What You Need To Know: Detailed Records And One Horse, One Handler Up For Discussion At USHJA Annual Meeting, Part 2

Dec 8, 2017 - 2:31 PM

Part 1 of our discussion of the rule change proposals up for discussion at the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association Annual Meeting, which takes place Dec. 10-14 in San Antonio, Texas, dealt with a Safe Sport initiative, punishing unethical sales practices, reporting abuse and more (read it all in Part 1).

Here in Part 2, we continue the discussion of the 83 proposals, focusing on general rule changes that affect all hunter/jumper competitors. Any rule change proposals that are approved by the USHJA Board of Directors will go forward to the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s annual meeting, where a final vote will ultimately determine the proposal’s future.

Here are the pros and cons of a few of the more controversial topics, followed by a synopsis of other proposals.

Fleshing Out USEF Hunter Records

One group of rule change proposals would require hunter results to be reported to the USEF in more detail. Specifically, over fences results must designate if a horse did not compete, voluntarily withdrew, was eliminated, went off course or did not place. Right now all competitors entered in a class who do not earn a ribbon in the class have “DNP” (i.e. did not place) written as the result—regardless of if they even walked into the ring.

The purpose of this rule change proposal is to provide hunters with better and more precise data akin to the data available under the jumper rules. In-depth and accurate horse and rider reports  can then be used to guide the trajectory of programs and championships.


  • Potential buyers would have more information about a horse’s history.
  • Would provide more accurate information for rider reports, which are useful for programs like the USHJA Trainers Certification Program and riders applying for educational opportunities.
  • Supports efforts to make decisions based on data that is as complete as possible and supports efforts to make the sport more transparent.


  • This would require more work from horse show office staff, who are already managing a lot of data processing. This could require more office staff, ultimately driving up costs.
  • This would require more work from horse show judges.

One Horse, One Handler; One Handler, One Horse

A proposed change would allow only one handler per horse and one horse per handler in the ring during a breeding class for the entire duration of the class. The horse may not be handed off to someone else during the class.


  • Having exactly one handler per horse makes for a nicer class without distractions as one handler runs from horse to horse while an assistant holds the reins.
  • This would force handlers to mentor assistants and grow the pool of experienced handlers.
  • A rider may not hack more than one horse at once, and in a model class in a performance division there is always one handler. Why should the rules be different in the hunter breeding class?


  • This rule would be bad for hunter breeding, as it would restrict competition in an already struggling division.
  • This restriction would be bad for handlers’ businesses as they could exhibit fewer horses. Any barns with more than one in an age group or multiple horses advancing to a championship class would struggle to figure out who would exhibit which horse.
  • This would really affect smaller shows with a limited number of entries.
  • Owners who pay handlers to show deserve to have that handler in the ring with their horse, not an assistant.

Open Numerical Scoring For All Jogging Classes

One proposal requires that judges use the open numerical judging system for all classes required to jog. This rule, proposed by the USHJA suggests this could increase transparency and accountability in the judging system and create convenience for exhibitors, especially in large classes.


  • This would alleviate problems in larger classes, allowing horses who don’t jog in a class to be put to bed, rather than waiting around all day, braided, just to find out that they’re not on the standby.


  • This creates more work for judges who do not score.
  • This creates additional bookkeeping for announcers and starters.
  • The open numerical scoring system has some cons of its own, and not all are in favor of expanding it.

Equitation Proposals

• One rule change proposal would allow stallions in all national 3’6″ equitation classes. As it stands now stallions are permitted in Platinum Performance/USEF Talent Search classes.

• The USHJA Equitation Task Force proposes to get rid of USEF test No. 7—jumping obstacles on a figure-eight course—as they believe the test is outdated and unclear in its intent. Note, one test—asking riders to walk fences—was recently removed from the original 19, so should the figure-eight test be removed there will be 17 tests.

• One proposal would allow a rail over open water jumps in Platinum Performance/USEF Talent Search classes at qualifiers. This is already allowed at the finals.

A proposal would allow USEF adult equitation classes to fill with three entries, rather than six, with fewer points awarded if there are three to five total entries.

Two proposals would move qualifying criteria and specifications for the USEF Hunter Seat Medal and USEF Pony Medal to the USEF website in an effort to reduce the size of the Rule Book.

An adjustment to the USEF Hunter Seat Medal specifications would change the minimum number of riders called back to test to between three and six depending on the number of riders who complete the course. As it stands now, classes with 31 or more entries require a minimum of eight to return for a work-off, but the National Hunter Committee, the proponents of the proposal, argued that in practice, testing eight competitors in large classes hasn’t worked well, as judges have to reach into lower scoring riders in order to meet the required number to test.

Hunter Hullabaloo

Two linked rule change proposals would allow competitors half points if their division doesn’t fill because another exhibitor doesn’t complete the course.

• One rule change proposal would clarify that horses competing exclusively in USHJA Outreach or USEF Opportunity classes do not need to be microchipped.

A proposal would change requirements for the minimum number of green hunter sections at a competition. Currently shows must offer all four heights, from 3′ to 3’9″ green hunters, and the new rule would require premier (AA) shows to offer a minimum of two sections in that four, and would require national (A), regional I (B) and regional II (C) shows to offer at least two sections, with the possibility of offering combined sections (i.e. combining 3′ and 3’3″ sections and also 3’6″ and 3’9″ sections).

