Your Quick Guide To The USEF Rules That Passed—And A Few That Didn’t

Jan 18, 2016 - 10:50 AM
Going to compete in USHJA competitions in the future? Microchips are soon required. Photo by Frank Sorge for Arnd Bronkhorst.

When the USEF Annual Meeting happened Jan 13-16, there was big news of a new CEO and impassioned discussions in the form of Town Hall meetings about doping and coaching. And then there were the more normal—though no less important—items of business like passing rules, which the USEF Board of Directors did Jan. 16. 

We’ve compiled some of the new rules you’ll need to know below, along with a few coming down the pipeline and a few you likely won’t see again, though you should note there are many (many!) we didn’t mention here, and they can all be viewed in full at the USEF site

The Rule(s): EQ103.2, HU101.2, JP100.2

The Verdict: PASSED 

The Shorthand: The microchip or horse ID rules 

The Summary: “…all horses competing in classes that require USHJA horse registration must provide a microchip number that verifies their animal’s identity in order to compete for points, money won or be eligible for Federation and/or USHJA programs and awards where horses are required to be recorded or registered.” 

In short: If you want to compete in USHJA shows, you better microchip your horse. 

The Effective Date: Officially Dec. 1, 2017, though there will be a one-year grace period through Nov. 30, 2018. During that time, horses without chips can still compete at USHJA shows, but they won’t receive points or year-end awards. 

The Process: This rule’s been in the pipeline a long time—it was originally conceived to stop some forms of cheating as well as help a horse’s history stay with him—and the USEF Horse ID Task Force Committee in conjunction with the USHJA has worked on it extensively. There was concern from some of the national breeds and disciplines; they didn’t want their horses to fall under this rule, and the final wording reflects that. 

The Commentary: “This is a life changing rule in our sport,” said USEF interim CEO Bill Moroney. “Each year, I’ve had the task of getting the qualified list for the pre-green championships within seven days of the championships starting, and I had to start with calling 10-12 people and saying, ‘By the way, your horse isn’t eligible.’ This is a credibility and integrity thing, and we need to fix it.”

 

The Rule: GR301

The Verdict: PASSED

The Shorthand: A completed rewrite of chapter 3 of the Rule Book which deals with competiton licensing, including the “mileage rule” 

The Summary: The new rule is 23 pages long, so a brief summary is tough, but if you want to read the whole thing, it’s available at the USEF website. The short-and-simple explanation is that this is largely a hard-fought reorganization of the rule to make it easier for show managers and exhibitors to follow.  

The Effective Date: Dec. 1, 2016

The Process: The mileage rule’s been worked and reworked and then worked again, and this final version was organized in a way to “enhance the user experience.” It’s the result of much work and much collaboration. 

The Commentary: It passed unanimously with no discussion, just a round of applause.  

 

The Rule: GR 414.5

The Verdict: PASSED 

The Shorthand: The kinesiotape rule 

The Summary: No kinesiotape or self-adhesive patches may be used on any horse while mounted at any time during competition. Kinesiotape and self-adhesive patches are permitted exclusively while the horse is unmounted in the stabling area. Nasal strips are permitted unless prohibited by specific division rules.

The Effective Date: Dec. 1, 2016

The Process: Various committee and board members didn’t like this rule at first! There was confusion over why the tape’s any different from leg wraps. Its intent was to bring USEF in line with FEI. Dr. Stephen Schumacher, USEF chief administrator of drugs and medications, spoke about it at length in several meetings. 

The Commentary: “With kinesiotape, it has no documented scientific use in horses,” said Schumacher. “There’s no scientific foundation for its use, especially for horses.” Everyone got on board with that idea eventually. 

 

The Rule(s): EQ110.4, EQ110.8

The Verdict: PASSED 

The Shorthand: The equitation cap rules

The Summary: “Riders may compete in a total of 12 ASPCA Maclay classes in a single qualifying period. Any rider who continues to compete after they have competed in 12 qualifying classes will no longer be eligible to compete in the ASPCA Maclay Regional Finals.” The same applies to qualifying classes for the Pessoa/U.S. Hunter Seat Medal Final. 

There are some exceptions; if you haven’t qualified after 12 classes, you can keep trying. But also: “Any rider in his or her final junior year may not compete in any [Maclay or medal] qualifying classes held at a competition with a start date after Aug. 31 of that competition year.” 

