first grade

What are you missing because you don’t know what to look for?

In this age of the Millennial horse show rider, it would seem so many little things get overlooked. We have catered to generations of riders who love to show up, sit on a horse, get to the show ring, navigate a few obstacles, receive a ribbon, return to soccer practice, or Gucci, Barney’s, or whatever. In busier show stables, if you don’t have the genuine heart of a groom who cares more about his/her horses than his/her paycheck, then suddenly a fine line is drawn in the sand. The burden of lameness issues is placed solely on someone without shares in the company. Hired help. Hired help that may or may not speak a different language, or have a life outside the stable.

Is it your responsibility as a rider to know how to look for the signs? If you see veins popping out on your horse standing on the cross ties, with the saddle on, bandages on, bridle on, with a halter placed over all that mess, maybe a nostril flaring, eye lids slightly lowered, would you draw a certain conclusion as to the condition of your horse you are about to have led to a mounting block for you to mount?

What if it were nothing more than passing a strange horse in a stall, and seeing those same veins popping throughout his body. Would you be able to associate that the adrenaline is coursing through his body, and because he cannot speak, he is silently struggling for air, or perhaps his complicated (and now twisted) intestines are causing a piercing sensation through his body that will in ten minutes cause him to throw his entire body on the ground in an effort to relieve the pain?? You keep walking.

You have one day of unsupervised riding a week, (along with your two other scheduled group lessons), which you look forward to because you know you aren’t going to be required to ride without stirrups, stay up in two point for ten minutes, or be bored with some other exercise. Yet that occasional strange step in his trot disappears at the canter, so you ignore it and make him canter for forty minutes so you don’t have to feel it. You don’t actually know enough to check his hooves for temperature, miss the fact that one foot is hot and he is probably suffering from an abcess festering, or, worse, all four feet are ten degrees higher than normal, and something much worse is happening to your beloved pet you just cantered around, hoping he would feel better at the end. The next day he is discovered crumpled in a corner, all four feet straight out in front of him, silently hoping his misery will end at feeding time, when someone finally notices he can’t stand up for breakfast. When your frantic trainer calls you to see if you noticed anything, out of complete fear, you deny feeling anything off.


The refusal to educate our riders leads to all sorts of problematic situations across the country with horses and riders, but maybe the flip side is such a deterrent that no one really wants to take the time with people learning about horses. In a trainer’s mind, what is worse than a hypochondriac rider? Every stumble needs an answer, a missed lead change means a hock injection, every rail is a sign that donation is looming. Is there a drug for that? An answer for a bad day?? How many bad days in a row are acceptable before a vet is called in?

When a vet is hearing from an amateur client who takes care of her own horses, how is that relationship handled from both ends? What if the vet doesn’t want to listen to an amateur client? How hard does that amateur have to prove that he/she knows her horses well enough to know something is terribly wrong? Or even a little bit wrong?

The really, really good horsemen of the past actually spent so much time with so many horses, or learned about extra things like basic veterinary work, or farrier work, that signs of malfunction were recognizable almost before they even happened. The immediate reaction was to address the sign, before it became a real problem, and take the time to fix what was actually broken. The show ribbon was so far from their minds when they were in the barns, running hands down legs, feeling for abnormalities that weren’t there yesterday, evaluating the conditions of coats, wondering if a different wormer might be required because his coat isn’t quite as shiny as they remember from last year.


big deal, or no big deal? 

This year (2015) we had a few very tragic losses in each discipline, very public, and due to our current relationship with social media, we were able to view it all at our desktop. Our new marriage with on-line streaming and YouTube is the epitome of a bipolar relationship, and we celebrated a few fabulous wins around the world, yet watched Totalis perform his last dressage test at Aachen, a junior hunter couldn’t complete his course at Devon, a New Zealand event rider lost her horse at Rolex from a re-injured suspensory during cross-country, and all these questions float around up in my head, what was missed? Or, even worse, was anything ignored?

