Here is what I wrote and printed to send snail-mail to all the USEF Board of Directors. I also sent it via email to anyone whose email appeared on the BOD list. I sent each one separately to minimize the chances of it going into spam. I am pretty tired of typing "Rule Change Proposal #275-07" into the subject box. See you all in 2008 in the land of "Rider Score 3":
I have been a USEF member (175365) since the 1980s. All my dressage competition horses are lifetime registered. I have not yet renewed my membership for 2007, and don’t know if I will, in large part because of a rule change proposal to which I would like to bring your attention. Lest you think my objections are personally motivated, I would like to point out that I have my USDF Bronze Medal, have competed through Prix St. Georges, and under the apparent “criteria” which would eventually accompany this rule I would be qualified at the next-to-highest level of competition. Nevertheless, I strongly object to the rule change.
The proposed rule change in question is #275-07:
Effective December 1, 2009, riders competing in Dressage Competitions at Third Level and above must be eligible according to qualification criteria established by the Federation Dressage Committee.
This rule change should NOT be approved. Please do NOT subject this rule change proposal to the “consent docket” process whereby it is voted on as a block with other proposed rule changes which are considered “unanimous”. It is my observation that, like me, the USEF dressage membership has very serious concerns about a rule change which is open-ended and gives the Dressage Committee free rein (pardon the pun) to enact whatever “criteria” they see fit, without even then as a next step applying the entire rule change process to the “criteria” themselves. The current proposal does not specify anything other than there will be “qualification criteria” and that they will be determined, presumably NOT through another rule change, by the Dressage Committee. This is unacceptable. There are also major concerns about even the identification of the problem which this rule change purports to address.
I implore you, in your capacity as a member of the USEF Board of Directors, to carefully review this issue and the objections being voiced by hundreds if not thousands of USEF members. You will then, I believe, need to seriously consider disapproving 275-07. I refer you to the following websites to read, if you care to, various threads containing extensive discussion by the many members which you represent. If you go to each website and do a search on “USEF proposal” or “performance standards” you should find the pages and pages of objections and very well-thought-out reasoning behind them.
I, like most others who have commented on this rule change, feel that it is restrictive, paternalistic, and, if enacted along with ANY sort of “criteria”, will place undue hardship on the thousands of individuals who wish to compete at USEF dressage competitions. This isn’t Europe (and I don’t see why we should strive to be just like Europe)—this is the United States of America, and is a huge country with thousands of miles between competitions. In some regions, there may be only USEF competitions where individuals could “qualify” are much fewer and MUCH farther between than in Germany, Holland, and many other European nations. Dressage training isn’t about all of us getting to the Olympics and then trouncing Germany—it is about our relationships with our horses and our freedom to make reasonable training and competition choices WITHOUT the interference of “big brother”.
275-07 is also un-American and elitist in that it gives a small number of individuals power to enact whatever they see fit. It was not formally presented nor widely discussed prior to its introduction and the dressage community as a whole heard very little about it and its accompanying “criteria” prior to the uproar which ensued when it became more public at the recent USDF convention in November. The data I have indicates overwhelming DISapproval of this rule change.
Enactment of this rule change will result in an objectionable “class” system in dressage whereby people with money able to travel long distances or devote extensive time and money to training and showing will be the ones who will advance. Others who work just as hard and are just as dedicated but perhaps cannot afford world-class horses, facilities, or trainers will be stuck at 2nd level and below ostensibly for their entire lives.
Other objections include that the rule change is too open-ended; it will present a record-keeping and logistical nightmare; imposing standards will encourage “point-chasing” and overuse of schoolmasters; and that this will make it impossible for some older riders to ride at an appropriate level for their (sometimes also older) schoolmasters or trained horses because they will have to go back to 2nd level and “qualify”. It seems that the rule change attempts to address some concern about rider skill by giving the Dressage Committee authority to propose standards and restrictions encompassing factors that have nothing to do with rider skill (e.g. excessive cost to get “points” and unavailability of enough competitions in some parts of the country).
