The 2016 USEF meeting in Lexington, KY. Good call having it close to home. Their home, not ours. Unraveling the mysteries of what has happened inside the USEF over the past couple years was overwhelming, at best. I came here as a normal person, like the rest of the horse show world, completely out of place, and a little clueless, having assumed for years the organizations run themselves; we pay our dues, get a nice award if we are successful, and pay for a team to go to the Olympics, without actually putting any faces to the organization, or even knowing who to call when I have a question. Well, guess what? Maybe my ignorance has served me well for 40 years, but it might be time to grow up a bit. I actually met a whole bunch of humans who actually care about the wild collection of horse people in this country. Dang it. I was not prepared for it at all.
Upon arrival I immediately learned that the giant jerk pickle leading the organization for the last 18 months was abruptly and unanimously kicked onto the street. You can use your imagination for the details. He didn’t care about any of us, you, me, the horses, none of it. He had his eye on some other unattainable position, and was merely using us as a springboard. Bye Felicia. In the wake, a whole slew of PEOPLE who DO give a mouse’s butt what happens to all of us, (and the horses) is left behind. And everyone wants to get busy to repair the damage and come up out of the fog. Against every fiber in my body, I was super impressed.
Another Town Hall Meeting for Drugs and Medication…
Hearings are going to be published for us to view, starting after this next rash a lawsuits. That’s a good thing. I walked away with a clearer understanding about how the process works for drug infractions. Pamphlets have been made to guide you through exactly how they come to verdicts based on the severity of the infraction, (even though they do not have to stick to the exact printed formula). Sometimes penalties can be harsher, or lighter, but there is a guide at least. It is advised you come to a hearing if you have been issued an infraction, make it happen, get here to tell your story, even if you don’t have any more evidence or excuse for what happened to you. They cannot make decisions in the future for the rest of us without you showing up to tell your story. NO MATTER WHAT, SHOW UP. for more info, here https://www.usef.org/_iframes/drugs/rules.aspx. Do I think this is solving the real issues? meh, no, but publishing hearings is a good start. Go to the Chronicle for the more professional details. http://www.chronofhorse.com/article/usef-town-hall-tackles-doping-and-due-process
Some things being discussed for the future I have a hard time seeing implemented. For some reason, there is an urgency for all future horses (showing at recognized shows) to be subject to a necropsy, should they drop dead in the ring or on the grounds. I am suspect of this for many reasons. Why would they want to know? What do they think will be found? What if the only clinic able to perform one is 10 or more hours away? It is costly, and even with a small re-imbursement from the USEF, you are responsible for transport of a dead animal to a clinic. Regardless, it is still only being discussed. I think the main goal is for the vets within the USEF to have a more informative relationship with the vets at shows, so if disease out breaks occur, there is communication on how to handle it, and major inconveniences can be avoided. I have to say, the horse show management committee seems willing to work on ideas, at the very least find a way to isolate sick horses on show grounds. We actually do need this. Stephen Schumacher is incredibly patient, explains his position countless times, and I want to believe him, I really do. He will talk with me, or anyone when it comes to the vet side of the USEF. He seems to have good intentions for a really crappy job description. This piece was written in 2013 and echoes many of the same issues http://www.julieannafreund.com/apps/blog/usef-re-thinks-its-drug-policies
I was intrigued by the International Disciplines Committee, or IDC, in which Joe Mattingley (CEO of the Galena Territory http://www.thegalenaterritory.com/GTA/The_Galena_Territory/About_The_Territory/GTA/Explore/About_The_Territory.aspx?hkey=2a2bc60d-95aa-4726-86c5-655f8510c809) gave an inspirational and passionate commentary on how the U.S. really needs more presence inside the FEI (currently we don’t have any); and also how the training of coaches, trainers, and teachers in the future could possibly be a lifesaver for our sport. Imagine if we were somehow providing education for our enthusiastic riders to become career coaches? To further discuss the possibility, Will Connell (http://www.usefnetwork.com/news/11422/2014/7/2/will_connell_named_as_usef_director.aspx) provided a Town Hall for us to throw out ideas on how to make this come about. He asked the legendary Yogi Breisner to Skype into the meeting and talk to how the program is Great Britain works, and rallied us all to want come up with ideas on how to do it. No idea how to fund it, but it would be an incredible asset to keep people in sport. Then maybe juniors won’t think their careers are over at the age of 18. Think again kids, coaches are needed, here is how to become one…….
Other topics discussed? Bringing the USEF into this century. It is antiquated, electronically and with regard to accessibility. It really shouldn’t be that difficult to figure out the ‘show pass fee’ debate. As far as entering shows online – it gets simpler every year, do it, pre-enter, be prepared as an exhibitor. Horse show managers will appreciate this, and run a better show for you, but it will also simplify a helluva lot of paperwork within the organization. Boring stuff, I know, but when your membership fees go up, part of it will be on you, me and our laziness. Know that a nonmember is going to part of your group this weekend? Plan ahead so USEF isn’t chasing you or your client around for $30. These things waste time and money they can’t afford to lose anymore. The former leader led the organization down a painful and expensive road. The tightening of the belt is upon all of us. You don’t want to see the fees raised next year? This is one step, only one. There are a hundred, but you are in control of proper paperwork at the very least.
