Young Hunters And Microchips Get The Nod At USHJA Annual Meeting

Dec 11, 2015 - 11:09 AM
USHJA Awards Manager Marla Holt (right) presented Summer Stoffel with a President's Distinguished Service award for her work on the database side of the microchip issue. Kimberly Loushinphoto.

Orlando, Fla.—Dec. 11

Conversations about sport growth, microchipping hunters, and a bevvy of rule changes dominated the halls of the Hilton Bonnet Creek during this year’s USHJA Annual Meeting. And after plenty of tweaking, a major change about how hunters at the start of the pipeline compete got the nod.

On Dec. 10, the last day of the convention, the board voted to approve a new young hunter division through a series of rule changes you can see here, here and here.

This new age-restricted young hunter division was born out of an effort to revamp the hunter world’s current system of horses showing in the pre-green and green divisions. There’s long been outcry that some horses in those divisions weren’t “green” at all, as some imported experienced horses were un-ethically “reborn” upon landing stateside. But international performance records have proved unreliable at best, and with no way to accurately identify horses inside this country, let alone internationally, there’s been no mechanism to ensure the horses are truly inexperienced.

The traditional green hunter pipeline will still exist, albeit with different names. The 3′ pre-green, 3’3″ pre-green, first year green and second year green sections will now be called 3′ green, 3’3″ green, 3’6″ green and 3’9″ green divisions, and they will have similar experience-based restrictions that they have now. These divisions will keep the corresponding trophies at horse shows, and the USHJA’s latest blockbuster program, the pre-green incentive program, will still apply to the 3′ and 3’3″ green hunters. Due to the rules for combining divisions—i.e. green hunter sections may be combined—once this change kicks off, 3′ and 3’3″ green hunters will be an A-rated division and will jog for soundness.

The young hunter division will be restricted by age, with a 3′, 3’3″ and 3’6″ section for horses 5 and under, 6 and under, and 7 and under respectively. Young hunters may cross enter with the young jumper divisions, but green hunters may not. Young hunters will not jog for soundness.

You can see lots more information about the green and young hunter pipelines here and here.

“The reason we started talking about this three years ago was the issue of bringing young hunters into our sport,” said board member Shelley Campf. “We have been trying to develop young hunters and have a pipeline for them, in order to help us not have to go to Europe, buy hunters, and fly them across the ocean here. I think this is a great way to help promote young hunters here in this country and give that industry a leg up.”

This rule, like all the others passed at the USHJA board of directors final meeting, which was live streamed for the first time, still needs the nod from the U.S. Equestrian Federation before going into effect. If approved, the young hunter and revamped green hunter divisions will go into effect for the 2017 show season.

Going Ahead With Positive Horse ID

This year marks the third time that microchipping and creating a system to positively identify horses throughout their lifetime has prompted plenty of conversation at the USHJA Annual Meeting. Concerns over consumer confidence, green status and multiple horse registrations have brought the issue to the forefront. While in previous years the issue met with resistance, by now most arrived at the meeting ready to agree to the importance of identifying a horse throughout its lifetime, and the debate mainly centered on how to carry out a positive horse ID program successfully.

USHJA Hunter Vice President and head of the Hunter Working Group, Mary Babick, worked with others to tweak the rules to consider how to roll out the program efficiently. DiAnn Langer, the U.S. show jumping young rider chef d’equipe and technical advisor, argued passionately that it would be negligent on the association’s part to delay any more than necessary.

Tara Clausen, an associate professor of equestrian and the riding coordinator at Centenary College (N.J.) expressed concerns about how the rule would affect new members and school horses, which might only show a few times throughout the year in a non-rated division.

“We want to grow this sport; I think we’re all for that,” she said. “Anything that we do that sends away a potential new member, at the B- and C-level is a problem. They want to show; they want to maybe become a member. They’re going to pay the show pass fee and pay registration, but they can horse show. Anything that sends them back to the horse trailer and back home doesn’t grow the sport. If we close the door at the horse show, they’re not going to come in.

“In 9 years we’ve grown 1 percent,” she continued, referring to a presentation from the day before on the growth of the sport. “We need new owners to come from those lower levels. Anything that doesn’t let them participate today doesn’t bring them in the door.”

“It’s time to bite the bullet,” said Jimmy Torano, top show jumper and hunter rider and member of the USHJA Jumper Working Group. “We talk about transparency. Every horse has to be microchipped going forward. Microchip every horse.”

Show manager and barn owner Oliver Kennedy, who sits with Torano on the Jumper Working Group, echoed his sentiments.

“We’re talking bout $60,” he said. “This is getting a little ridiculous. Sooner or later, the government is going to require us to chip to ship across state lines. We can find a cow through its ear tag that has E. coli and can trace it back to the field, so we might want [the microchip in horses] for other reasons. We can track diseases. It’s $60 to $100; we pay more than that to show every month.”

In the end the board easily passed three rules (EQ 103, HU 101.2 and JP 100.2)

The proposed rules will, pending approval by the USEF, go into effect for the 2018 show season. They will require horses competing for national and zone awards to be registered for the 2018 season, and all horses to be microchipped during the 2019 season.

