A year after Diznee, the 2016 USHJA convention.

#AMPalmSprings.

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The check in tables at conventions are the best. They have everything! Smiles, magazines, mints, horse cookies, pamphlets, and…. chapstick. I was promptly handed yet another backpack with all the goodies inside. And a schedule. Right next to the check in table is a silent auction table and the ever magnetic Bill Rube with enticing goodies for the USHJA Foundation, which is tireless in it’s efforts to give back to the community. Everyone likes Bill Rube. It is hard to resist a smile within the first thirty seconds of arrival, even for me.

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Yes, the esteemed canine Auggie Langer Sponsored a breakfast

After a substantial breakfast, we all found our way into the biggest meeting room for what seems like Forum hell. Every rule change proposal is read aloud and openly discussed. Past experiences have shown it takes a little while to warm up a crowd. It was fairly quiet. We actually seemed to breeze through the booklet at a pretty rapid rate, but I knew once we broke up into little rooms and the committees were addressing issues more closely that it would be a little different. Then people would voice more opinions. Truthfully, so few attendees have read through the proposals before arriving, that it really takes 24 hours for it all to sink in before people realize what they can be mad about.

The forums and little groups offer discussions on how to improve the sport from anyone and everyone who shows up, which is the point of a convention. You just basically bounce from discussion to discussion and try to keep up. What’s good, bad, helping, not helping. Sounds boring, until you find an interesting forum. This carries on for three full days. So many forums, so many committees (each year committees get reviewed as to whether or not they are necessary, and some get struck) and since I want to know EVERYTHING that is happening, I had to really observe a lot of discussion, so by the end of each day, my brain was thoroughly full and freaked out. Although I didn’t think there were too many hotly debated topics this year, I certainly wasn’t disappointed by certain topics. Like in the Equitation forum…

Geoff Teal and Julie Winkel went to amazing lengths following this years equitation finals to put a few things together. One article you will be reading in next months In Stride magazine…so before you recycle that rag, read it. The other handouts included ‘the intent’.

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‘Future Procedures’.

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‘Considerations for Finals Courses’ from the task force.

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Did people really want to discuss the medal/maclay finals?? you bet they did. Did it happen?? not as much as you think. It is not like we haven’t already discussed it ad nauseum, so Geoff (chairperson) said he was only interested in moving forward. me too, Geoff, me too.

TCP. I don’t know why this program makes me so mad. Maybe because I still can’t see how it benefits everyone, and I know its the location of a stable which draws clients, not a plaque on the wall, or any number of people who have claimed zero advantages to completing the course. This year we were introduced to some “suggested improvements” for the Trainer CertificationProgram which did nothing to calm me down. After years of claiming no way the TCP program is grandfathering in equestrians, guess what? There will now be a time period where you may be able to be ‘grandfathered in’ if you meet requirements, for example, you must have been a USEF member for 15 years. well, is that consecutive?? if not, which 15 years? The 15 before I took a break to live abroad and didn’t renew my membership that one time? Oh, and there’s more, in order to meet certain levels of “Criteria for Level Advancement via Accomplishments” you have to provide proof you were responsible for riders competing in national finals classes, and then they list which ones are acceptable.THIS Medal, ARIAT, Hunterdon Cup, Hunter championships, jumper championships, etc. etc, blah, blah, blah – All the classes you have to Pay to Play.

HOW ABOUT PONY CLUB?? Here is a thought concerning horsemanship. Maybe you make one of the ‘accomplishments required’ that you helped a pony club member achieve his/her A,B,C, or D rating?? Isn’t that the knowledge you want us to be seeking? Why can’t an already proven and existing organization play a part in any of these horsemanship programs?? Personally, I would encourage any participant in a TCP or EAP, Quiz, or whatever program to simply prove you attempted Pony Club for one year. That’s it, just a year. You might eeeeeeven enjoy it.

