One of Kyra Stuart’s first actions as the new president of the U.S. Eventing Association was to promise the members that their association was prepared to defend the three-day event in its traditional format.
Stuart, organizer of the Stuart Horse Trials (N.Y.) for the last 15 years, was elected president at the USEA’s annual convention, on Dec. 2-5 in San Francisco, Calif.
Holding the online petition begun by members of the Chronicle’s discussion forums and containing 2,241 signatures, Stuart told the Board of Governors, “The USEA has always been behind the long format at the one- and two-star levels, and this petition shows what people can do when they’re passionate.” Stuart and outgoing President Kingman Penniman had each signed the petition, presented to the officers at the annual membership meeting.
The long-format three-day event’s future looked mostly brighter by convention’s end, thanks to members’ support and to actions by the U.S. Equestrian Federation Eventing Committee, 60 percent of whose members are appointed by the USEA board.
Committee Chairman Roger Haller told the Board of Governors on Sunday that the committee had agreed that one- and two-star CCIs, especially those holding USEF championships, would retain the traditional format. That means the Jersey Fresh CCI (N.J.) in May will offer its two-star in the long format. The Radnor Hunt CCI** (Pa.) in October will also be long-format, as will the Colorado CCI** in May.
“Riders and trainers have expressed their strong support through their entries and through the petition, expressing the need for the educational value at this level,” said Haller.
But Haller also told the board that the committee had voted (on the advice of the USEF High-Performance Committee) that there was no longer any need for long-format three-star events. The reason: the Federation Equestre Internationale has already ruled they aren’t needed to qualify horses for four-stars or championships. Consequently, the Jersey Fresh organizers will have to offer their three-star in the short format, just like last October’s Fair Hill CCI*** (Md.).
The future of the four-stars, including Rolex Kentucky, is less certain, despite Kentucky director Janie Atkinson’s often-expressed pledge to run phases A, B and C.
David O’Connor, as the USEF president and as a member of the FEI Eventing Committee, expressed his personal commitment for preserving the long format at the Rolex Kentucky CCI and other four-stars. But he said that he doubted that FEI officials would agree, in the foreseeable future, to return the long format to any championships. (The FEI ruled last year that all championships–including young riders–will be short-format.)
That’s significant because the state of Kentucky has submitted a bid for the 2010 World Equestrian Games that includes a long-format eventing championship.
“In Europe, except for England, they’re pretty sure the short format is all they want,” said O’Connor. He said that the FEI Eventing Committee “didn’t have a five- or ten-year plan in their heads” when they created the short format for the Olympics and then allowed the organizers of the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen (Germany) to run their eventing championships in the short format too. “They were just reacting to pressure.”
Where’s The Research?
The rank and file got a chance to express their dedication to their sport’s ultimate challenge during an open forum Thursday afternoon, attended by approximately 250 people. And they listened to about half a dozen four-star riders explain their enthusiasm for the shorter version. Somewhat surprisingly, several also ex-pressed support for the long format at the one- and two-star levels, as did Capt. Mark Phillips, the U.S. team’s chef d’equipe.
“It’s an amazing experience to do your first one-star, and there’s no question of its great educational value,” said Karen O’Connor. She added, “I love to do the long format at the highest level, but we have to start asking ourselves where our sport is going to go.”
And, added Bobby Costello, “the train has already left the station as far as the upper levels are concerned” because of the FEI’s decision on
championships. So “it’s unfair to say we don’t care about the three-day.”
But, said Phillips, “If we want to win medals, we can’t keep losing [horses] in the steeplechase.”
Karen O’Connor, Amy Tryon, Gina Miles and Jan Thompson each said they thought that their horses recovered faster from their exertions following short-format events and that they thought injuries were less likely in the short format. But, they admitted, their evidence is anecdotal.
Dr. Catherine Kohn, who’s been the official veterinarian at three-days for more than two decades, has undertaken a data-collection project (recording pulse, respiration, recovery time) from both long- and short-format events. But it will be a couple of years before she has any numbers, and no organization has budgeted funds to underwrite the expense.
“What it boils down to is that the short format is easier, and I’m not interested in doing something that’s easier,” said coach and former international competitor Jim Wofford. And he noted that a horse died on course at both the Olympics and Fair Hill.
