Sunday, Apr. 21, 2024

We’ve Taken Great Strides In 2008

Looking back at 2008 and forward into 2009, there’s one common theme that permeates our lives: the economy. We’ve all been rocked by the economy and are facing dramatic changes that will impact all aspects of our equine world. It’s not a matter of if it will affect us, it’s a matter of how much and for how long.



Looking back at 2008 and forward into 2009, there’s one common theme that permeates our lives: the economy. We’ve all been rocked by the economy and are facing dramatic changes that will impact all aspects of our equine world. It’s not a matter of if it will affect us, it’s a matter of how much and for how long.

Despite the economic difficulties our country experienced in 2008, the United States wasn’t down on all fronts. Our equestrians made a strong showing on the international scene with an Olympic show jumping team gold medal and a second-placed finish at the FEI World Cup Show Jumping Final for Rich Fellers and Flexible. We should be proud. And hats off to Chef d’Equipe George Morris for his dedication.

On the hunter and equitation side of our sport, we saw some incredible performances in the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association International Hunter Derby classes and at our championship venues of Devon (Pa.), Capital Challenge (Md.), the Pennsylvania National, Washington (D.C.) and the National (N.Y.). Several horses and riders met the challenges of top competition head on and secured titles at multiple shows. Combinations such as Catie Hope and Lyle, the Chronicle’s 2008 Show Hunter Horse of the Year, and Jessica Springsteen and Tiziano, a U.S. Equestrian Federation Horse of Honor, are excellent examples of true horse and rider partnerships.

In the equitation, Jessica, Matthew Metell and Katherine Newman excelled with honors in multiple finals. These young equestrians know what their horses need to perform well and have been properly trained to meet those needs and answer the questions the courses presented. Both on an international and national level, our equestrian future appears very promising.

Now it’s time to bring this level of training and knowledge to the rest of our sport. The USHJA will be implementing the Emerging Athletes Program of talent search clinics on a zone and regional basis in 2009. These clinics are designed to identify and nurture young and talented equestrians who are not necessarily on the radar screen.

In order to keep the pipeline supplied with new, dedicated and interested talent, we must cultivate it and ensure that these fine young people receive proper education and exposure to advanced concepts and training. The young people are the future of our sport, whether it’s involvement in governance or competing for our country.

Taking Care Of Our Horses

While we hope that our economy rebounds in 2009, we’ve been hearing that it’s quite possible it could get worse before it gets better. So we’d like to reiterate that as we weather the storm of this economic recession we cannot allow our horses to suffer. Please remember that there are resources to assist you if you find you cannot care for your equine friends, and those more fortunate should perhaps “keep an ear to the ground” and consider taking steps to assist those in need.

As the executive director of the Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center, I’ve been inundated with calls from owners wanting to donate their horses to our program. We are at our limit, and I worry and wonder what will happen to the horses we do not take. Where will these horses go and who will feed and care for them? I know we’re not alone in this situation.

There are numerous collegiate and therapeutic riding programs that offer programs for horse donations, but they all have a limit to the number of donated horses they can receive. Their budgets are limited as well. So before you use these organizations as a last resort for your horse, please investigate other options too so that we give these horses the best chance at a new home.   


Susie Schoellkopf

Being involved with the scheduling of this program has been a real eye opener as to how hard the USHJA staff works to make sure our sport runs smoothly. Our thanks go out to the many hosts who are generously donating their facilities and our fellow equestrians and sponsors who are all working together to make this program a success.

The USEF Pony Finals have grown tremendously, and be it hunter, equitation or jumper, this event has become the most important championship for our ponies. The competitors look forward to the classes and also to the many fantastic events that surround this championship.

The USEF Junior Hunter Finals have slowly grown in number of participants to the point that this year, for the first time, we had three bids to host the competition. The Hunterdon Cup has also become a prestigious equitation event to win. Congratulations to two very hard working committees that have made a success out of both of these events.

