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Sat, 2015-12-05 11:18

Notes From the Eventing 2016-2026 USEA Summit

The packed room of members attending the USEA Summit. USEA/Shelby Allen Photo.

The Eventing 2016-2026 USEA Summit ran "Against the Clock" as speakers touched on a variety of topics took to the podium in a packed room. Below are notes from the speakers' points, comments from audience members and the ideas related back following the break out session. The full schedule fo the Summit speakers and topics is available here. 

Derek di Grazia – Eventing costs

  • Do the entries and you see how much they cost and you say “my god”
  • It isn’t cheap to own a horse. It isn’t cheap to have a horse on the road competing. There are ways that money can be saved.
  • Research from Omnibus
    • Area 2/3 – run over 1 day and 2 day. As you get further west you see events almost exclusively running over 3 days.
      • Stabling, Hotel, food, travel, paying for someone to take care of the farm at home. More days away = more cost
      • In Europe you see 3-4 day events, but they are multiple 1 days not one phase per day.
      • It is very expensive to produce a horse in this country.
      • Taking off Thursday/Friday to go to these competitions whether working or a student.

Brian Sabo – Speaking on membership and membership growth

  • If you aren’t angry you aren’t going to do anything, so get angry
  • Pebble Beach was the biggest event in 1969 and they wouldn’t go along with the rules so 4 of us formed an alliance which eventually turned into CTETA and there were 22 “teams” across the country which are now affiliates. As a result we started Woodside.
  • USEA is area based system to represent the riders
  • Membership growth is a flawed model
    • Hunter/Jumper model is from cradle to grave. Starting at 5 years old and bringing them up. This model was never part of the Eventing model - we started with fox hunting, pony club, etc before going to Eventing. I didn’t teach beginners as I was one of the top riders in California.
    • Starting a beginner program is the key to the growth of membership. We need to give birth to people in Eventing.
    • U.S. Team Show Jumping Coach, Robert Ridland’s wife Hillary has a beginner program. Cradle to grave.
    • My wife Lisa started a beginner program. Started with 1 school pony and now she has 50 horses. How can this transform the sport? We have 7 assistant trainers who start them at leadline. It has taken 6 years for them to be getting to recognized BN.
      • Brought 12 kids to pony club rally run at the Spring Event at Galway Downs. Parents volunteered. Kids became members.
    • Not all of you are going to be going to the Olympics, but all of you have a responsibility to keep growing the business.
  • Everything is more expensive. You can’t do it on a shoestring like when I was a kid and I am angry that it has happened, but it isn’t going to change.

Wendy Wergeles, Jane Barron, Jeffray Ryding – proposed Council of Eventing Organizers (CEO)

  • Wendy Wergeles explained that a group of organizers has gotten together to form a council of Eventing Organizers.
  • Jane Barron – I own 9 horses and have 3 daughters who compete. Also the Area 3 Chair and run Red Hills. We have the problem of having too many events who want to run in a very short time period for the snow birds. Also contiguous with Areas 2 and 8. Worked to see how we could set up a calendar that works for the competitor. We also have high costs and the entry fees just don’t cover the costs. Fun events and qualifying events. We have some problems that are pervasive.  I thought perhaps if we could get a group together that we could do a better job for the competitors. We need to work together as organizers, work with the riders to hear what they want. That is the thrust of the CEO.
  • Jeffray Ryding – we sent out an email to see if this was a general problem. We heard from 35 organizers. They raised their hand and said that we need to solve problems. Organizers and starter fees pay $894,000 in starter fees. We need to figure out how to make our business models more profitable and make this more workable. We have come up with a list of potential ways we will go forward, but we want to add to that list. We will have a collective voice, we don’t want to compete with eachother – we want to come together.

Howard Simpson – 21st century sport/business

  • Two-tiered sport – don’t want to break apart the USEA. Intended to illustrate a concept that 2 designated groups work together, but separately. Fun in sport needs special attention. Podium business had distinctive differences and goals. The biggest impediment for entry to our sport is cost. I believe that this focus group should have a charter, budget, influence on the calendar, marketing/promotion. Lower costs/reduce rules. We believe if low costs division with common sense rules we could attract some of the unrecognized riders. Develop customer-based programming based on surveys. Time is now how to attract and maintain entry level members.