If there are concerns on the part of the Dressage Committee members, some of whom are judges, about poor riding at Third Level and above, those concerns should be defined through examination of data (e.g. test percentages and rider scores) which should prove that a problem actually exists (there are many who think there is no data to back up this assertion). ONLY after data-based information is gathered should a solution be proposed, and then the actual standards should be specified in the rule change proposal.
At any rate, a mechanism already exists, in the USEF rules, for “poor” or “underqualified” riders to be addressed. The rider score and, to a lesser extent, the overall score on the dressage test, should send clear messages to poor riders. If the rider crosses the line into abuse, the current rules allow judges to address this as well by disqualifying the rider. Some judges are apparently (and I have this in writing) reluctant to award low rider scores for fear of complaints being lodged with USEF and subsequent repercussions for the judge, including “not being promoted”, “not being invited back”, or even being sued. It would perhaps be helpful for the USEF to address this issue and to support its judges in feeling empowered to call it like they see it.
In addition, this isn’t an issue of safety like in eventing. It smacks of paternalism and clearly implies that we, as responsible adults, cannot make our own decisions as to the appropriate level at which to compete.
While obviously part of the motivation behind this proposal is the welfare of horses, and the people addressing it are well-meaning, it needs to be sent back to the drawing board for much more work and research and then be re-introduced with the backing of the entire dressage community, not just a select few.
Thank you for your consideration and please feel free to contact me at the above email or phone number.
Kudos on a well written, well rounded letter that expresses the average AA's concern with this issue. I was actually thinking about rejoining USEF and USDF this year, but am seriously reconsidering in light of the proposal. I would be one of those perpetually stuck at 2nd level.
Although not a current USEF member (I drop in an out according to my competition expectations), I did email letters to several of the committee members. Thank you for diligently following up on this issue.
"It's not a mistake if you knew what you were doing was wrong."
Ive printed your letter out and am combining it with my own and will send it out as soon as everything is proofed.
A good way to start off the new year--righting possible wrongs!
I hope everyone will not only read but WRITE and voice their own concerns to the appropriate people.
I do not think that any of the committee members imagined there would be this kind of public reaction AND action...so my thanks to all who have taken the time to think about the issue, take a stand--and communicate their beliefs to the proper parties.
Got a reply to my email version of the letter from Archibald Cox, one of the BOD members, and he said he will look into the matter. I'm impressed that he answered.
I can't help but think that letters and emails to all of the BOD members will bear some fruit. I think it's worth the time and the $20 or so in postage. They will have a paper in their hand to take to the USEF convention.
I wrote a letter and emailed it (thanks to CanyonOak, I believe, who posted all of the emails on one of our other threads) to everybody. Hilda G, Janet Foy Brown and Marrianne Ludwig all replied. Janet Brown was not very receptive to the ideas that I wrote, although I appreciate the time she took to reply. I did put a copy of the current, updated proposal on my website homepage ( www.eurofoal.com ) , so, if you haven't read it yet, there's a place you can find it.
Here's my letter:
I'm writing to protest the idea of a performance standard before moving up the levels. I've written a long letter to the USEF on their comments page, but I'll keep it brief. Here,in a nutshell, are my objections:
1) I think it will be too expensive for most people to be locked into getting 10 points per level to move up. Competitions are very expensive and nearly unaffordable as it is. Not all riders have access to many competions per year.
2) There are hardly any competitors, especially ammies, riding between 2nd level -- 4th level. This will drive off many of the ones that are there already.
3) The whole point of giving scores is to give riders feedback on how they are doing. If they are doing poorly, then the scores should reflect it. Furthur policing seems unnecessary.
4) If there is abuse, then the TD and show management already have the rules in place to deal with it.
5) Awards and year end Championships are accolades that are easier to achieve then these guidelines. Why should moving up a level be harder than getting a medal, or qualifying for year end awards? It will mock the achievement of both Medals and Championships. I'd be curious to know how many riders per year would move up under these guidelines. Some cold hard data on our riders/scores would be helpful in forming opinions.