Our junior riders at junior hunter finals can’t even identify where to put a thermometer, how will they be able to determine a hot splint? Some of these junior riders actually do become professionals down the road, by the way, in case you haven’t been following the horse industry very long, and their careers have been dependent on someone else identifying problems on the horses, not them with their non-existent Pony Club background.


I don’t want to miss out, I don’t want to be that person standing at the in-gate knowing this could possibly be the last time I watch that horse navigate a bunch of silly hunter jumps, yet knowing the trainer next to me has probably hardened him/herself to that very possibility years ago, and will shrug, let it go in a matter of seconds, and we will all write a condolence message on the owner’s FB wall out of respect for the animal, and move on. I want to go back and feel my horses legs one more time before heading out that night, then have it be the first thing I do when I arrive the next morning. I want to be alarmed when I see two full water buckets in the stall after 8 hours pass by. I want my students to recognize a head bob at the walk, in muddy conditions in a field, and think to themselves, it looks lame everywhere, this cannot be right, (even though this horse arrived two days ago), and put in that call to the vet just in case something serious is brewing. I want the vet to show up.

Every barn has protocol on how to handle soundness issues, maybe your barn is perfect, maybe your barn manager cares for the horses so much, you never lose an ounce of sleep at night, and maybe today this moment, my opinion is irrelevant to you. But, tomorrow your life might change, your ability to be in a capable show stable will change, and you will have to make some serious life decisions about where to place your beloved creatures, your pets, you might even be bringing them home for the first time ever. And those people who made it look so easy for so long will not be able to stand there and notice your horse is not finishing his breakfast for a reason. Will the Pony Club manual have played a stronger role at this moment had you known about it?


no panic, he is just napping, but i had to stare at him a while

Even at the highest level of our sport, we see multiple relationships. When you watch this video, it is hard to keep your attention away from the fact that without an incredibly invaluable person to oversee every little detail on horse happiness, a winning combination in the ring is not possible.

Yet that is not the children’s or adult hunter ring, it is a World Cup Qualifier. Those riders and grooms have very specific relationships with those horses. There is a difference. There is a pretty good chance those riders know all the warning signs for trouble in the horses they are riding, just as the caretakers can recognize a short step to the wash stall. Should you have the same chance? Would you blame someone else if you didn’t?


when will someone notice he is not using the hoof plate properly? 

All the information you need is right in front of you, you simply have to go get it, learn it.


The Big Eq Guide

Big Equitation goals for 2016


The 3’3” USHJA Medal Class – is offered to current USHJA members, and it looks like each Zone has to apply for a championship class.


The GM excellence in Equitation Class – Mar 23-27, Wellington, FL. Invitation only, looks like 25 riders are invited to compete. The class is by invitation only for junior riders. Riders must win one of the other “major” equitation classes held during the WEF Circuit to be invited. This championship is unique because it is a solo event for riders, meaning no help from trainers – not during the course walk, warmup, or during the competing rounds.

Ronnie Mutch Trophy – Awarded to equitation competitor with highest point accumulation of the USEF Medal, ASPCA Maclay, WIHS, and USEF Talent Search classes held at the Devon Horse Show. Not a class, but high honor.

Hunterdon Cup – Finals held in conjunction with Junior Hunter Finals, open to USHJA members who during the Qualifying Year June 1- May 31 have won one or more of the following – USEF Medal, ASPCA Maclay, WIHS Overall class, or USEF Talent Search. Three round format: Hunter round, Handy round, and a Work-Off. more info here:

USEF Medal – Finals held at the PA National Horse Show in Harrisburg, PA in October. Horses and riders need to be members of USEF and USHJA, and the point requirements vary by state depending on the density of Junior Riders. To view the scale go here:

ASPCA Maclay – Finals held at the National Horse Show in Lexington, KY in November. Riders must go through a Regional Final before qualifying for Final. Riders and trainers need to be members. Point accumulation restrictions for this one – riders may not acquire more than 60 points. It is a rider’s responsibility to know where they stand in the points.