Growing Stronger

We concluded the year with our USHJA Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn., in December, which was attended by a record number of hunter and jumper equestrians. They came to participate in the governance process and to see all of our committees working strongly to make our sport better. The discussions were lively and constructive, and there are changes on the horizon.

One of the best parts of this year’s meeting was all of the new faces in attendance. We have said for years in this article and many others we have written—you must attend, and you must voice your opinion. We are excited to see this happening. The more people involved in the governance of our sport, the more new ideas that come to light and the better our community will be for their efforts.

Rumors are always abuzz when change happens. The USHJA International Hunter Derby Program was initially not well received by our entire community. Now, after a year of classes and headed toward our inaugural Finals in August 2009, support for this program and its goals has grown tremendously. The hunters finally have a new and exciting class in which to showcase their incredible athletes that combines the old with the new. Derby classes require good riding and good jumping. They combine good horsemanship with having your horses fit and ready for the tests that are asked of them on each course.

While Derby classes may not be for everyone, they are a goal for many hunter riders—young and old—and have given owners something to be excited about. The popularity of the Derby classes, with audiences and participants, proves that they are becoming the grand prix of hunter riding.

The USHJA Hunter Restructure Committee has had at least five retreats in 2008. As we said at the Annual Meeting, it’s a group of people trying to sort out what works now and what will work in the future. The committee is asking for input from everyone. It’s moving slowly and cautiously with long days at the retreats. The time and energy given by committee members is generously donated by each and every one of them.

Some rule changes developed by this committee included changing from points to money won for the professional hunter divisions beginning in December 2009, changes to prize money requirements for A- and AA-rated competitions and establishing the percentage of prize money in a given class for each placing. The open rule change forums provided a chance for input from the membership, and as a result, these and many other proposed rule changes were amended to better serve the entire community.


Reader’s Digest recently published a quote by John F. Kennedy in which he said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” We were both thrilled to see that our fellow equestrians realized and embraced the idea that to go forward we need to change, and they were willing to make those changes.

The Hunter Restructure Committee will continue its efforts in 2009 and will be bringing further ideas to the membership for feedback and to stimulate additional conversation throughout the year. This project is a major undertaking for our sport and will be an ongoing process for years to come.

We Want You

Another important part of our sport and its future is the process for succession in leadership. We have just completed a year full of elections, including our zones and Board of Directors. In addition, we are now in the process of seating the balance of the USHJA committees.

While the votes were being tabulated during the election of the Board of Directors, I addressed the Directors and audience regarding the importance of planning for the future and creating a succession plan for all our committees and Board. Term limits on the Board of Directors mandate that we make a plan. This is vital to the ongoing success of the USHJA and a duty of all leaders within the organization.

In response to questions regarding the election and appointment processes of the organization, we are preparing an informational paper outlining these processes, which will be available on our website. Every time the organization goes through an election, we identify new areas that need to be amended to create better efficiency and clarity. I want to thank the membership for participating in these processes and for all the interest in committee appointments.

Even though our economy is going through some rough patches, our sport is going through some very positive changes that we feel will help direct us to a better environment and create a stronger equestrian community. More people are getting involved in the governance of our sport, and this is a positive experience for all of us. The USHJA has achieved great strides the past four years, and we commend the staff, Board of Directors and all equestrians for their dedication. 

Bill Moroney and Susie Schoellkopf

Bill Moroney is president of the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association, a member of the U.S. Equestrian Federation Board of Directors and a USEF R-rated judge. In between officiating, he’s head trainer at Salamander Farm in Middleburg, Va. He started writing Between Rounds columns in 2004.

Susie B. Schoellkopf serves as the executive director of the Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center, which is the home of the Buffalo Equestrian Center and SBS Farms in Buffalo, N.Y. An R-rated U.S. Equestrian Federation judge, Schoellkopf has trained numerous horses to USEF Horse of the Year honors, including Gabriel, Kansas, Big Bad Wolf and GG Valentine. She started writing Between Rounds columns in 2002.




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