Friday, May. 24, 2024

What You Need To Know: Breaking Down The 2021 USHJA Rule Change Proposals



Twenty-eight rule change proposals—12 fewer than last year—are up for discussion during the upcoming U.S. Hunter Jumper Association Annual Meeting, which takes place online Dec. 4-10.

Rule change proposals that are approved by the USHJA board of directors at the meeting will go to the U.S. Equestrian Federation, where they must be voted on by the USEF board of directors before being enacted.

While the comment period for the rules closed Nov. 15, members may still make their opinions known by chiming in during the annual meeting. Here’s a look at each of the rule changes being proposed at this year’s meeting, by topic area:

Welfare and Safety

  • Banning the practice of pulling shoes for hunter under saddle classes. “Used to achieve an uncertain competitive edge in under saddle classes, this practice often causes bruising, soreness, and breakage of the hoof wall and can result in extended lameness,” the proposal states.
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A proposed rule would ban pulling shoes off horses and ponies for under saddle classes. Mollie Bailey Photos

  • Rewording the requirement for “an FEI approved safety mechanism” in breakaway safety cups used in hunter and equitation classes, requiring that all jump cups—mechanism and cup together—used be ones approved by the Fédération Equestre Internationale.
  • Prohibiting inhumane shoeing and soring for all breeds at USEF competitions, not just Tennessee Walking Horses, Racking Horses or Spotted Saddle Horses as is currently stated in the USEF rule book. “I’ve seen warmbloods at dressage shows with inhumane shoes, but these breeds were not applicable to this rule because the rule was too specific,” rule proponent Valarie Boatman stated in her proposal.



  • Expanding and adjusting the hunter/jumping seat equitation tests to include 23 tests, several of which have explanations with graphics illustrating how to the tests are to be performed.
    Also, the final test, change of horses, would now only be used in championship classes, and it would have additional rules governing it. In that test, riders would have to be “given a minimum of 90 seconds to do a brief flat and jump no more than two (2) schooling jumps.” Riders on swapped horses may be required to jump a previous course or a portion of the previous course, but tests 1-22 shall not be included, even if they were in the former course. So, for example, if riders swap horses and are to repeat a previous course which included a counter-cantered jump and a halt, those elements would not be a part of the new course.
  • Standardizing that riders will be eliminated after two refusals in all equitation classes. “This eliminated the need for riders, trainers, judges, and stewards to remember which classes have three refusals and which have two refusals to incur elimination,” states the USHJA Equitation Task Force in its rule proposal.
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If passed, a new rule would expand the equitation tests riders may perform.


  • Lowering the number of entries required to split a hunter division from 50 to 40.
  • Requiring under saddle classes to run on the first day competition. “The purpose of this rule change is to ensure divisions that complete day one with three or more competitors are able to award championship points,” proponent Laura Schroff Scaletti wrote. “When under saddle classes are held on day two of the competition there is no guarantee that three or more competitors will return to compete. A variety of factors could cause competitors to not return for day two (illness/injury of horse or rider, inclement weather, bad footing, Acts of God, etc). By requiring under saddles to occur day one, championship points will be able to be awarded regardless of day two participation.”
  • Lowering the minimum entries in junior hunter classes from six to four horses to decrease the number of premier shows that have to combine the four required junior hunter sections. In 2018 and 2019, more than 70 percent of premier shows had to combine their junior sections, noted the USHJA Junior Task Force, which proposed the rule change to “make continuity across the rule book with such divisions as the green and pony hunters and simplifying the rules to match.”
  • Penalizing horses entering the jumper ring without a back number or with an incorrect number. A rider would receive a verbal warning for a first offense, a yellow card for a second offense, and be eliminated for a third offense at the same competition.
  • Altering the measurement requirement for junior hunters. Only small junior hunters would require a measurement card, under the proposal put forth by the Stewards Ad Hoc Committee; any horse without a measurement card, regardless of size, would be considered a large junior hunter. “Many horses competing in the large junior hunter sections are well over 16.0 hands; the owners/trainers/riders understand these animals are not contenders for the small junior hunter sections, but are required to follow protocol and obtain measurement cards for any horse competing in a junior hunter section, class or division,” the proposal states. “Requiring a measurement card for only the small junior hunter divisions would reduce redundancy for USEF staff, and allow stewards and veterinarians more time for other duties required at licensed competitions.”
  • Giving judges the right to eliminate dangerous or out-of-control horses in hunter breeding classes. “There are many occasions in breeding classes where young horses are a danger to the handler or other entries but there had been [no] previous means to excuse them,” stated the proposal put forth by the USHJA Hunter Breeding Task Force. “Due to several incidents at recent Hunter Breeding competitions, most notably the Sallie B Wheeler National Championship, at which horses have reared, struck at, bitten, kicked at or purposefully knocked down their handlers, we feel this has become an issue of horse and human welfare.” Under the proposal, a horse or pony that breaks away from its handler or whose actions threaten to endanger the rider, handler or other exhibitors or their entries could be excused from the ring.
  • Allowing points to be awarded for model classes in conformation divisions even if there are fewer than three entries. “If people enter the class they should be allowed to show, regardless of the number of entries,” states the proposal from the USHJA Hunter Working Group. “Also, in situations where there are only three entries in the section, an exhibitor with a horse that does not model well can intentionally or unintentionally choose not to compete in the model and manipulate the championship placings by causing the model not to count. This unfairly penalizes the other exhibitors who are actually participating in the full section.”
  • Allowing the timing clock to be stopped if an air vest deploys during a jumper class. Should a rider’s vest deploy while on course, the rider may stop and remove the vest, with assistance if needed. The clock will be stopped and not restarted until the vest is removed. The rider will receive no penalty. This rule change is being introduced as extraordinary and, if passed, would take effect for the 2022 season.


  • Requiring stewards to wear discernable identification, such as badges with lanyards, hats, visors or a wristband while officiating at a competition. “Exhibitors and owners have brought it to the [USHJA] Owners Task Force’s attention that they are often unable to ascertain who the stewards are at competitions,” the proposal states. “The goal of the rule change by the Task Force is a continuing effort to show the transparency of fair play present to exciting and new participants at the competition.”
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If passed, a new rule would require stewards to wear a hat, badge, wristband or something similar to identify them as stewards.


  • As the USHJA establishes as separate membership database from USEF, a rule change would require participants making alterations to things like horse ownership, leases, name changes and exhibitor registration to also record the changes with the USHJA in addition to the USEF.

Chronicle staff will attend the USHJA Meeting virtually this year and will report on the rule change discussions and all the other action at



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