Membership fees: Juniors $35.00, Trainers $50.00. Apply here:

WIHS Hunter, Jumper – Finals held at Washington International Horse Show in October. Two Phases in Final, one over a hunter course, one over a jumper course, but during the year you can accumulate points in each class held at shows.

Membership Fee $40.00, apply here: For more info look here :

USEF Talent Search – East Coast Finals held in Gladstone, NJ early October, West Coast Finals held in San Juan Capistrano, CA in late September. Four phases, Young rider (up to 21) as well as Junior rider eligibility.  No additional membership fees other than USEF. For more info go here:

New England Equitation Championships – Finals held in West Springfield, MA in mid October. The New England Horsemen’s Council offers varying membership fees for horses and riders:

Apply Here:, not sure but I believe membership is required.

the Finals info page is here:

West Coast Medal Finals – Finals held at the Las Vegas National in mid November, and other CPHA Medal Finals offered throughout California in the fall. Horses, riders and professionals need to be members of CPHA – A cheat sheet for CPHA Medals can be found here:

This page was the easiest for me to navigate in order to find more information on CPHA Medals:

Membership fees: Juniors $60.00, Professionals $130.00, Horses $50.00   Apply here:


South East Equitation Finals – Finals held in mid September in Jacksonville, FL. Similar format to New England Medal Finals (events are offered for both Juniors and Amateurs)


There is a $20.00 membership fee. Apply here:!exhibitor-info/c1a4e


Mid-Atlantic Equitation Finals – Finals held in mid November in Upper Marlboro, MD. Classes range at height, experience, and age level.No additional membership fees, but there are rider restrictions, multiple class levels offered.

Look here:

State Medal Finals – All states and/or Zones can offer their own Association Medal Finals, need to be a member of each appropriate state organization. Riders need to be a member of each appropriate state organization. A great examples are the Maryland Horse Show Association which has medal classes such as Hunt Seat on Horses Medal Finals and the Gittings Horsemanship Finals. Check this example out here and the Virginia Horse Show Association has one of the best Big Eq Classes in the country due to the large portion of your final score being a hands on practicum with the horse. Don’t know how to take a temperature and bandage your horse? Don’t bother to participate. This is still one of the biggest honors to win this class on the East Coast.

Read the rules, do the research, be educated!

Good luck!


the ch/aa guide to year end goals.

breakdown of events and Finals offered for Childrens/Adult Hunter riders. This is not including year end awards for State Associations.

WIHS: League format, finals held at the Washington International Horse Show in October. One class, top 12 out of top 30 in country return for second round and pinning. 10k offered for Final.

membership fee $40.00 apply here:

North American League (NAL): League format as above, finals held at the PA National Horse Show, Harrisburg PA, in October.

membership fee $40.00 apply here:

Marshall and Sterling (M&S): multiple division finals, including CH/AA, and National Finals are held in Mid September in Saugerties NY, Mid West Finals in Wayne, IL.

membership fee $40.00 apply here:

World Champion Hunter Rider (WCHR): Multiple division finals held at the Capital Challenge Horse Show in October. You must pick a region. Percentages are used to determine finalists.

membership fee $50.00 apply here

Child/Adult championships – new this year. Team championship, Each Zone has an allowance of 2-6 teams they can send depending on the amount of riders in that Zone. South Region Final June 22-26th Atlanta, GA. West Region Final July 20-24th Bend, Oregon. Central Region Final July 13-17th Oklahoma City, OK. North Region Final September 7-11 Wayne, IL. You must apply to be considered a team member. Specifications here:(it’s 11 pages long):

Application Fee $50.00 apply here:

Zone Finals – Each Zone can offer a year end final for divisions they choose, and Zone committees have come up with what they feel suits the riders in that area.  No additional fees required, invitations sent out to compete at a designated Zone show. I can only say check with your Zone committee for details. If there is a Facebook page, like it. Maybe more info will come through in the future via social media…

Virginia Championships – Several divisions offered, may only qualify at Virginia Horse Shows, outstanding prize money is awarded despite the steep $250 division fee. However, every cent is put into the Final, the exhibitors being the only beneficiaries, and it is held directly before the Lexington National Horse Show in Lexington, Virginia in early August. 2015 was inaugural year, and very successful.

