You have just driven out of your way to a new show grounds you are unfamiliar with, spent a lot of money for an unfamiliar setting, and you might be feeling you have to re-learn everything. The icing on top of the cake? It is a championship. On one hand, it is thrilling to be in a new environment, challenging, stimulating, on the other hand you are wondering, how the heck did we all end up HERE?
Believe it or not, there is a process, and locations of championships are not pulled out of a hat.
For some championships, the process is the responsibility of the USHJA (CH/AA Hunter and Jumper Champs, Green Hunter Incentive, International Hunter Derby Champs), for others, the USEF is responsible. (Junior Hunter, Pony Finals)
The process differs depending on the championship or the organization coordinating it. Since I brought up Culpeper (in Virginia) in a recent blog post, and it is a host for our Zone Jumper Team Championships, it was decided I might address the process a bit better. (I might have stirred the pot a little. I also might have complained that the language in the rulebooks was stifling, so there’s that.)
Side note: No one can force your education on these topics, but you certainly can’t say there is a lack of effort here.
Before the application process is even opened, each USHJA Zone Committee determines whether they want a championship for just their zone or if they want to combine with another. Once that decision is made and agreed upon between the zones that choose to combine, the application process begins….
1) First, the USHJA opens host applications to all competition managers, about a year in advance of the competition. And only for 60 days. Competition managers have to open their emails like everyone else, decide if they meet the requirements for holding a championship, and if it fits into their schedule. This is not supposed to be like a regular horse show, so sometimes it may not appeal to the show organizer to host a championship. However, sometimes adding a championship to the competition can boost the manager’s image, especially if done well.
2) Applications are submitted. Now the USHJA staff member reviews EACH application, to be sure they are meeting the minimum criteria. These requirements are not a secret, and are in place to make sure you, as an exhibitor, have a special experience. Applications which do NOT meet the minimum criteria are STILL presented to the committees, but red stars, arrows, and exclamation points are used to point out what they are lacking in the criteria. (Those applicants are also notified that their application did not meet minimum requirements.)
3) Conference call #1 of many. Zone Committees (people like you and me) from the relevant Zones in question punch in the conference call number and during the meeting, we ALL review each application, and consider things like timing, school sessions, location, convenience, participation, and various other pros and cons of each site. Ideally, this is tackled way in advance of the competition. For example, the newly formed Zones 3 and 4 had a conference call December 6 and decided to hold the Jumper Championships at Culpeper in July.
However, that is not all.
4) The Jumper Working Group then reviews the Zone Committee recommendations and full applications. (In this case, the Jumper Working Group met during the USHJA Annual Meeting and agreed with the zones recommendation)
5) the USHJA Executive Director reviews the recommendations of the Jumper Working Group and Zone Committees, as well as the applications, for final approval.
“All of the committees who review and make recommendations consider a variety of factors, including available competition dates, (to avoid conflicts with other major competitions), facility, nearby accommodations, experience hosting, prize money offered, etc.” said Megan Lacy, managing director communications at USHJA. “The committees try to find the best all-around option for the most members possible. The more host applications we receive with date options, location options, etc., the more likely it is that the committees will be able to balance more of those factors to serve even more members.”
Side note: Without Megan Lacy, we would all be…… well, you can guess where we would all be.
Each part of the country is different, so each part of the country is going see different amounts of bids being placed on Championships.
Zones 3 and 4 had three applications last year. Sigh.
How can you help? Guess what, you can. The USHJA encourages all of its members to ask their favorite competition managers to apply to host a championship.
In other words, if you LIKE a certain show, seek out the show competition management and ASK if they could hold a championship in the future. Show managers are human beings, they talk the same language as the rest of us, so spark a conversation, tell them you would be willing to participate on a team if you knew your favorite show was in the running for a big final. Plant the seed, at the very least.
Zone committee members are your voice, too. If you believe that school is a potential conflict, or not a conflict at all, do not assume we already agree. If you feel being at a championship on Thursday at 8 am is slightly ridiculous for an AA jumper and missing an entire day of work is not really an option, just so you can sit around and twiddle your thumbs all day, let a zone committee member know. We get the struggles are real, but we need to know what the struggles exactly are, so we can make informed decisions to best represent the needs of members, your needs to be exact.