Rob Law – Calendar/pricing

  • The Need for a Free Market for Events (Sophie Pirie)
    • Focus is Preliminary and below – if USEA doesn’t adapt things will die
      • 12,000 members. 8,000 competitors
        • 72% never ride above Prelim
        • 66% never ride above Training
    • Sport for fun groups wants coffee experience – Starbucks vs 7-11
      • Want value and price sensitive
      • Want experience to match lifestyle
      • Don’t care about USEA angles and organizers pains
    • 3 tiered calendaring (at the top and bottom it is already market driven)
      • At top end those with finances and/or influence are able to buy or secure dates
      • Cartel processes under today’s rules
      • Unrecognized can do as they choose
    • Unrecognized shows
      • Competitors have ‘a la carte’ choices
      • Much lower costs to participate
      • Usually more to do in the time and can choose to make it 1 days
    • Dissatisfaction with current process
    • USEA should own the community
      • Reduce the focus on rules
      • Increase emphasis on enabling Organizers to satisfy competitors
      • Provide technology to see, select and enter activities
      • Own and develop the data
      • Provide organizers of low level courses with low level design handbook
      • Provide a facilities validation system
      • Enable market forces to drive the calendar
    • Organizers Desires
      • Service and satisfy their customers
      • Differentiation
      • Stay in business
    • Recommendation to USEA
      • Change perceived behavior to focus on a positive experience
      • Allow market forced to drive what and when Eventing activities occur
      • Provide tools that promote good market behavior through visibility and easy of action

Jeanie Clarke (ICP Instructor/Education)

  • ICP Instruction in Area 3
    • Professionals that live in the middle. I do not have a financial support. I own a farm, I pay a mortgage, I feed my horses and dogs.
    • Curriculum of getting ICP certified was very influential for me. Gave me structure, a vision. Also people to help me with the things I am not good at. 299 certified instructors, a lot of them are just like me, and I am asking those instructors to get more involved. I am the only person that responded to Sue Hershey’s email for comments here. We care about the adult amateurs, bringing people into the sport – please ask us.

Tamra Smith (Chair of the PHC)

  • Speaking on behalf of all professionals. I am a rider who has suffered the same struggles for the last 20 years. We all have the same passions and want the same things for the sport that we love so much. Preserve the best we have. Change management isn’t easy. No one should know more about using change to our advantage as eventers. Cost has risen, participation is on the rise, trainers, vets know more. My goal today is to help us all understand our common ground. Build a still brighter future for Eventing.
  • Many want the old days to return, but most can’t quite remember what the old days were.  Professionals want rebirth to continue. I used to think Michael Jung was just lucky, but I have realized he is just that good. He is a product of a system designed to produce the best in the world. Once that was us, we won medals and were the ones that got it done. Overnight it seemed that wasn’t true anymore. We are trying to claw our way back to the top of a sport we thought we owned.
  • Professionals of the sport works 10-15 hours a day outside and then we are inside continuing to keep trying to succeed. We do it for the team and country, but we professionals need all of you. We think that you need us too in order to shine the spotlight on you. We stand on your shoulders. It is not us against you – it is all of us together. Bricks without mortar will not stand.
  • We always ask for better footing to keep our horses sound, but our livelihood depends on our and our students’ horses who mean everything to us. We share a common passion for our sport. We need to focus on how to help the amateur stay in our sport. It is helping the kid, owner, volunteer. That road will not be easy so I ask each of you to join in and help make Eventing into a better sport.

Siobhan O’Brien - Adult Amateurs

  • A lot of topics are consistent. AAs are in this sport to have fun and love the camaraderie of it – Eventers will come to your aid. Enjoyment and collaboration. Want to do that in a safe and cost effective manner.
  • What do AAs want?
    • Watch for level creep – riders want to know what to expect at the level.
    • One day shows
    • DX Eventing – more XC at a lower cost
    • Education – putting more structure around educating volunteers, mentor at the show.
    • Communicating early and often – how can we find out what is happening
    • Safety – not only at the shows, conducting research studies, speed, water jumps, equine welfare (fitness, use of tack)
    • Cost – 1 days, recognize Eventing is cheaper than other sports, but anything we can do to keep costs down but keep the fun
    • Recognition – having professionals come to the adult rider shows