The Effective Date: Dec. 1, 2016

The Process: Mary Babick explained that some trainers buy horses, have junior riders show the horse, and then sell it. This rule was proposed by the USEF National Hunter Committee partially in response to that issue, and the overall idea is based on improving horse welfare and fairness between competitors, while still allowing riders enough chances for qualification. 

The Commentary: Industry concerns centered around riders not getting enough chances to practice, but those in favor pointed out there are still plenty of classes those riders can enter without impacting the Medal or Maclay qualification of others. The .4 part adds that half points will be awarded for classes that only have three to five exhibitors, lessening the “class didn’t fill” part of the equation. 

“What you do see is patterns of trainers utilizing the system,” said Babick. “I’m sorry to put it this way, but basically what they do is prostitute their riders to make money for themselves. They’re using the equitation system as a cash machine. We don’t have the right to tell people not to use the equitation system as a cash machine. If they’re clever enough to do that, that’s super. But we shouldn’t allow the people who are trying to financially profit from this system to crush the competitors who are trying to compete at a more entry level. When you see the amount of classes that some of these ‘professional’ juniors are doing, they’re pushing other people out of the way, and that’s an unfairness.”  

 

The Rule: GR 1211.5 

The Verdict: REFERRED TO MID-YEAR MEETING

The Shorthand: The isolation protocol rule 

The Summary: It provides a protocol for competitions to use if they’re faced with outbreak of an infectious disease. 

The Process: Proposed by the USEF Veterinary Committee, this is based on concerns that competitions might not be best advised on how to handle an outbreak. 

“The [EHV-1] Ogden outbreak [at a cutting horse event] in 2010 was a huge wake-up call,” said Dr. Kent Allen, chair of the USEF’s Veterinary Committee and its Drugs and Medications Committee. “Unfortunately, that wake-up call stayed within the veterinary community, but 2016 needs to be our year to get it translated to the horse show managers, and we need to get serious about this. This is going to happen to us; it’s just a matter of when and what horse show.” 

The Commentary: The rule just needs a little more work, including providing a “best practice protocol” in addition to the text of the rule. But everyone (well, almost everyone) agrees it’s an excellent idea. 

 

The Rule(s): GR305, GR902.3 

The Verdict: REFERRED TO FEBRUARY OR MID-YEAR MEETING

The Shorthand: The “outreach classes” rule

The Summary: This rule will allow competitions to run unrecognized classes in two rings during USHJA shows in hopes of growing the sport.

The Process: It was created because the USHJA wants more people in their sports! They’re hoping by offering and expanding these introductory classes they can lure new participants and then gradually transition them to the main, USEF-sanctioned rings.  

The Commentary: Another rule that just needs some tweaking, including working with the USEF to ensure the classes are being used as they should—for those people and horses new to the sport—without costing the USEF and USHJA money by other competitors dropping back into them. That’ll require a tracking system of some sort. 

“Everyone is enthusiastic about outreach classes,” said Murray Kessler, who’s on the USEF board of directors. “There was no debate or negative feelings about, but there was a feeling that the rule was not done yet. It’s almost there; it just needs a little bit of work.”

 

The Rule: GR410

The Verdict: DID NOT PASS

The Shorthand: The drugs and medications rule related to that lawsuit

The Summary: Adds the language “or a metabolite and/or analogue of any such substance or drug, for which, in the concentration detected by the USEF laboratory, there is a reasonable scientific certainty, as established by credible scientific evidence, that such forbidden substance, in the concentration detected” to the current drugs and medications rule. Note the “scientific certainty” and “credible scientific evidence” parts; they’re key to this.

The Process: Introduced by John Ingram, who’s currently suing the USEF for its drugs and medications policy. He’s particularly concerned about the thresholds. [Read more about the lawsuit here.] Attorney for Ingram, Joel Turner, spoke on behalf of the rule. 

“The USEF has continued to prosecute all of its forbidden substances drug cases and all its therapeutic medication cases with concentrations in blood or urine in excess of thresholds established by USEF (often based upon inadequate or unreliable science) using that same 1970s assumption that detection of any concentration in excess of the USEF threshold for a therapeutic substance is a violation without showing that the concentration found by the lab actually has the potential to affect a horse’s performance,” he said. 

The Commentary: “It would be virtually impossible for us to maintain our program if it passed,” said USEF general counsel Sonja Keating.  

Make sure to pick up a copy of the Feb. 15 Chronicle of the Horse for a full recap from the USEF Annual Meeting. 

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