 60 and 30 calendar days prior to the start of competition with an additional late fee.
• Proposed changes to GR 309 would clarify what constitutes special competition status.
• A proposed change to GR 827 would give competition management the ability to determine whether an exhibitor could compete Hors de Concours.
• A proposed change to GR 1000.4 would allow anyone 21 or over to become a C1 steward in order to expand the pool of applicants.
• Proposed changes to GR 1040.0 would remove licensed officials policies and procedures out of the Rule Book.
• A proposed change to GR 1211.5 allows physicians or nurses certified in Advanced Life Support to be included as individuals to serve as “qualified medical personnel” at a competition.
• Proposed changes to GR 1304.22 redefines a catch rider to say: “A catch rider has no influence regarding the ongoing competition schedule, management, schooling, exercising, training, care, custody or control of the horse.” The current definition allows for a rider and owner to have an ongoing relationship, and the USEF Hearing Committee believes catch riding should be limited to just an occasional competition.