Wanted: Money To Teach
Sue Hershey and Karen O’Con-nor, the co-chairmen of the Instruc-tors’ Certification Program, displayed a similar passion when they asked the Board of Governors for increased financial commitment to their successful project. The program, initiated five years ago, ran assessments in 2003 and 2004 that certified 35 instructors from around the country.
“It’s a mushrooming program, and it affects 100 percent of the membership,” O’Connor told the board.
Previous boards had backed the ICP only if it was self-funding, meaning that it didn’t cost the USEA any money to administer. But the ICP’s rapid growth has both increased the administration costs and proven its need and popularity. (By comparison, the U.S. Dressage Federation has certified 139 dressage instructors since its program began in 1990.)
“It has to be backed financially by this association to become the flagship of this organization,” insisted O’Connor.
Hershey said that the workshops–where faculty members like O’Connor, Phillips and Don Sachey teach instructors how to teach–are completely self-funding. Organizers run them just like clinics, with participants paying a fee that covers the costs. But the problem is the assessments, which are more expensive to run and bring in less revenue because they have far fewer participants.
“If we were to charge enough to cover the costs, it could mean we’d lose candidates. It’s unreasonable to think that most people would pay what it costs,” said Hershey.
O’Connor said that they have enough funding for 2005, thanks to a $7,000 grant from the USEA Endowment Fund and $5,700 raised by the Saturday evening auction. But they hoped to get $3,500 per assessment included in the USEA’s 2006 budget and beyond. Board members asked O’Connor and Hershey to provide them with a complete financial and strategic plan, and they promised to have that for the April board meeting.
Later, Stuart expressed confidence that the board would provide funding for the first time. “I think it’s probably one of our premier programs. The [USDF] people have told me that it cost them and cost them and cost them in the early years, but that now it’s the program they’re most proud of,” she said.
Relationships Require So Much Work
The relationship between the USEA and the national federation has always been a nebulously defined one, and since the formation of the USEF a year ago it’s been undergoing considerable analysis. That re-evaluation was a secondary theme to the weekend.
The discussion centered on two issues. First, a memorandum of understanding the USEA’s leaders are negotiating with the USEF’s leaders outlining the responsibilities of both. The leaders of the U.S. Dressage Federation and the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association have already signed a memorandum (see Dec. 10, p. 68). Second, an all-new classification of events as part of a complete reworking of the procedure under which the USEF recognizes competitions.
David O’Connor, figuratively wearing his hat as USEF president, explained the work of the Competition Date-Approval Task Force three times. And his message each time was that it’s up to the USEA’s leaders and members to decide how events are to be scheduled, how they’re to be classified, and the categories of the members who compete in them. But that it has to happen–and soon. They couldn’t ignore the task force’s request for input because they didn’t think it affected them, like they did earlier this year.
“I won’t take no for an answer,” O’Connor told the board. “The one thing I will not allow is that the fight we had for seven years gets replaced by a fight with the affiliates.”
Currently, all USEA-sanctioned events are C-rated, meaning that exactly the same rules and requirements apply to every event, from Rolex Kentucky to a novice/training event in Arkansas. That situation cannot continue under the new competition-licensing agreement the USEF will unveil, probably within the next year.
So O’Connor suggested, noting that this was only his idea, a three-tier event classification system. The highest would be “destination” events, competitions that “have an effect on more than just the competitors there.” Next would be “workman” events, “a huge classification, probably the largest and broadest.” Finally, there would be “community” events, “local events that would have specific rules and parameters” to make them easier to organize and less expensive to compete in.
A related matter is event scheduling, particularly in crowded Areas II and III. The area chairman and organizers have always worked together to create the best possible schedule for competitors, a method that was formalized with the creation of area councils in all areas to handle scheduling. But there have still been conflicts, and O’Connor told the board that since some organizers sit on the area councils, it creates the possibility for action under the federal anti-trust act.
O’Connor and outgoing USEA President King Pen-niman carried on a lively de-bate about the relationships during the Friday board meeting. Penniman seemed anxious to guard the USEA’s authority in running their sport and the rights and pocket-books of its 11,000 lower-level members and disinclined to believe O’Connor’s assurances.
“This is a matter of self-determination, of you and all the other affiliates telling us how you want your sport to work,” O’Connor told Penniman. “It’s not that the federation wants to dictate how you determine your schedule or rate your events, but we have to be able to defend it. The oversight that has to happen by the federation is to make sure it’s defensible. I think that is a very healthy relationship.”