Enrollment $250 per division, apply here: or also here you can print an application:

Stirrup Cup Final – Owner, rider, trainer, and horse must be an Active or Life Member of the USEF, and USHJA, qualifying points are distributed only at Regional I (B) and Regional II (C) shows. Minimum 3 shows to be eligible for an award, and each Zone will offer it’s own Final, so you need to stay tuned to your Zone news.

no additional fees – for more info look here :


Ariat Adult Medal and THIS Childrens Medal are both held at the Capital Challenge Horse Show outside of D.C. in October. This is a national medal, and there are no additional fees other than the cost of the class. A predetermined amount (probably top 30) are invited to compete in the final.

Happy Horse Showing


Emerald Quality

I recently accompanied a friend to Europe, including Ireland to shop for horses. I wasn’t expecting to find a hunter for myself in Ireland (rare to find potential show hunters in Ireland) but I was open to maybe trying a jumper prospect for the first time, as I have been dying to get back into that ring, and I was happy to tag along this time as a friend more than shopper anyway. I currently wasn’t actively looking, heading into winter, and had plenty to ride at home as it was. Fresh out of the Dublin airport, on no sleep, we were escorted by longtime friend Philip Horgan (from Cork) to the second day of demos at the Goresbridge auction, which I knew nothing about. My eyes glazed over as I watched a bunch of uninspiring animals stumble around the ring and hurl themselves over jumps in unimpressive form. I dozed off on a couch inside the dining hall. I woke up as they were setting up for the really young horses, three and under, and forming a paddock with ugly aluminum siding fencing, and big Horse trucks as walls behind the fencing. IMG_8841


from inside someone’s Lorry looking into the ring.

Within the hour I found a hunter. I didn’t know whether to be disappointed or excited. It’s not like I could walk away from her either. She was adorable, small maybe, but adorable. We were all sitting on the couch in some strangers lorry surrounding the jump chute making fun of the other bad jumping horses and people standing outside on a porch visibly collapsing in front of our eyes from the weight of too many people. Then this creature entered the pen, and I sat up, and went s**t, that’s a hunter. This wasn’t an auction for hunters, it was for high end sport horses for jumping and eventing. I jumped out of the lorry, headed around the corner and climbed the fence along side the chute to film her jumping. She had little ambition to move forward despite her owner chasing her with a whip, and seemed to jump easily and softly enough. hmmm.

Everything was going against my normal process, however.. She was at auction, not just any auction, but the most popular one in Ireland. I hate auctions. You have to rely on pure instinct, and a bit of luck, and unless you live in the area, there is about five minutes you can spend with the horse to determine if it is right for you. We followed the little mare out of the pen, and talked to her owner for a while, getting the history. She was unbroken, not off the farm much, only 3 years old, and was standing there with the wind whipping around us like no big deal. She may have whinnied once. Around us other three year old were leaping around standing on hind legs, and dragging their handlers in every wrong direction. I called my sponsor.



It’s pretty important to have a good sponsor when your business is importing young horses, and selling them within the American market. It’s also pretty important to have a pretty good track record with past horses, and I have been extremely lucky in the 20 plus years I have been doing this. He said go for it.

That night, after the demonstrations concluded, we headed to the banquet for the dinner and live auction. It was impressive, screens were set up with video previews of the horses, and a couple of hundred people filled the ballroom. Big players were certainly there, and speculations were flying around about the money coming in that night, and the horses that were about to be sold. I felt really out of place. I was also extremely nervous. I had an idea about how much I wanted to spend on this mare, but no way to predict if someone else would be bidding against me. We sort of gathered not many big jumper and event riders were looking for a little brown hunter type mare, but still, she had incredibly good breeding (full sister to Mark Q, a highly successful Grand Prix mount for Kevin Babington).




