Sunday, Mar. 3, 2024

USEA Rule Change Proposals: Lower Level MERs, Horse Welfare And More



Fourteen rule change proposals are up for discussion later this week during the U.S. Eventing Association Annual Meeting & Convention, to be held Dec. 7-10 in St. Louis, Missouri.

Rule changes approved by the USEA board of governors will go to the U.S. Equestrian Federation, where they must be voted on by the USEF board of directors before being enacted for the 2025 season.

USEA members can weigh in on any of the proposals during the online comment period, which is open now and continues through Dec. 11. All rule change proposals are available on the USEA website. 

Here’s a look at each of the proposals, by topic area.

Minimum Eligibility Requirements

Three USEA members have put forth several proposed changes to Appendix 3, which would change or create minimum eligibility requirements for competing at modified and below:

  • To compete at modified, a horse must obtain an MER at three horse trials at novice or higher. (Riders are already required to have three MERs at training level or higher before tackling modified.)
  • To compete at training level, a rider must earn an MER at two horse trials at novice. The horse must also earn two MERs at novice. Previously there were no MER required to compete at training level.
  • An additional change would require beginner novice and novice competitors who have incurred “one or more” mandatory retirement (MR), compulsory retirement (CR) or dangerous riding (DR) penalty at an event to compete at the same level or lower at their next event. Any horse or rider competing above starter level who has “two or more” MR, CR, DR or rider falls (RF) within a 12-month period must complete one horse trial at the preceding level without a MR, CR, DR or RF before returning to their previous, higher level. (Currently a compulsory retirement, which occurs when a combination earns 20 or more jump penalties in show jumping, is only awarded at training level or higher. There is not an associated rule change proposal to extend the use of compulsory retirement to novice and below.)

A proposed change would create MERs for the lower levels. Kimberly Loushin Photo

A change to Appendix 3, Participation in Horse Trials, aligns national minimum eligibility requirements with the Fédération Equestre Internationale, which allows riders to still earn an MER if they activate one frangible/deformable device (11 penalties) or miss one flag (15 penalties).


• A pair of rule change proposals to EV122 and EV122.5, Cross-Country Phase Definitions of Faults, would use the FEI definitions for run-outs and missed flags to eliminate confusion at national events with regards to a rider retaking a jump or continuing. Missed flags were not previously included under cross-country faults, so a change to EV123 would add 15 penalties for a missed flag to possible cross-country faults.

Horse Welfare

• A proposed change to EV108, Participation, which was put forward by the same three USEA members as the lower-level MERs, would limit a horse to competing three consecutive weekends at endorsed/licensed recognized competitions.

“Within Area 1, there have been numerous concerns regarding competitor and horse safety,” reads the rule change intent. “Competitors and volunteers have witnessed horses competing extensively in back-to-back events (ex. some competing up to 10 consecutive weekends) in addition to schooling shows and other venues. There have been numerous injuries to horse and competitor, specifically falls and exhaustion, some resulting in death.

“The following rule is intended to ensure the well-being of the horse in situations where the owner and/or rider does not practice mindful care, does not abide by professional recommendations (trainer, vet, etc.), and professionals that do not speak to the concern of the horse’s well-being,” it continues.

Licensed Officials

A change to GR1040, Conflicts of Interest and Restrictions—Judges, would stipulate that, for eventing, members of the ground jury cannot be related to the course designer because “the ground jury is ultimately responsible for approving all courses.”

 A change to EV153 Licensed Officials for Horse Trials, would allow any member of the ground jury to serve as a second technical delegate at horse trials with more than 300 entries.


• Changes to EV160 and GR1026 change the licenses required to design eventing and show jumping courses at events so that eventing and show jumping course designers must be a minimum of an “r” (recorded) judge to design at the intermediate level and a “R” (registered) judge to design at the advanced level.

While FEI riders are already well-acquainted with the penalties for missing a flag over skinny obstacles, a rule change proposal would make this penalty part of national competitions as well. Lindsay Berreth Photo


• A change to EV104.8, Definitions, clarifies what constitutes a technical elimination: “Any elimination may be recorded as a TE (technical elimination) if the fault is a rider error (i.e. omission of obstacle, third error of course in dressage, or missing start or finish flags), and not caused directly or indirectly by the horse’s disobedient, weak or aberrant performance.”

• A change to Appendix 2—Specifications for Horse Trials, keeps the official height for beginner novice courses at 2’7″ but changes the metric equivalent from 0.79 meters to 0.80 meters.  

• A change to EV118, Dressage Phase Rules, corrects the omission of the word “once,” in 11c, which states, “If the Athlete makes an error of course and the Judge does not sound the signal, the Athlete may only be penalized once if the movement is repeated, and the same error occurs.”

• A change to EV120, Dressage Phase Elimination Summary Chart, permits the ground jury to decide between elimination or a 2-point deduction if a rider performs their test in incorrect dress.

 A wording change to EV163, Additional Personnel, requires that a farrier must be present on the show grounds for horse trials and classic three-day events offering preliminary and above.

The Chronicle will be onsite at the 2023 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention and will cover all the action.




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