The U.S. Equestrian Federation Board of Directors met Tuesday, June 30, for its mid-year meeting. Several of the proposed rule changes up for vote were put forth by the mileage rule revision task force, co-chaired by Bill Moroney and Elisabeth Goth. Those changes all passed without comment during the open section of the meeting after discussion during a closed portion of the meeting.
The main rule on mileage, GR307, which deals with competition mileage exemption and competition permission, now starts with the USEF establishing an objective: “One objective of the Federation is to provide a competition environment that is in the best interest of the sport of equestrian and to provide for viable competitions and a balanced competition calendar to meet the needs of the sport at all levels within a geographic area. The [USEF] utilizes mileage as a method of managing the calendar and to assist in achieving an adequate base of competitors, thus enabling a competition to better meet the rules, requirements and standards for a given rating or level.”
Section 3 of the new GR307 defines “different circumstances” USEF can use to determine if a mileage rule exemption is warranted. Those are laid out in three different sections (A, B, C) with A concerning the “priority date holder’s adherence to competition standards,” B is “the competition and calendar factors,” and C is “sport growth and visibility.” There are additional factors for consideration as well, including geographic location and time of year, experience of competition management, and competitions outside of boundary mileage of the primary date holder that can affect density and competition level.
The process for application of an exemption is also different within the new rule. Now exemption applicants are to first contact the primary date holder and “seek cooperation.” If that’s successful, the parties disclose the terms of their cooperation to the USEF and move on. But if the primary date holder doesn’t agree, the applicant then submits a mileage exemption request form to the USEF. (Read about the full exemption application process in the text of the rule on the USEF website.)
In other new mileage rules, the section of GR301 that pertains to the classification of “special competitions” was rewritten. Though the definition of a special competition remains the same, in the new text, this line was added: “The Federation must provide the applicable recognized affiliate, council, and discipline or breed committee with all information pertaining to the request, including mileage and any other conflicts, for the purpose of making a recommendation as to approving or disapproving the request.”
GR306.7, which concerns the timeline of applying for a new competition license, was also altered. Instead of accepting applications from competition managers in March of each year, the new rule allows applications Dec. 1 of the year before.
GR318, a rule about license application disputes, now requests a fee of $1000 when making the dispute. However, if the applicant competition prevails, the petitioner will be refunded $500. It allows any competition license applicant to dispute the denial of a license application or renewal.
Certain parts of these rule changes, including the new definition for special competitions (GR301.2), the timeline for applications of new competitions (GR306.7), GR318, parts of new GR307 and the “mileage exemption policies applying to GR307,” will take effect Aug. 1. The rest of GR307 will take effect Dec. 1 of this year.
According to Moroney, one of the most important aspects of the new rule concern the addressed conflict of interest in appointment of the panels that determine who receives exemptions.
“We also clarified the appeal process so both parties could appeal, instead of just the applicant party,” said Moroney. “We created a better timeline for the rule, so the decisions will be reached far enough in advance of a competition that an existing competition can make adjustments for a new one, and so a new one can be ready to get up to speed.
“Then for the competitors, they will see things appear early enough on calendar so they can make adjustments to their calendar,” he added.
A second set of rules regarding mileage will come forward from the task force for discussion at the September board meeting. The USEF competitions department is also hosting a series of teleconference training sessions for organizers currently operating competitions under a mileage exemption or with the permission of the priority date holder. Information on those will be available in coming weeks.
Setting Up For A Fight On Microchipping
In addition, a new rule regarding microchipping and DNA testing in the hunter/jumper world will likely make its way up to a proposal in the next few weeks. The rule, developed by the horse recording and ID task force, will state that, starting in 2017, all horses in hunter/jumper competitions must have to have a microchip that’s supported by DNA testing.
“When you come from an environment where any horse has to show with papers and have DNA, it’s hard to understand the problem doing that with animals who cost a lot of money, and who are misidentified—sometimes by mistake, sometimes on purpose,” said Judy Werner, chair of the task force. “We’ve gone through carefully and have some things accomplished. It’s going to be a dog fight. I know it before we get started, but it boils down to our ethics and what we’re going to allow.”
Moroney estimated the cost of the DNA testing at about $50, plus the additional cost of the microchipping, and said the cost will be on the owners initially, but that in the future he hopes breeders will move towards that system with all their young horses.
“It means that any new horses being recorded would have to have that,” he said. “Horses already in the system would be exempt. Over the course of next five or so years, we would end up with all horses in the system. It negates starting with a certain year and having to work backwards.”
More Rules, More Cumbersome
A working group will examine the bylaws of the USEF, with the intention of making them less complicated. That group will present a draft of their work at the September board meeting.
“I don’t know any other national governing body that has bylaws as complex as ours,” said USEF CEO Chris Welton. “A lot of these things stem from history of the formation of this organization, but at some point, we need to step back and look at the entire way we do things— put the past aside and look at what’s best way to go forward. I think we need to take an entire look at our Rule Book and see how we can simplify. It makes it more cumbersome to have every aspect of our lives governed by a rule.”
Other Board Business:
No North American or European horses will compete at the test event for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro due to the expense of sending them.
The Pennsylvania National Horse Show was approved as a USEF Heritage Competition.
Welton is considering changes for future USEF Annual Meetings.
“I was warned about the meeting before I came, but then I got to experience it myself,” he said. “We’re all in agreement that we want to turn the meeting into something that’s a much more positive experience for the membership, for volunteers, for everyone, and we’re not sure what that means yet, but it may mean providing workshops—just finding out what people want from that experience. It’s something people really look forward to, and it builds positive feelings about the [USEF]. The awards part is great, but we think there are some other things that can be done.”
The 2016 USEF Annual Meeting will take place Jan. 13-16 at the Hyatt Regency in Lexington.