The final day of the Convention was probably the shortest one I’ve attended in all the years that I’ve been to one of these annual events. David called it at around 11:30 a.m. I started covering these meetings when it was the American Horse Shows Association, and continued with an interim organization until it became the United States Equestrian Federation. In the early days when the hunters and jumpers did not have their own affiliate organizations, these meetings seemed endless and became very focused on the needs of the hunters and jumpers. Now with the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) it really does feel like an organization for all breeds and disciplines.
What I enjoy most about these meetings is being able to see so many of the movers and shakers from the many breeds and disciplines all in one place. For all of us it’s a chance to discuss things in an environment that lends itself to that.
Throughout the few days of this event the Board of over 50 met three times and looking at that horse shoe of representatives all working together is a real eye opener. I wonder how many other organizations can say the same about their groups. It certainly makes a strong statement.
Opening the meeting on the final Sunday David mentioned that it was probably one of the first times that he didn’t have to ask what time people’s flights were in order to give him some sense of how fast the meeting had to go. There were only 30 rule change proposals and it was a good indication that some of us might even be able to go standby on earlier flights.
I get headshots of the Board members at those Board Meetings and my standing joke to them is that I have pictures of many of them from ten years ago to compare to this year’s photo. It so happens that this is true and some of those pictures may even go back 20 years or more.
A Look Back
If I look back over the weekend I just want to mention a few things that stand out. I applaud Executive Director John Long for making a point of acknowledging the dedication of the staff of the USEF and how devoted and hard working they all are. I also applaud those that looked into ways of saving money after having the USEF for the first time in the history of the organization show a loss in its budget. A large part of those monies could be pointed to expenses from the Marketing Department and thus it was decided that greater scrutiny will be taken to oversee what funds are spent in marketing and to ensure all those expenses make sense.
John explained ways that the organization will tighten its belt in order not to continue a rollercoaster of loss over the next year especially in this volatile economic situation. He identified ways that the organization can save about half a million dollars without having to cut any of the present programs. Those savings will be achieved by not replacing people that recently left the organization and to have their workload be absorbed by other people. John felt that could be done without overburdening anyone’s present workload.
I look back at my interview with Gil Merrick who thanked me for including in my article the fact that Gil and others at the organization want you to find out the truth about any rumors you hear. Gil noted that he’s always happy to answer questions. So, take him up on his willingness to talk to you.
Discussions seemed to be more evenly weighted than in years past. Initially the deficit in the budget created some heated conversations but those people that were most concerned got together and discussed it at length so by the time the Board Meeting came around most if not all of their concerns were addressed. Fortunately, that meant that no one needed to use the Board Meeting as a forum to continue more endless debates.
There were many issues that were discussed but I’ll provide you with just a few examples. One longer discussion centered on groups that use the USEF entry blank to add extra fees and whether or not that should be allowed. There was support for adding fees for recognized affiliates but questions about other fees that were being mandated.
Yet another was focused on not allowing someone who is injured at a horse show to show until they have been removed from the Federation Medical Suspension List. There was also an addendum to that stating they would get back their entry and jumper nominated fees, less office and stall fees if they are not able to show. This is only the gist of the rule and the actual wording should be checked for specifics once it has been finalized.
One subject that caught my attention as a photographer was about amateurs not being able to take remuneration for use of a photo with their image in it. If a sponsor took a picture of you but you did not accept any payment or product your amateur status would not be affected no matter where that photo appeared. But if you did accept payment or product, you would be in violation of your amateur status.
The Nucleus of the Weekend Are The Awards
High on my list of memories are the many award recipients who were honored throughout the weekend and the videos the organization produced with its new in-house broadcasting division that really gave us a greater insight into just why these people deserve our applause.
Another memory is the fact that past president Alan Balch can always be counted on for clarity and controversy. At the Board Meeting he jokingly commented “you know I can’t help myself” when he spoke his mind on one of the many issues.
There was some light hearted humor taking place throughout the weekend. Andrew Ellis mentioned at the Board Meeting that John was deserving of a Safety Award for having saved someone at his table from going up in flames after they caught fire from the table’s candle. John showed great speed in using his glass of water to douse the fire. There were a lot of comedic instances throughout the weekend which showed that this group of people (with few exceptions) actually like each other.
When I think back at what awards and reactions most stay in my mind, there are a few. Cecile Dunn received an unbelievable round of applause as did Chester Weber and Gene Mische. Gene as the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award was all smiles. In his acceptance speech he noted that he never thought he would be honored with the likes of past recipients George Morris, Billy Steinkraus and Jimmy Williams.
Cecile Dunn was chosen by President David O’Connor as his choice to win the coveted Sallei Busch Wheeler Trophy. Chester Weber’s horse Jamaica was honored with the Horse of the Year Award. Jessica Moctexuma as the recipient of the Junior Equestrian of the Year was so gracious and talked about her goal of wanting to give back as she continues her life with horses.
As I was writing my last piece in the background I listened while David quickly went through the rules and those supporting or debating the rules made brief comments before the Board voted to pass or table the rule change proposals. Keep an eye out for the results of those votes at www.usef.org.
One interesting thing that I learned over the weekend is that the USEF’s new Club Equestrian is going to be making use of the latest technologies and social media. Sarah Evers was sending twitter comments from her cell throughout the weekend so that her followers had a sense of what was happening and when. Brian Sosby, who is charge of the association’s publication, Equestrian, was blogging throughout the weekend while Joanie Morris wrote up the press releases announcing the major winners.
There’s no doubt that by that last day everyone is looking and feeling a bit tired but for sure when they get on the plane or into the car to head home every one of us is glad that we came to this year’s Convention. You could be there too to listen to the debates and discussions and find out what’s happening in your corner of the horse world. The Convention annually happens around the second week in January. Next year it will be held in Louisville and the year after that in Lexington.
It’s time for me to file my final story but do keep my email handy because I always enjoy hearing from you. And if you have a question and I can get the answer for you, I definitely will (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’ll be back again in April for the World Cup Finals in Las Vegas. So do stay tuned.
Our On the Scene reporter known for her extensive coverage for our websites of the World Equestrian Games and Olympic brings us her impressions and conversations from the 2009 USEF Convention 2009.