Neither the old nor the new board took any action regarding their federation relationship. But Andrew Temkin switched from secretary to vice president for strategic affairs to head the task force dealing with it.
Severson And Winsome Adante On Top Again
Kim Severson and Winsome Adante finished a year that included winning the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** and the Olympic silver medal by topping the U.S. Eventing Association’s leading lady rider and leading horse races.
“That’s fame, when you only have to say their first name, like Madonna or Michael,” observed emcee Jim Wofford when he introduced Severson.
Said Linda Wachtmeister, Winsome Adante’s owner, “As a mother [her two daughters also compete] and an owner, I can’t thank all the people who make this sport possible enough.”
Phillip Dutton was the leading rider for the sixth consecutive year. He couldn’t be in San Francisco, so John Nunn, who owns the Bit of Britain tack store and trains with Dutton, accepted the trophy. “I’ve seen him raise the bar of this sport, and I commend him, as a friend, a sponsor and a student,” said Nunn.
Will Coleman was the leading young rider, while Karen O’Connor won the USEA Gold Cup Series at intermediate level and Lauren Whitlock won the series at advanced level.
Wofford presented the Wofford Cup, the USEA’s most important honorary award, to Jim Wolf, the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s director of international eventing since 1992.
Rachel Lathrop, 21, received the Courtney Reeves Sportsmanship Trophy. Lathrop was scheduled to ride on the Area VI (California) team at the North American Young Riders Championships until her horse went lame just before shipping. But she accompanied her teammates and acted as chef d’equipe.
Governors Cups were given to Helen Coleman (a volunteer scorer at numerous events), Jack Ernst (organizer of the Jubilee Horse Trials on his Arkansas farm), Anne Kellerhouse (a long-time California organizer and secretary), Ed Lawrence (the popular California-based photographer who just turned 80), Mary Lou Reese (another dedicated California volunteer who was the convention’s chairman), Ana Schravesande (who’s organized events in four different USEA areas), Joe Silva (former director of the MSPCA Nevins Farm, provider of horse ambulances), and Lefreda Williams (organizer of the Southern Pines [N.C.] Horse Trials since its inception in 1991 and of the inaugural American Eventing Championships).
Odds And Ends
In addition to electing Kyra Stuart as president, the U.S. Eventing Association’s Board of Governors elected a reworked slate of officers.
They are: vice president for strategic affairs–Andrew Temkin; vice president for promotion–Roger Sechrist; vice president for area affairs–John Sheets; vice president for education–Beth Lendrum; vice president for membership–Jennifer Akers; vice president for competitions–Malcolm Hook; secretary–Kevin Baumgardner; treasurer–Gary Stegman.
After a brief discussion at its Sunday meeting, the board decided to postpone a decision on whether to include beginner novice, which in 2005 becomes a fully recognized division, in the American Eventing Championships.
In his parting speech, outgoing President Kingman Penniman urged the board to include beginner novice. But Penniman is no longer a board member, and the new members agreed that a decision either way had numerous ramifications, especially if they moved to include the division in 2005.
Patte Clement, chairman of the Adult Riders Committee, spoke for several board members when she observed, “I don’t think it should be there. It should be an introductory level, not a championship level.”
Board member D.C. McBroom, winner of the novice adult amateur title at the AEC, is chairman of a task force attempting to develop an amateur rule specific to eventing. She said the group’s work coincides with similar efforts in event and membership classification going on in other affiliates under the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s umbrella.
Unlike the 2003 convention, there was little discussion–and none of it heated–of amateur definition this time, for which McBroom was thankful.
The USEA’s financial statement shows a loss of $17,689 for 2004 on expenses of $2,245,644. It was the second straight year of deficit, although Stegman noted that the association has about $1.5 million in cash and investment reserves. The 2005 budget, as amended by the board, shows a surplus of approximately $7,600.
Some 535 members participated in this convention, making it the second-largest ever. In 2003, 710 traveled to Boston, eclipsing the record set in 2002 in Cleveland (490 members). The 2005 convention is in New Orleans.
This meeting’s sponsors were Nutrena, Bit of Britain, Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, Maui Jim Sunglasses and Rebecca Farm.