Friday, May. 24, 2024

Knocking Down A Wall

It’s often said you don’t fully understand a person until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes. With this thought in mind, I’ve spent the past few decades working to expand my equestrian education from competitor to journalist to volunteer and beyond. And a highlight of this path has been serving the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association as a member of two committees: Amateurs and Marketing And Communications.
   

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It’s often said you don’t fully understand a person until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes. With this thought in mind, I’ve spent the past few decades working to expand my equestrian education from competitor to journalist to volunteer and beyond. And a highlight of this path has been serving the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association as a member of two committees: Amateurs and Marketing And Communications.
   
Therefore, when I traveled to the USHJA Annual Meeting (Dec. 26, p. 14) and to the U.S. Equestrian Federation Annual Meeting (p. 8) I spent time wearing both hats, that of journalist and volunteer. Participating has allowed me to more fully understand the inner workings of our sports’ governing bodies, to become involved in the long road it takes to develop an idea, draft it into words, submit a rule change proposal and then follow it down the (sometimes meandering) path toward USEF approval.
   
One such rule change I’m proud to have been involved with this year dealt with amateur status and the definition used in the jumper division. Several years ago, Amateur Committee members realized there was a glitch in the system because amateur-owner jumper riders, unlike amateur-owner hunter riders, were allowed to compete in other divisions at the same show on horses not owned by their family members.
   
Although to our knowledge no one had lodged a protest regarding this loophole, amateur committee members believed strongly that “an amateur is an amateur.”
   
So, our committee proposed a rule change that updated the jumper definition to match the hunter definition of an amateur-owner. The second draft was disapproved by the USEF National Jumper Committee but was approved by the USHJA Board of Directors. So when this rule change proposal traveled to Cincinnati in the fat white binder, it was not on the consent calendar, meaning it required more discussion. The NJC commented that they “would like to know the reason for wanting this rule changed and what the problem is with the current rule.”
   
So that’s when the hard work began again as Amateur Committee Chairman Tracey Weinberg got on her e-mail and phone and USHJA President Bill Moroney spoke to people in the hallways to let members and directors know why the amateurs wanted consistent rules for hunters and jumpers.
   
In the end, all but two NJC members approved the rule change proposal during their Saturday meeting.
   
After the vote, Bill congratulated the NJC. “This [reversal] just sent an important message to the membership and knocked down a huge wall that’s been built that has people believing that these committees aren’t open to input from the members,” he said. “In the wake of this I hope our membership will become excited and see that their input can help improve the sport.”
   
Weinberg was pleased that her committee, a group of diverse national and international hunter and jumper competitors, had made this inroad. “Amateurs are standing up to say that we want to self-regulate ourselves and compete at all competitions, nationwide, under one set of unilaterally equal rules,” she said.
   
I think Tracey’s words said it best: “Governance is about listening to what the majority of the membership believes is in the best interest for them!”

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Tricia Booker, Editor

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