The national federation’s convention (p. 8) was certainly a great deal less theatrical than the last six, and this time our sport’s leaders could concentrate on working together to make it fairer, safer and more attractive. David O’Connor and his administration at the U.S. Equestrian Federation presented a plateful of meritorious plans, but all they’ll have to do with the most revolutionary plan is to endorse it.
The USEF’s hunter/jumper constituency is the largest single group within it (at 28,000 members), but it is so diverse in terms of geography, finances and level of participation that no one really knows how many people show in the wide range of state, local and unrecognized shows around the country (some estimate it could be as high as a quarter million). Creating the National Hunter/Jumper Council in 1997 was the federation’s attempt at providing this group with their own organization as the federation moved toward being a true umbrella for non-racing horse sports, instead of a hunter/jumper association that also let some other groups play in its sandbox. But the council never worked’and is now disbanded’and I think the main reason it didn’t work is that its only two chairmen (Larry Langer and Tom Struzzieri) are AA-rated show managers who surrounded themselves with other show managers and show officials. Consequently, their priorities were rather narrowly defined, and since they never did much that directly benefited the members, they could never excite any widespread interest or involvement.
I honestly believe, though, that the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association’s leaders will catch the interest of the masses. Why? Because its leaders, in particular their president, Bill Moroney, have a clear vision of their mission: education and inclusion’for all. And they have definitive plans to actually make that vision work (for more, see In The Country). When a show manager told Moroney that her peers should have greater representation, he pointed out that their plan provides equivalent representation for a wide range of constituencies, of which show managers are but one’a nice way of saying that this group’s focus is the exhibitors.
Later, Moroney, a hunter and equitation trainer, explained to me, “I see our group as having a very large educational component to it. There is an inherent responsibility for those of us competing at the upper levels of our sport to give something back and to build a stronger horse community.”
Significantly, the largest line item in the USHJA’s 2004-’05 budget ($120,000) is for educational programs. “We need to help everyone, at all levels, grow as horsemen. We need to educate trainers how to train and teach better so that they don’t feel threatened’and parents or adults don’t become discouraged’when their customers want to move up,” Moroney explained to me. “We need to teach these trainers better so that their students don’t have to go to someone else to learn everything all over again. We need to give people the opportunity to learn more.”
These are words I’ve never heard spoken before from a hunter/jumper person, at least not in an organizational sense. I told Moroney that’and that I thought the USHJA should get the USEF’s endorsement because they’re the first to understand what an affiliate should be doing. “It’s what creates the excitement in our approach,” he replied with a smile. “You know, there is a common thread that draws all of us together’our admiration and devotion to our horses. And that’s something we can develop the idea of a community around. This is just a beginning.”