Sunday, May. 19, 2024

The USHJA Has Experienced An Incredible Year Of Change

Again this year we’re jointly writing a year-end column for the Chronicle’s American Horses In Sport special issue. Unlike past columns that discussed a variety of topics and trends in the hunter/jumper world, we felt strongly that the fourth annual U.S. Hunter Jumper Association Annual Meeting was such a milestone event that it deserved more of our attention.

If you weren’t in Phoenix, Ariz., for the meeting last December, you should have been. How far this young association has come in a very short time!
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Again this year we’re jointly writing a year-end column for the Chronicle’s American Horses In Sport special issue. Unlike past columns that discussed a variety of topics and trends in the hunter/jumper world, we felt strongly that the fourth annual U.S. Hunter Jumper Association Annual Meeting was such a milestone event that it deserved more of our attention.

If you weren’t in Phoenix, Ariz., for the meeting last December, you should have been. How far this young association has come in a very short time!

It’s the first time the hunter/jumper constituency has had a voice of its own. For so many years we were a lost group floundering with no association to solve our problems. We’re now able to join forces within ourselves to have our own identity.

The annual meeting was dynamic, energetic, and there was a true feeling of unity and community. We finally achieved the ability to agree to disagree, and this situation provided the platform for working together to solve the problems in our sport. People on opposite sides of an issue decided to come together and make the compromises, which resulted in changes that will move our sport forward. 

The Hilton Pointe Tapatio Cliffs was a beautiful venue. Set into the hills of Phoenix, the scenery was superb. Although beautiful, the rooms were a hike from the meeting space, but there were shuttles to ferry you to the meetings. The USHJA staff is new to choosing convention locations, and the draw for any convention is to be able to meet with your friends (or enemies) and discuss issues at the bar or in a common lobby. This widespread setting was also a drawback when the American Horse Shows Association had their convention there many years ago.

Once you were at the main venue, however, all of the meeting rooms were centrally located and big enough to accommodate the large audiences in attendance.

It’s No Bull

The USHJA staff also made sure that everyone was well fed, watered and got some turnout time too. Several members and equestrian-oriented companies and organizations sponsored many of the amenities provided for the convention participants.

The Arizona Hunter Jumper Association hosted a beautiful evening Welcome Reception on a hill above the resort, complete with food, drink, a band and a ride in on a Brahma Bull named Frosty for the president! Our friends in Arizona really know how to throw a party.

Stadium Jumping hosted the popular Evening of Equestrians awards dinner. This event was sold out, with more than 225 guests joining us for an action-packed evening of fun, recognition and surprises.

It was evident that the programs of the association are really a success. This was the first year of the Foundation Awards, which recognize the accomplishments of competitors at the B-and C-rated levels.

More than 3,000 members participated in this program that featured more than 900 award winners. Many of our champions were in attendance from all over the country, including Alaska. What an incredible way to bring our community together!

The President’s Distinguished Service Awards and the Volunteer of the Year Award kept everyone guessing as only the president and staff know the identity of the winners each year. It was an emotional evening for this incredible group of dedicated, knowledgeable and hardworking volunteers, and they deserve the recognition for their leadership and achievements.

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The Year in Review Luncheon, sponsored for the third year by the Rudin Family, presented the accomplishments of the USHJA. It is just amazing how much can be accomplished and how far we can move forward when our community unites for the betterment of our sport. Every program developed and implemented by our association has been a success. There are too many to list, but if you cannot find a program that suits your needs, we would be surprised.

Our volunteers and staff are not a group who rests on their laurels, however. Many new programs, and those already in development, are to be launched in the coming year.

One of the most exciting is the Affiliate Equitation Awards. It will be the first time in the history of the hunter and jumper industry that the national organization has reached out to those equestrians competing at unrecognized shows.

For a $15 membership fee, each qualifier and ribbon winner in a USHJA Affiliate Organization medal program will receive recognition from a national organization for their accomplishments as well as numerous member benefits, including a subscription to USHJA In Stride magazine. The Affiliates Council has created this program, and we’re proud to be supporting their initiatives.

Rules Rule

Rule-change forums always seem to be heated, and this year many members passionately stated their positions on a variety of subjects.

The biggest difference from previous meetings is that we all listened and didn’t automatically dismiss an opinion that differed from our own. This atmosphere set the stage for opponents to join together to work through the issues and to develop solutions to the problems.

Several rule-change proposals created much-needed dialogue among our members, including the minimum prize money requirement for A-rated competitions and the dual agency rules. Sometimes the best way for everyone to realize that a problem exists and needs attention is to propose a rule change—change always gets a response!

People joined together to create small task forces to bring back to the membership proposals that will benefit our sport as a whole. Everyone learned and recognized that because of our geographic size, one size does not fit all, and consideration must be given to what other parts of the country need.

The USHJA Board of Directors voted on approximately 85 rule-change proposals, and most of them were easily decided due to the input of our committees and open forums. 

The rule change to add handy hunter classes in each A-rated division (except green ponies) will keep the horses and riders sharp, and we hope these courses will promote better riding.

Trainer/rider Patty Heuckeroth brought a prize list from the 1950s to the annual meeting, which had a handy hunter class in the first year green division!

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It’s also interesting to note that when we discussed changing the qualifications for first and second year green hunters, the entire audience in the Hunter Rule Change Forum voted in favor of continuing to develop the level system of categorizing the professional hunter divisions. People started to truly understand that a level system isn’t the end of the first and second year green hunter, but rather the creation of additional competition venues for owners, riders and horses.

Education Is Key

Education is something that we feel strongly about. The new trainer’s certification program that the USHJA has been developing for about two years is close to coming to fruition. It makes sense that people cannot just decide to open a barn and teach children how to ride.

Review is good, and it makes us stronger in all of our teaching habits. This program is a success in Canada, and we’ll all be able to exchange ideas on teaching with other organizations and breeds and disciplines. The newcomers into our business will be able to sort and choose the facility and teacher that best suits their needs. It’s long overdue, and something that will help make our industry more credible and stronger.

My eyes were opened when The Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center (N.Y.) went through our certification for our teachers and the process to become an accredited center. We became much better organized and aware of the paperwork that was necessary.

Zone elections will change in 2008. We’ll reduce the initial size of the elected Zone Committees in relation to the number of hunter or jumper members as applicable in each zone. No longer will candidates have to run for a particular seat. Constituency and geographic representation will be achieved through adding additional members to the Zone Committees.

The USHJA held discussions with the Zone Committees and the Hunter and Jumper Zone Councils regarding the policies and procedures for administration of the Zone Committees. We will be publishing a comprehensive guide to all committee policies and procedures that will include the USHJA Code of Ethics, financial policies and use of the USHJA logo, name and properties.

Change is hard, but it can also be positive. We all have to work together to promote our sport. It’s easy to stay home and not attend these conventions and meetings. We all have excuses; we are all busy.

But if you care about the future of our sport and the direction the hunters and jumpers are headed, you must attend and you must speak up.

We finally have a voice, and it’s the USHJA. It’s easy to sit back and criticize; it’s much harder to work to make our community better. We need the thoughts and ideas from everyone.

Bill Moroney and Susie Schoellkopf

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