The cumbersome mileage exemption process dictating when and whether new horse shows can be established close to existing ones has been revamped and simplified by the newly formed U.S. Equestrian Federation Competition Task Force.
The task force, which has been working since February to address member concerns, has checked a big item off its list by re-writing the rule governing the mileage-exemption process. The rule change was approved by the USEF board of directors and became effective March 9, after what USEF President Tom O’Mara described as a “Herculean effort” by many people.
O’Mara and USEF CEO Bill Moroney discussed the rule change, among other topics, during a USEF Competition Task Force Activity Update Webinar held Tuesday.
In addition to streamlining the process and timeline of the mileage-exemption process, the rule change allows USEF to work with representatives of both shows in question to find solutions and provides more transparency and accountability for all involved.
The change allows the federation to speak to the shows involved sooner in the decision-making process to “understand all the nuances of what’s happening in a geographic area” and help find a solution that will allow both events to run, Moroney said.
In addition, the change allows the applications to be submitted closer to the start date of the competition, reduces turnaround time for USEF departments to respond to involved parties, and organizes the feedback from different parties so that the decision makers can get a complete picture of the situation when rendering a decision.
The task force also addressed concerns raised over aggregation of dates by licensees.
“A lot of people brought up [questions like] how many [licenses] should someone have? How long should circuits be?” O’Mara said. “The analysis really came down to: Should that be directed by [a] central entity, or should the free markets allow someone to run as many horse shows as they want? The determination was made that they can run as many as they want as long as there is a mechanism—which the new mileage-exemption process enables much easier than it was in the past—to allow for mileage exemptions to happen.”
Even if a single entity runs a lot of horse shows in one area, the task force reasoned, there’s now a way for new shows to get off the ground more easily.
Prohibiting License Leasing
In a related issue, the task force has proposed prohibiting an entity that “owns” one show date from leasing it to another group or individual to hold their show on that date. Such leasing of licenses will be expressly forbidden if another proposed rule change passes June 28 at the USEF mid-year board meeting.
“If I were an individual or had an entity, and Tom was a licensee, and I paid him to operate and use his license to operate a competition, that is not permitted under the federation rules,” Moroney said. “This rule does not prevent a licensee from hiring a manager, so if Tom is the licensee he can hire me to manage his horse show, but I cannot pay Tom to use his horse show.”
Attendee Laurie Daniel asked how the USEF proposes to monitor, manage and address competitions that are engaging in this type of arrangement. Moroney responded that most of what the USEF learns about alleged rule violations are from reports from members and licensed officials. He pointed out that the penalty of not getting a license or not getting a license renewed is a strong one.
“There’s opportunities for people to do this the right way,” he said. “If an organizer no longer wants to be actively engaged with a competition, they have the ability to sell that competition to someone else, and that other person or entity can come forward and request the issuance of a new license for the competition.”
Other Discussions Of Note:
Other proposed rule changes discussed during the task force update webinar included:
• Removing, from the rule governing the length of a competition day, a set $250 penalty for horse shows lasting too many hours in one day and instead permitting the USEF to assign, when and if necessary, a fee appropriate to the circumstances.
Moroney pointed out that many competitions have been experiencing a post-COVID-19 boom, with days occasionally stretching longer than allowed, or that weather delays can lengthen days. These issues are not the intended target of the penalty so much as show managers who repeatedly exceed the allowed time because they accept a lot of entries without adding rings or adjusting the schedule to accommodate them. This rule would let the USEF appropriately penalize repeat offenders.
• Strengthening baseline requirements for lighting and footing at all competitions.
• Changing baseline requirements for food and water availability at all competitions to require that food be available from an hour before the start of the first class until an hour prior to the completion of competition each day.
“The goal here is that some sort of food and drink is available, whether that is a pack of cheese and peanut butter crackers and a bottle of water or it’s a filet mignon dinner and an open bar,” Moroney said. “There’s a lot of people that don’t have the opportunity to leave the competition grounds all day long.”
• Requiring that a qualified competition manager or a duly appointed qualified assistant manager be on the competition grounds at all times while classes are running.
• Restricting the collection of mandatory participation fees on entry forms to only the USEF and its recognized affiliates, such as the U.S. Eventing Association or the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association.
• Eliminating USEF’s prize list preliminary correction service. With as many as 2,600 competitions licensed annually, and prize lists allowed to be submitted very close to the time of the horse show, Moroney described the preliminary correction service as “an impossible effort to make.” He said that the USEF will still provide help to organizers who need assistance.