All that requiring classes to be actual “accomplishments” is producing SHOWMANSHIP not HORSEMANSHIP Trainers. There IS a DIFFERENCE. just ask George.

breathe. breathe dammit. breathe. ugh, my head hurts. Speaking of heads, one afternoon, we had a speaker who scared the crap out of all of us, but drove home some good points about concussions. I liked her, she was funny, an equestrian as well as a neurosurgeon, and if you didn’t leave that room sufficiently convinced you need two helmets, one for showing with your hair up and one for showing when you hair is down, then you must have dozed off. Concussions are such a mystery, and your noggin is more at risk than you think, and this woman is on a mission to curtail the outrageous statistics of brain injuries in equestrians across the country. I personally think horse show competitors are further down the list as ‘at risk’ than recreational riders, but maybe we all have a responsibility to convince a stranger to wear a helmet, since we are receiving this kind of knowledge at these conventions. Maybe not, but I certainly don’t like to hear that equestrians are on par with motorcycle riders. sheesh.

Owners would like to see more owner recognition. Who wouldn’t want that? But also, I liked the discussion about owners who might take a little, tiny bit more interest in their horses when it comes to drugs and medications, since the USEF has opened the door to holding owners more liable should an infraction arise.

To jog or not to jog? That will always be the question.

To split or not to split? and if split, how to split? (lol, the National Derby has grown fast enough to start the discussions on how to split the class should it show more than 40 entries, but pros and cons to either scenario exist.) This was an exhibitor driven discussion, too soon to see how it plays out.

Amateurs, amateurs lunging horses other than their own? Needs more discussion, discussion….

Hunter breeding? What do you think is important about Hunter breeding? Not applicable to you? Should it be? One thing I cannot figure out is how to educate the next generation for hunter breeding in this country. Would you attend a hunter breeding show if you knew at one point the judge would pick up a microphone and tell the audience why he chose the winner? Do you think I initiated that conversation? Yes, yes I did.

Which brings me to conformation. Remember that little request I have been rolling around as food for thought?? I want to see conformation put into the Young Hunter Division. I prepared my speeches all week to present, but never needed it, which is good, because as usual, I forgot everything I was going to say as soon as I was in front of a microphone, and only managed to squeak out how important it is for the future of our sport. Everyone seemed to agree immediately that yes, conformation should be a part of the Young Hunter division, so yay me. What else with the conformation? The arguments continue about whether or not we should allow International Derby points to go toward Green or Regular Conformation division points. Should they? I mean you have to compete in a conformation division five times during the year for the points to actually count, but uh, that also means you can walk in and walk out of the ring without jumping a fence and still be considered to have ‘competed’, but no one really would do that would they?? hmmmm. sigh.

The legal or illegal use of a kimberwick in the hunter and hunter equitation rings….. Why is this even a thing? It is 2016 people, find a different bit solution.

 Do you think there should be basic requirements asked of trainers before they should be allowed to sign an entry blank at a recognized show? Maybe seminars online or in person that everyone can take about Drugs and Medication, Concussion safety, Safe Sport, or a background check? All. Being. Discussed.

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A healthier year.

I couldn’t believe the new faces, the positivity, lack of drama, and overall support to see a better USHJA, and a better Federation. Murray Kessler swept in from the USEF and had people buzzing left and right, about the way forward, and I’ll reserve judgement until I actually see results but he certainly has the ability to say the right things at the right time. My guess is that he has had a lot of practice.

A touching ceremony which passed the reins officially from Bill Moroney to Mary Babick was cool to watch under the full moon… I think she is fully prepared for the leadership role, and certainly has support from many, many people.

So where does that leave the future for Annual Meetings/Conventions or whatever you want to call them? The rule changes might be on a downward trend of necessity, now that we are getting closer to a healthier group of board members, and healthier overall show standard, so are we going to see more educational clinics attached to these meetings? I sure hope so, I know when I attend one of these things I want to know I am walking away with more knowledge of the sport, and more knowledge of the people in our sport. So many people attending this year were so ready to learn more. And it was very obvious it was a thirsty crowd. Judges Clinics and Stewards Clinics or just ANY Clinics in the future would certainly benefit a lot of future potential licensed officials. Your input is still clearly wanted, so speak it up, speak it out. Get the message out there.

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