Eventually, the auctioneer took his place on the stage and started the evening’s bidding. The first horse up had Nations Cup experience, an older gelding (Dougie Douglas) that was expected to be somebody’s Grand Prix horse. It went for 1.4 Million Euros. My heart sunk. 1.4 Million??? This was turning into some serious theatrics here, and I no longer felt I had a chance on the little brown hunter mare. From the beginning horses were going for crazy amounts of money, I couldn’t even keep track of it. Philip was beside me pointing out dealers and guessing as to where the horses were going to, who was bidding for whom, and it was making my head spin. Horses I wouldn’t give 20 grand for were going for over 100k. Maybe people were getting too drunk before they started bidding. I don’t know. I was also beginning to really doubt my instincts, but regardless, the evening carried on.


Very few were no sales, most commanded large amounts of money, and it was long into dessert before the mare called Emerald Quality finally came up for bidding. My comparatively tiny budget was making me sweat, and I had to rely on Philip for bidding. For some reason, it worked, and we landed exactly on the amount I had allocated for her. We had one other person against us, and they gave up. I couldn’t believe it. I had just purchased a hunter mare at the very same Goresbridge Auction that Katie Dinan had just purchased Dougie Douglas for 1.4 million on my very first evening of a week long trip in Europe. Not weird at all.

Now what was I going to do with her? In my mind it was pretty bad timing to purchase an unbroken three year old mare, being November and all, and I had planned on taking 6 weeks off for a pretty major surgery, so there were only a few horses to be left at the farm in Maryland before I head to Gulfport in February, and I basically have an army of two doing the bulk of the work. Beside myself, it is another girl (Stacey) trading her board bill for feeding my horses when I am not around. Well, I had a while to work it out while the mare awaited her flight and went through a 3 week quarantine. In the meantime, I purchased a blanket to keep her warm, and a halter, then bid farewell.

A few days ago, she was released from Rigbie, so Stacey insisted on coming along for the trip up there, as she has never seen Rigbie Farm, and spent a great deal of time scolding me for being cranky during the drive. I was. What if this was a bad decision? What if she was a useless horse? What was I thinking buying horses going into the winter? I hadn’t thought this through at all, and the impending surgery was freaking me out. We got there and while we waited for Sharon and Liz to come out of the breeding shed, I followed someone down to her stall in the bank barn, and switched on the light to her stall. Stacey squealed with delight. I rolled my eyes. The mare turned her little head and from her pile of hay for about a second and gave us a completely unimpressed glance, then went back to eating. Ok, she was cute. But, still. It was just a horse.

Sharon and Liz run Rigbie Farm in Darlington, MD, I trust them to tell me every observation, and give me the run down on horses that spend time with them, but they were happy with her, she had given them no trouble whatsoever, knew the walker, and was easy to deal with. Shy maybe, but easy. They loaded her up, I took the paper work, and we headed home. Stacey decided right then and there she was going to take her on herself and have her broken and ready to go by the time I was able to return to the farm, in about 6 weeks. I said sure, why not, we can ask Maddy and Sarah to help when they have time (Christmas break and warm weather helps) and you can have at it Chica. We also decided it would be fun to blog about her progress, good, bad or ugly, since it doesn’t seem to have ever been done before, and why not? Can we track the success or failure of importing a horse from Europe and finding a new home for it? Am I willing to put it all out there for judgement?? Sure, let’s go for it. So here we are.

We arrived back at the farm, and I tranquilized her for the turnout (never can be too careful the first day) and she wandered around her paddock searching for the last few blades of grass. It was still surprisingly warm, so we made the decision to just leave them all out that night, and as I drove out the driveway, I thought well, this is a good test if she is still there in the morning.

She was. and still searching for grass. My head was completely distracted, I had started the pre-op process, and my body was tired already. I had errands to run, she seemed fine, so I left all the horses alone after the morning feeding, and went about my day. In the afternoon, my phone was being lit up by Stacey with pictures of the mare with a saddle on. Not wasting any time, apparently.