• A proposal would clarify that nose nets are allowed in hunter divisions.

• One rule would require that riders must declare their point section for classic points when they enter the classic.

• A proposed change to a hunter rule would exempt 3′ and 3’3″ green hunter sections as well as 3′, 3’3″ and 3’6″ young hunter sections from a combined entry fee requirement and allow horses in those divisions to enter a USHJA Green Incentive Stake class individually even if it’s run concurrently with a class in the green hunter section.

• A proposed rule change would allow shows that are restricted to juniors and amateurs to host USHJA hunter sections (eg. 2′ USHJA hunter) open to all in the interest of sport growth.

• Several proposed rule changes would move the specifications for the USHJA International Hunter Derby classes, National Hunter Derby, green hunter challenge, pony hunter derby and International Hunter Derby Welcome Stakes. This would allow changes to be made cohesively and avoids disparate timelines for changes.

• There’s also a proposal to add green hunter incentive classes to the Rule Book so exhibitors and show managers can review the parameters in a comprehensive setting.

• One proposal would increase the maximum height for a horse to compete in the small hunter division from 15 hands, 2 ½ inches to 16 hands. This proposal would allow more competitors to show and provide better competition. (In 2017, exactly 19 horses competed in any small hunter classes nationwide.)

• One proposal would allow junior hunters to show in both the 3’3″ junior hunters and 3’6″ junior hunters.

The intent behind this proposed rule changes states: “Let junior hunters show in both heights so it doesn’t cause riders to be holding up jog, needing to find someone to jog #2 horse, or making a choice which horse to flat. Some horses can do 3’6″ and some need to be in 3’3″. Riders should be able to complete division and can’t if they have to only flat one horse.”

• One proposed rule change would allow side-saddle competitors to use saddlepads.

• A series of proposals re-organizes the Rule Book, moving some rules currently in the hunter section of the Rule Book to the hunter/jumper section or general section in an effort to make information easier to find and reduce duplicated wording.

• Another related rule also clarifies how hunter sections are to be combined with one another, and that both the regular pony hunter division and green pony hunter division may not be combined with any other division. A final related rule defines a random split, which isn’t currently defined.

• Another rule change would allow young hunters to compete concurrently with green hunters in order to provide an option for more competition managers to offer the young hunter section without adding time in the competition day or putting additional stress on the horses. Horses who are entered in both young horse and green hunter sections could jump once but receive awards and points in both sections.

• Several proposals address how many horses must be entered in order to combine and divide amateur-owner and junior hunter classes, at both 3’6″ and 3’3″ heights. Classes may be held separately with a minimum of four entries (right now the cut off is six). If there are 18 or more once sections are combined they must be re-divided.

• One proposal would allow competition managers an alternate option for jogging 3′ and 3’3″ green hunters and 3’3″ performance hunters to alleviate the logistical difficulties associated with jogging these sections. The rule would allow those riders to show their horse at the trot after entering the ring and prior to beginning the course as well as upon completion of the course.

• One proposal would increase the points awarded to champion and reserve champions at USEF Pony Hunter Finals to bring the points in line with those awarded to champions at USEF Junior Hunter Finals.

Jumper Changes

• There’s another safety cup rule proposal that would require jumper schooling areas at jumper 5 and above to have safety cups, and at jumper rating 4 safety cups are strongly recommended, but wooden dowels or other breakable pins can be used instead. 

• One proposal would prohibit riders who compete in a CSI**** from showing in a junior, amateur-owner and/or amateur jumper class held below 1.40 meters at the same show. The rule currently prohibits riders who compete in CSI*****, CSI-W or CSIO to compete in any junior or amateur jumper class.

• Two related rules remove standards for $25,000 junior, amateur-owner and amateur classes as the written standards.

• One proposal suggests that any children’s, adult amateur, pony jumper, junior jumper, amateur jumper, amateur-owner jumper or young rider jumper class with more than 80 entries must be divided. 

• One rule change proposal would bring the USEF Young Jumper boot rule in line with the international Young Horses Competition boot rule. 

• One rule change proposal would include bonus money and exhibition class money in classifying a show’s jumper rating. As it is now, with that money not included, some competitions are running at a jumper rating that doesn’t match the actual total prize money offered.

• One rule change proposal would give jumper judges flexibility to start and stop timers in the event of unforeseen circumstances during the 45-second countdown at the start of a round. Judges will have the right not to activate the start or to cancel the starting procedure, give a new signal and restart the countdown. This would bring the USEF rule in line with the FEI rule.

• One proposal would allow managers to adjust the amount of prize money awarded in a class offered after the publication of the prize list until 30 days before the competition.

• One proposal would allow the use of Irish martingales in jumper classes.

• One proposal clarifies that in “extreme weather” riders may wear a raincoat “with or without” a hood in the jumper ring. Raincoats are currently allowed; the hood expansion is the new part.

Want to check out all the rule change proposals on the docket for discussion at the USHJA Annual Meeting? Read them all here.  


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