The Board of Directors wants this to become a service organization again for the members, it was said over and over and over again. Service, service service. I didn’t find one person against making this a better and more friendly, fruitful, and important organization again. Can they do it? Overnight, no, eventually, absolutely.
I found two heroes this week. The first comes from marketing. Colby Connell is only 6 months into her new job. Guess what is in her background?? SMARTPAK. The Holy Grail of a small company gone large, right? Her team might be the freshest influx of talent I have ever seen. She had every magical word and phrase under the sun which sucked me right in. If she can make this work she will be sought after by every major head hunter in the world. She WANTS more connection with the membership. She KNOWS the USEF works for the members, and she wants to try and prove it. She will use EVERY social media outlet to get you involved and inspired – even me – to the point I was offering up my own unprofessional services, I bounced up to her table and acted like a fool – PICK ME! PICK ME!! Blog about it! Use pictures! Instagram it! Tumblr it! I could not have been more awkward and she could not have been any nicer or more accommodating. All Hail team Colby. Have an idea?? email her right now!! Want to volunteer? (good for your career btw) email her. She is magical. firstname.lastname@example.org, or Andrea email@example.com.
My second choice for the hero win is Lisa Roskins. She came here to pitch her ideas to USEF for next year. Did you know the World Cup Final is coming to Omaha in 2017?? That is a city in Nebraska. It is in the center our country. Lisa was an integral part of getting it there, and she is determined to make it interesting. How? Get this – she wants an entire arena devoted to the HORSE – every horse, every discipline, every rider, every handler, every opportunity to educate, view, learn, feel, touch, smell, whatever the verb, it is going to be in that arena for the duration of the event… FREE. did i mention FREE, did you pick up on that word FREE?? You can imagine how I feel about a chance to show America about horses for free. AND THEN walk across the hall to watch a world class competition. (not free). An exposition with a competition. Think of ideas now, book your rooms, this is going to be incredible if she can get the support. Have an idea? Want to partake in the expo? Email her here! : contactOEF@omahaequestrian.com, or Patty LaVelle – firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have to give an enormous amount of credit to Mary Babick. She was here all day every day in every meeting, solving rule change proposal problems, and working, working, working for all of us. I think she did the work of twenty people, just in this week, not to mention leading up to it. The research she had to compile was tremendous, and it is hard to argue against her logic. She strives for every positive trait this show world has to offer, and it is damn near impossible not to believe in her. I don’t really know what her role will be officially in the USHJA as they adjust to the changes made from the president Bill Moroney shifting roles, but I don’t think anyone else wants her in any other position than leader. Well, maybe one. But he wasn’t here this week. Regardless, she isn’t worried about it, she is working for us every single day, still teaching and running her Knightsbridge farm in New Jersey. http://www.knightsbridgefarms.com/
Everyone knows Bill Moroney as the role he played with USHJA has been a subject of my aggravation for ages, most publicly since September of 2015. If you read the first post of this blog, it is all spelled out for you, I never ever truly believed in the USHJA, but have taken a few small steps in regards to changing my opinion of it. I am trying to get myself better educated, more involved, grumpily maybe, but I am doing it. The programs might be good programs, but the implementation has always fallen short with hunter people, and we always find a way to get around using them, so they are a hard sell; then I get all bitter when I have to face raised dues. It is frustrating. However, this sudden upheaval which led to him being the current and new CEO of the USEF might actually be the proper role for him. I don’t know where his clarity was in the past, but here I can honestly say I have never seen him be more well spoken, confident, and forward thinking. Ever. Maybe this problem solver situation is the answer, I have no idea how to predict it, but he gave a pretty darn good first impression as leader of the USEF. You know perfectly well how hard that is for me to admit. I don’t mind to give him a chance, at the very least.
I walked up to a few strangers and asked how they felt about the changes, not surprisingly, every one I asked was relieved, positive, and thankful we were back in the hands of a horse person.
You also might consider attending one of these annual meetings. The networking is amazing, and as everyone has to learn the hard way, it is networking which keeps you in the business of horses. If nothing else you can be in the same room with some famous people. (hint Beezie Madden!! David O’Connor!)
In the next few years, these meetings might be able to become more like the USEA conventions, which are fun, provide educational seminars, and get people working together. Maybe they do not have as many rule changes to deal with or committee discussions, and let’s face it – the eventers know how to put on a convention, but the USEF and USHJA could do the same, follow up with the ideas, the fun, the learning, and encourage people to work together.
Either way, I am viewing from the outside in, I am not on a committee (yet), I am not sharing the inner workings like someone else could do, and gas is cheap right now, but I am kind of thinking this is the fresh start of the USEF for 2016.