What will you be seeing new this year following the competition? A Survey. The USHJA intends to explore the reasons behind your choice to participate on a team (or not participate), how you fared, and your feeling about future participation. The information is so vital, and every member will have an opportunity to incite better change and growth. Shockingly, they really do want feedback. Me too. Otherwise, why bother being here.
So, this brings up one more important exhibitor responsibility, which VERY FEW people embrace openly, and I’d like to know why. Competition Evaluation Forms. What is it about these forms? How do so many people forget the existence of these forms? Personally, I think whether you show at one recognized show or thirty a year, you need to be cozy with these forms. We all need to be cozy with these forms. Parents, riders, braiders, trainers, grooms, course designers, owners, your Jack Russell Terrier…. Why the hesitation? As much as people write and vent online, you would think it wouldn’t be too much to ask to fill out an evaluation form.
Questions I have heard…..
I liked the show, why should I fill out the form? Eval forms are not exclusively for complaints. If you share what you like about the show, this is inherently useful information. Please let US Eq know why you liked the show.
The stewards take care of Evaluation forms, so why should I? Ok, well, you are still entitled to fill out your own form, even if it may contradict what the steward has noted.
What if the USEF can’t guarantee confidentiality? Competition Evaluation Forms are different from official Protests (which require a fee). It is not likely your form is going to jeopardize your ability to attend horse shows. Feedback is feedback is feedback.
“While these evaluations are confidential, USEF will utilize summary data derived from the evaluations to assist in improving equestrians sport”
I filled out forms before, no one ever listened, and no changes were made. Fill them out again. Then get your friends to fill out forms. At the last Annual Meeting, I left with the impression, the new leadership would take a more active role in listening to its members about competitions. This is your chance to hold the organization up to that expectation.
The punishments just seem to be fines, so instead of making improvements, they management simply pays the fine, so why should I fill out a form? While we don’t actually get to hear the conversations behind the walls of the US Equestrian, I can assure you there are discussions taking place about how to be constantly improving our sport. Changes cannot be made in a week, and often times it might be a year or more before any noticeable difference can be noted. But this is not a time to give up, 2017 really needs to be the year we fill out a record amount of Competition Evaluation Forms.
Side note: IMHO, to work around show managers simply paying fines for problems, I think there is a place here for yellow cards. If riders can be issued yellow cards, show managers should be issued yellow cards. And if the show in question receives 2 or 3 yellow cards, guess what? They lose their rating. Maybe this can be a suggestion for the future, maybe you have another idea.
The forms are too long, and I don’t have time. Guess what, new forms! Shorter forms. The kind of forms you can’t really find a lot of flaws with. It is all of three questions. Online, you can actually not kill a tree and in two minutes fill out the three questions.
Just remember you are describing a show facility to someone who cannot see the actual show facility, so the questions exist to provide a visual. Some questions may not be relevant to you, but might be relevant to the staff inside the US Equestrian. Start looking for the new forms soon, they are out this year.
Look, if we had mind readers within both the USHJA and US Equestrian, we wouldn’t need these forms. Make a goal, one a month, or one every five horse shows. But do something, get involved, and push, push, push for better quality show grounds, when you KNOW better quality show grounds are needed. (I mean, for example. Clearly, there are other issues at horse shows, but show grounds, specifically footing, happens to still be on my mind.)
I feel like I could go on for days addressing each excuse I have ever heard about not filling out competition evaluation forms. In my world, I would attach a form to every horse show number handed out, and TELL people to fill it out and put it in an envelope before they checked out. However, this is not my world, I have to share it with others. I am certainly no Queen of the evaluation form either, but I do recognize my effort to be a better exhibitor, and this is one challenge I will gladly accept. If you can’t gain access to a form, there is one other solution……email this guy, he is serious about listening to competition issues. No form required……His title speaks to just that. Chief Compliance Officer, Matt Fine. Mfine@usef.org