When I pulled back into the farm Stacey was leading “Emmie” around the farm, saddle on, looking like a leadline pony. So far so good, I thought. That night was the last night I would see the farm for a while, I have delegated the horses as best as I can, and now can only sit back and see what happens. The temps dropped immediately, winds have picked up, rain poured down, I went in for an early-in-life hysterectomy to avoid the complications of cervical cancer, and the next day as I was driven home in miserable weather, I thought well, she might not get broken until next year, now.

I was proven quite wrong. When the cat’s away, the mice will play. But my mice played well.




a mouse in diznee

Well. Day two of the circus. Everyone must have had a good night sleep, because boy did people come out with a lot more emotion today. Exciting? You bet! Controversial? Absolutely! Mud slinging? Yes! By lunch time it was obvious people were just getting warmed up. Stepping up to the microphone was the trendy thing to do. It was almost contagious. One after the other, voices were heard, and really good topics were discussed. My general impression was of the membership complaining about transparency. What is that exactly?  We want to know more about the process of decision making behind the scenes, what are the factors? Who is deciding? How do we find these answers? Stop hiding in closed meetings and provide information. Period.

The demands people were making were legit. The concerns are real, the questions were not in any way frivolous. The USHJA committees wanted feedback? I’d say today they received it. The drama unfolding seemed new to a lot of people, although it is probably very typical of this type of convention. The first meeting I attended after the rule change updates and review was the International Hunter Derby Task Force. Discussion covered everything from how to apply handy points, to prize money offered (think 10k classes vs 35k) relative to difficulty levels, to course designer involvement and education, and basically an overall impression of how the last few years have grown. There was vigorous discussion on how to determine handy bonus points in an Int’l Derby. Should the handiest track taken reflect in your score despite what the judge thought of your horses style? Yes! Should the scale be changed from 1-10 to 1-5? Yes! No! Maybe! What? Part of the advantage of attending these meetings is clarification. I may not ever have this type of horse, but it does help to hear how the people that developed this class have come to the specifications that determine the factors that provide a high score. My interpretation was that the course designers have a personal vision that might not follow the Derby vision, and the judges have a personal style which also might not reflect the Derby vision. Yikes, this is actually kind of scary.

For example, two horses that choose the exact same path with the exact same inside turns, same amount of strides between the fences, should receive a similar bonus score. If they don’t then how do we have incentive for handiness? The ridability and style is reflected in the regular score, not the bonus score. How on earth are we able to fill all these holes in education?

Next I visited a meeting about Thoroughbreds. I think there was actually 100% participation from everyone in the room. That was fun because I brought up my personal observation that maybe the height of the USEF recognized division would be more prosperous and flourish at 2’9”, rather than 3’. Firestorm of opinions? YAAASSSS. How long has it been since Thoroughbreds were even discussed in such a manner?? Ummm, a long time. I would say this was progress alone. Do I care if the USEF makes money off the Thoroughbred division? Probably not. Do I care if Thoroughbreds make a comeback in our horse industry? Absolutely. They should and will, but not particularly through the USEF.

Next was a National Hunter Committee meeting and just as my eyes were glazing over, and I was considering a nap, I received a text that informed me Vick Russell had possession of the microphone, yet again, in another room across the hall, and was not showing any sign to relinquish it. I left everything behind and made a quick exit.  Now, if anyone reading this knows Vick Russell, you know this man has an opinion on everything. EVERYTHING. If he gets a hold of a microphone, it is probably for a very good reason. This is a contoversial horse person. 48 years of personal horse industry involvement, and just about every relative, cousin, sibling, parent, grandparent, great grand parent, and offspring. Google him. Or here is something I have no personal allegiance with him. However, I do listen to him. It is hard not to. The passion that erupts from hardcore knowledge and experience from the trenches is fascinating and real. I mean really real. I mean Vogue versus People magazine. He absolutely is the voice of breeders, young horse development, rider development, American culture development, and holds true those legitimate values. He knows he is outnumbered, yet rolls on, his sentiment is outstanding on every level and hard to turn your eyes away from. You don’t have to agree with him, it doesn’t even matter. His worries concern the entire industry, the sport, where we get our future horseman from, the examples these organizations are setting, and the cheaters that f*** the system up, which creates over regulating, incomprehensible rule changes, new ridiculous rule changes and a bankrupt horse club. His passion around the 25k Grand Prix classes and the sneaky August 1st adjustment to the rule change is proof there might be a rat in the room.

