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Mon, 2015-10-19 12:08

EVENTING 2016-2026: USEA to Hold Sport Summit at the Annual Meeting and Convention

Authored By: Jo Whitehouse
Eric Smiley speaking at the last Summit held by the USEA in 2007. USEA Archives Photo.

The sport of Eventing has undergone dramatic changes in the last 10-15 years. The loss of the Classic long format has changed the type of horses required to excel, FEI rules and increased qualification criteria has seen a proliferation of CICs, which in turn impacts national horse trials at all levels. Rules to improve safety of both horse and rider have increased participation costs for riders. The need to design and build many different cross-country courses for events running national and FEI divisions at the same competition has forced organizers to increase entry fees. Riders entering multiple horses for owners are seeking prize money to offset some of these costs. Who is to provide this prize money, organizers, sponsors, USEA and/or USEF, outside contractors? Where are the future officials, volunteers and organizers going to come from?  Is there a better business model for organizers?  Can Events continue to offer classes for the lower level riders at the same time they offer FEI classes? These are just a few of the questions that will be explored at the Summit and we are looking for input from ALL our members.


More dramatic than anything has been the change Eventing has experienced in its transition from hobby to profession, at least for many. In the seventies and eighties, riders rode their own horses for fun and only a bare handful had owners to buy them a string of potential Team horses. Organizers put on an Event at their farms for the sheer love of it and hoped they might make a little extra to pay for some new fences next year. Passionate volunteers lined up to fill every job opening and then some. Experienced volunteers morphed into officials as their knowledge and exposure to the intricacies of the rulebook increased. Today, professionalism has taken over and Eventing is now a business providing a livelihood for many riders, organizers, Event secretaries and even some officials. Is the sport able to sustain this level of professionalism? Where do the vast number of our members who are amateurs and who Event for the thrill and excitement and sheer love of the sport fit into this equation? Our amateur riders are the backbone of the sport; the ones paying for lessons, taking clinics, buying horses, tack and equipment, paying entry and starter fees for the pure pleasure of the sport. How do we make sure their enjoyment and participation in the sport continues and that they always feel they are a much appreciated part of our Eventing family?  How do we help our professionals earn a decent living in this sport?  Can prize money be attracted to the sport without doing so at the expense of the amateur riders?  Are there ways to make the sport more marketable? 


The calendar of Events is a huge cause of frustration to many. Every weekend in almost every Area of the country a competition is underway. Some competitions have held the same dates for many, many years. New organizers with lovely facilities desperately want a date on the calendar but are unable to get one because they are all taken and no one wants to give up even one day. But in spite of that, in some Areas some Events are not filling and can barely break even. How can we help them?  If the sport is to continue to grow and improve how do we accommodate these new organizers and venues that will provide variety and a fresh outlook on the sport while making sure those organizers who have worked so hard to create the sport we are all now enjoying do not lose out? 


The USEA was founded in 1959 to serve the grassroots of the sport, educate its members and promote the sport on a national basis.  While we have succeeded in so many ways and introduced new and vital programs, we all agree that the USEA’s work is never done. Over the last 15 years our catalog of educational programs has more than doubled to meet the needs of our members.  The USEA has an ongoing Strategic Planning process but it is imperative that we hear from our members.  This is your sport and your organization.  We  NEED YOU to help us sort through the many issues facing the sport in the next decade.


We are devoting the entire morning of Saturday December 5, 2015 at the USEA Annual Meeting and Convention at the Omni Shoreham in Washington D.C. to this EVENTING 2016-2026 SUMMIT. The USEA Board of Governors will be there to hear what you have to say and to hear your ideas about the best ways to advance this sport in the next decade.   If you can be there in person we will be delighted to see you. If not then please send in your questions and comments to [email protected]. Every single one will be read and shared with the USEA Board of Governors and will be incorporated into the Saturday morning discussion.


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