6) Although Medal winners will be grandfathered in, there's no mention of including previous scores for riders who either never applied for thier medals or never quite got all of the right combinations of scores to get a medal. Thus, if a rider has, over a lifetime (or since 1974, if so designated) achieved what would translate into a number of scores that would qualify under this performance standard, they will be forced to essentially start from scratch and do it all over again. This strikes me a a particularly large issue for all of us who have spent thousands of dollars competing but never received a USDF medal.
7) It will be a data nightmare, and the data accuracy has not been impressive thus far.
8) It seems like membership fee increases might be inevitable.
9) The inclusion of judges in the grandfathering clause strikes me as the rule makers holding themselves to a different standard than those they govern.
10) The membership has not been asked thier opinion on this drastic policy revision.
USDF, USEF, CDS member
Some of Ms. Brown's replies included that it should only take 2 shows for someone to get the scores (now 58%)to move up, average riders on non-wbs. She also said the record keeping would not be a problem, and that this whole idea has been brought up for the past 3 years at the USDF conventions. Grandfathering of all scores is now included in the new proposal.
Last edited by eurofoal; Jan. 1, 2008 at 12:42 PM.
Reason: Added the whole darn letter
I am not totally opposed to a performance standard as long as it is sensible, well defined, and thoughtfully implemented. The current proposal lacks these qualities.
Actually, the part of the whole proposal that REALLY lost me was the fact that it appears that licensed judges would simply be grandfathered to compete at FEI in regardless of their actualy scores in competition. Anyone who has been to a show on the West Coast recently knows why this is a dreadfully bad idea. And no, I'm not talking about a specific individual, because unfortunately, there are numerous examples to choose from.
I'm not going to vote for this one until judges that receives 3 or more scores less than 55% at an FEI level is no longer allowed to compete at that level without earning their lower level scores just like the rest of us. Oh wait! No one asked me to vote. I'm only a lowly member......argh!
The USEF website section where people can comment on the proposed rule change has been down all day yesterday and all day today.
I just called USEF and spoke with their IT person, Jamie Unseld, who did not know that it was broken and has fixed it. However, I also spoke with Mary Smith who is in charge of rule changes, and noted that there were two critical days (the last day is supposed to be today) when people could not comment or get to the text of the rule change.
She said people can still send comments. Also comments can be emailed to email@example.com that's the person who collects the comments and gives them to the committees.
Mary Smith also told me that they have about 40 comments on this particular rule change. That doesn't sound like a lot to me (I was hoping for more like hundreds) but Mary said that is a lot.
As for the judge who was whining about shitty rides at upper levels, if it is too bloody difficult to sit through it then effing stay at home. No one is putting a gun to your head and making you judge, ya know?
Please Write the Dressage Committee! EMAIL Adddresses
Please take the time to write someone or all of them about this issue.
Let's do a practical breakdown here. If I show 4 times during the year at 2nd level and I do 2 classes at each show, that means that I have 8 chances to amass 10 pts. So let's say I'm a real rider and my horse has good days and bad days, at every show I get one 58% and one 60%. That means that I would have 3 pts at each show for a total of 12 points, I can move up.
Now what if you have a nut job who bucks you off some days and other days does beautifully. Day one at the show you get a 53% - zero points and day two you get a 60% - two points. If you do this all year you end up with only 8 pts for the year. then you work all winter and are ready for the next level but now you are stuck and have to show below where you are really ready.
As I have limited funds for showing I'm stuck for a year whether I'm over qualified or not. Don't we all hate it when a 4th level horse and rider drops down to say, 2nd level just to pick up a lot of blue ribbons? Don't you think it will be worse with this rule???
What about the people that are going to be desperate to get enough points to move up? They'll do 4 classes at every show just to get the points. What about their poor horse?
Here are the email addresses. Don't be shy! Write an email!