The drugs and medication Town Hall meeting was packed. Surprise, surprise. The new accountability rule changes are a scary topic. Most of it was clarified, some of it was left open for too much interpretation. If you catch ride a horse and it eventually tests positive for a banned substance, you are not likely to be held accountable. Same goes with a braider, or groom hired for the day. There must be a clear connection proven between access to drugs and application of said drugs to the horse in order to be held accountable. If you are not a member of the USEF and still get held accountable you will simply be banned from entering a USEF sanctioned event. The word transparency was addressed again. Membership really really really wants hearings published. This is for education, more than wanting to figure out how to get around another rule, but USEF was slow to respond. They defended their stance over and over again about where they were coming from for a cleaner sport, a more even playing field. Security was addressed. Empty stables at night at a horse show was a concern I thought I had alone, I even have the security cameras ordered from Amazon, but I am definitely not alone. Our livelihoods are not being protected enough unless you show at Tryon International Equestrian Center, where cameras are installed already, and incidents have already been reported. FEI shows provide more security for those stabled horses, but the rest of us? Not so much. Some Florida venues are showing motivation for cameras due to the recent slaughter rise, but we have 49 other states to consider. The future is surveillance in the barns. Great. This is good for sport, right?

Today might have held more focus to the higher competitive aspects of our sport, which at first was a little alarming after yesterday’s pledge for grass roots recruitment, but I could absolutely see the connection to the big picture. Our sport has problems, our industry has problems, and many of them came out today. There might be too many finals in Kentucky, there might be a lack of pipe line for the young jumper riders that are going from junior to Young Rider, to Under 25 to Grand Prix (think development of riders and horses) because the gap is too large between the Juniors and Young Riders, and our horse and rider combinations are struggling.

The Microchip rule goes in for another rewrite but the majority felt this needs to happen. And it does. Pet identification is our future. Horses being microchipped is going to be our future.

I just spent twenty minutes thinking about a summary before realizing, there isn’t really a summary to be made. This is December 8th at the 2015 USHJA convention. I am tired. I have been inside a hotel for over two days straight. Ironically in 80 degree weather, yet somehow I am glad I am here. Somehow I am glad I am witnessing all that is taking place right in front of me. That’s just it. It is all right in front of me.


Summary of Monday, December 7th at the USHJA Convention.

My expectations for the first day of the USHJA Convention were low. There are 138 pages of rule change proposals that people have been working on for months and months, that are to be read aloud, discussed, possibly altered, or language changed to satisfy the general membership. Breakfast is served at 6:45 am. The meeting begins at 7:30 in the morning, which means you are already fighting fatigue right off the bat (or at least some of us). I thought it a particular omen that the power to the sound system promptly went off as soon as the meeting started, but nonetheless, this was sorted out before 8 am.

Have you ever read 138 pages of any kind of material? It takes ALL DANG DAY. One lunch break, one afternoon break, otherwise you take a seat, and patiently listen. Luckily, a seasoned speaker was chosen. Luckily, there were fewer emotional pleas than normal. It went more smoothly than expected. People brought up good points. Promises for rewording were made and followed through on as best as I can tell.