The rules, also referred to as eligibility to compete, will have “a transition period from Dec. 1, 2017, to Nov. 30, 2018, during which animals not in compliance with this rule will not receive points or be eligible for Federation and/or USHJA programs and awards. After this period, animals which are not microchipped will be ineligible to complete.”

Summer Stoffel, who helped craft the rule, was awarded a President’s Distinguished Service Award for her work on the database side of the issue. (You can read her article about the microchipping rule here.)

Other Rules Of Note

•Riders who compete in an Fédération Equestre Internationale championship for seniors—i.e. World Equestrian Games, Olympic Games, Pan American Games or World Cup Finals—are not eligible to compete in any junior or amateur-owner jumper class with the same horse for one year.

Riders who show in a CSI**** or CSI*****, CSI-W or CSIO may not compete in a junior or amateur-owner jumper class at the same competition.

Zone 4 young rider Chef d’Equipe Kim Land cited concerns for juniors who couldn’t show during the week and wished to show both their grand prix horse and bring along a young horse.

“We have a horse show absorbing enormous number of dates in our region and is holding an enormous number of horse shows with FEI classes,” she said. “We want these riders to have these young horses; if you have this restriction, a kid who can’t get there until Friday doesn’t have anything to show their young horse in. These are kids who want to ride at a high level but can’t bring along young horses themselves, [due to the restriction] and that is taking away a huge educational opportunity.”

•Several rules specifically for equitation were passed as well. Starting in the 2017 qualifying period riders may only compete in 12 Pessoa/US Hunt Seat Medal and ASPCA Maclay classes. If the rider hasn’t qualified by then, he or she may continue to compete, but must stop as soon as he or she qualifies. It is, and continues to be, the rider’s responsibility to keep track of his or her own points.  

The intent of this rule is listed as horse welfare, as many riders compete in these classes long after they qualified.

“The balance we’re trying to achieve is fairness of competitors not competing against those who have already qualified, and still give others the chance to garner experience. It allows you—if you have a top rider—to start at the end of the year and decide which shows you want to compete at,” said Geoff Teall.

Also, Medal riders now have new increment charts for the 2017 season, and classes may run with three-five riders and receive half points. This change was popular amongst those in areas of the country with fewer riders where it can be hard to fill a Medal class.

•US Hunt Seat Medal classes with 31 or more competitors will now have at least eight riders test.

•At both the US Pony Hunter National Championship at US Pony Finals and the US Junior Hunter National Championship at US Junior Hunter Finals horses will now be eliminated after just two refusals.

This popular change was proposed to help tighten the time schedule, with data supporting that few riders at Pony Finals who stop twice complete the course.

•Starting in the 2017 season, USHJA National Hunter Derbies with 40 or more entries may be split. An earlier version of the rule required derbies to be split into professional and junior/amateur sections, which many feared problematic. This version refers to to-be-determined specifications on the website.

•Several rules regarding safety vests failed to pass at the meeting.

GR 801.4
EQ 105.2
HU 127.2

The rules proposed that safety vests could be worn in lieu of a coat. Safety vest adoptee Joe Fargis championed this rule, arguing that the vests are hot and fit poorly. Others felt that tradition should prevail and that the safety vest market would adapt to meet the sport’s needs as more and more hunter and jumper riders wear vests.

Safety vests are currently allowed in all disciplines, however they must be worn with a coat if the sport’s dress code requires a coat. In instances where coats are waived, the safety vest may be worn alone.

•A rule requiring shows to have isolation protocols in place should a horse carrying an infectious disease enter the show grounds failed to pass.

The Competition Management Committee agreed with the intent. However they felt the rule did not address single-day shows without stabling.

•The board of directors voted against a proposal to ban peacock-style safety stirrups after several accidents where a rider was maimed on the stirrup’s hook while dismounting.

The consensus throughout the meeting was that the stirrups had prevented dragging incidences in a greater number than injury caused while dismounting. The Horse and Rider Advocate Committee discussed further education on appropriate dismounting technique.

•The so-called return-to-play rule got an update based on the latest concussion research. Juniors now may return to competition after being checked by a doctor, rather than having to sit out a required amount of time.

•The USHJA approved several rules that would allow for the creation of a USHJA Pony Hunter Derby program. Discussion on this rule concerned how points would be allocated, and whether shows could run classics and derbies at the same show. Some feared allowing ponies to compete in derbies and classics at the same show would encourage over-showing of ponies, who require more points than any other divisions to qualify for championship shows like Devon (Pa.), but the rule passed with no cross-entry restrictions between pony classics and pony derbies.

•A rule banning the use of kinesiotape or self-adhesive patches on a horse failed to pass, in large part because it was unclear whether the rule applied to popular flair nose strips.

•The board disapproved a rule that would prohibit a horse that failed an FEI inspection at a competition from competing at the USEF portion of the same event. Many pointed out that the FEI horse inspection on Wednesday might eliminate a horse that would be sound to compete in a non-FEI class over the weekend.

For more on the rule changes, awards, and big conversations at the USHJA Annual Meeting, check out the Jan. 11 issue of the Chronicle.

Catch up with the USEF Town Hall meeting on Accountability and Drugs and Medications Violations. 

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