Interestingly enough, there was a thorough acknowledgement of the USHJA’s areas of weakness. It is absolutely acknowledged that a 1% growth over the period of 9 years is not acceptable for sustainability. Better website design is desperately needed (think those raised fees you saw earlier) to clear the menus on menus within menus that are painful to navigate. Better use of Town Hall meetings are desperately needed. Better use of current social media venues are  desperately needed (think the FB page, Insta, and other resources). Personally, I want to see the programs explained by way of YouTube, by someone famous within our industry (and maybe hot), and make them humorous and fun, and short. Like a Smartpak video for us that we can make viral. How these programs get communicated to the membership is key, who is responsible for that? Does it come from advertising? Maybe Ambassadors to the sport, like The Plaid Horse has ambassadors for its magazine.

Probably the biggest point made was about the lack of focus on the youngest equestrians and a way to feed them into the pipeline; and finding a way to encourage anyone involved in riding, in whatever discipline, to eventually see a benefit for joining USHJA. Riding programs in schools were mentioned. The USHJA would recognize a defined curriculum, instructor criteria, levels of achievement by offering exams of different levels (think Pony Club), which would maybe connect a couple dots. maybe. Implementing is always the biggest challenge. That being said, it is a serious issue, and a social issue as well. The USHJA wants feedback, they want further analysis, they ask for broader involvement in specific initiatives…but the society isn’t exactly geared for positive feedback, it is generally geared for negative. What do we have to put aside in our own personal differences in order to figure out how to grow? The CEO of APPLE might have a different approach then the head of a horse club.  No less important, but different approach. The idea of Apple is user friendly – if you know how to use one device, you know how to use all of the devices. The organizations that work together and share information are going to be the ones that grow. So do you know how to use each device? Are we using all of the organizations to our advantage? Not yet, but the possibility does exist.

Tom Struzzeri, the head of HITS, which is the sponsor of this week’s events, took the time to walk up to a microphone today during the proceedings to commend the USHJA for shifting the focus back to the bread and butter of the horse show industry, and away from the top echelon of showing. This is huge. This is a direct consideration to all of the hard work people behind the scenes are volunteering their time to achieve. Volunteering. Maybe the largest proportion of members do not understand that the people here today are volunteering their time to interpret the rules for you, and sometimes without enough of your input. Are you filling out the forms at shows? Are you submitting suggestions? Solutions? I am not advocating either way, but I do not believe you think people within the USHJA are not getting paid. Does that make a difference? Do you feel people should be paid for your voice? Regardless, finally, after nearly a decade, it is pretty obvious people jumping and competing at a height lower than 3’6” might outnumber the people jumping above that particular height. This might be a “duh” moment for you, but it is a humble recognition for the organization. Now, do not be fooled. I do not believe a NATIONAL competition for a 2’ class on the opposite side of the country is reasonable. Do you want to see a 2’ National Final at Harrisburg?? Well, it could be a possibility.

Other issues I witnessed were specific. The stirrups might still be an issue. There is disagreement on use of safety stirrups; black stirrups versus old fashioned steel stirrups. Debbie Stephens firmly believes in the free jump stirrup technology which will inherently prevent a rider from being dragged in an accident, yet there is little ability to make those stirrups a grey color.

Safety vests are being discussed as to the need for you to have two for competition – one for over the jacket, one for over a polo shirt. Who wants to buy two? Well, you might need two for decorum sake.

My point is my interpretation of today was actually pretty interesting. And positive. If there was a way to make these meetings available on live feed so everyone in our community could witness the discussion, we might have the capability to move forward quicker. (Maybe for next year). So many issues have yet to be discussed. There are stigma issues in the hunter industry that might seem taboo here, but should be addressed. I hear them at zone meetings, but I’m not convinced I can bring them up in discussion here…maybe an outlet needs to be provided in a sort of suggestion box? In regard to the APPLE reference, the lack of education as far as navigation throughout horse shows alone is lacking. New exhibitors learning how to attend Premiere horse shows might find the process intimidating. From the office to the ingate, to the stabling manager, to the show pass fee discrepancy……not acceptable. So the spider web across the board has room for improvement, are you willing to help us? Am I willing to help the USHJA? Is there an app for that??