Member Comments

  • Janet Gunn: There are one day Events (with lower costs to riders) on the East Coast, and multiple day Events (with higher costs to riders) on the West Coast.  The multiple day Events on the West Coast ARE filling, and the one day Events on the East coast are NOT filling, so there must be other market forces at work. Maybe offer unrecognized divisions at recognized shows
  • Cindy from Area 3 – What are Pros bringing to the table for the organizers? They should fundraise for the better footing, better rings
    • Karen O’Connor – we all have to work together. I think a lot of competitors will help, but they are never asked. I believe they will help if asked
      • DC McBroom – Why are waiting for people to come ask us? Everyone shouldn’t be sitting and waiting. They should step up to the plate.
    • Malcolm Hook – Area VI coaches donate their time and all the proceeds go to Galway downs
    • Jane Murray – Carolina Horse Park organizer – We run a CIC3* in the spring, pay out $75k of prize money all the way to the Training level, we have a live stream. Never had a problem getting any help from riders. Also run an unrecognized 5-show series that pays out money, allows schooling the day before. About education, safety showing. Feel like upper level riders are giving back.
    • Gina Miles – we bring a lot of customers, we want to give you entries and support the base of your events. Customers wants the best footing too. There is more education, footing studies, and my amateur clients are very interested in the welfare of their horses.
  • Margie Hutchinson from Area 1 – I need more entries at my Event. I have students that can’t afford to go. Riders don’t understand why it costs so much. You are paying for safety, footing, courses. If there is a way to allow unrecognized divisions at recognized Events then lets try to make it happen.
  • Laurie Cameron – breeder supporting up and coming professionals. Last year I have lost 2 horses to management relationships. Is there any data for the attrition rate and what level of support does the USEA offer for horse management?  
  • John Merriweather – Area 7 chair – value is one of the huge reasons why we want to come here. Simplification of regulations. Getting eliminated for having boots on in dressage – that is bringing value that is sending people away. Are we customers or is this our sport? Area you paying for everything you are getting or do I need to also ask my students to be volunteers and be part of the sport.
  • Dan Michaels – treasurer of Area 9 – all of areas have money, but we are struggling on how to get it back to the sport. Need to figure out how to engage our membership. The USEA could help us with advertising the need to our population so there is a place for them to get engaged.
  • Liz from Area 2 – Question about grounds fees? Why do we have them per horse – why can’t it be per trailer/van? Also need more adult amateur divisions.
  • Kathy Kerns – Area 4 chair – I am a professional volunteer. Quit with the t-shirts at the end of the day. Volunteers want recognition. T-shirt should say volunteer and they wear it that day. Makes them feel special. Keeps your volunteers coming back. I don’t compete anymore, but I still say I am an Eventer.
  • Mel Litter – I don’t compete, but I say I am an eventer too. Maybe a leaderboard for volunteers with points that gets you something at the end of the year.
  • Denis Glaccum – Boyd and Phillip are on the committee of Plantation. Unbelievable positive influence. Just don’t waste their time. Volunteers – I have found most important thing is good lunch. All names in a jar and pulled out at end of year for a trip to Rolex. We have volunteers who stay until they die.
  • John Nunn – offered 10% discount to Bit of Britain last year and out of 12,000 members only 515 USEA members used the discount. I appreciate your business –  I have always supported this sport, but you need to give back to those who support you too.
  • Carol Kozlowski – there is a seminar that is directly addressing volunteer concerns. We are trying to ignore he needs of our organizers, volunteers. We can’t do this sport with out them.

The Summit then broke out into sessions to brainstorm topics for 30 minutes and then got three minutes to report back to the full audience.


  • Recommendations
    • calendars need to be split into 2 tiers
    • ranking system (established events having precedence)
    • free market
    • affiliate system
    • consider the calendar with areas that transcend boundaries


  • See more communication between unrecognized and recognized riders, instructors, and organizers
  • A liaison position be listed on the scoreboard with an ICP individual would would be available to answer questions by any competitor such as use of studs, how to ride the water jump, etc.
  • ICP instructor can help an organizer add a skill-building class for the many people who are riders who want to event but are not yet skilled enough to do it.
  • Assist with Event College developing at other shows


  • How are professionals giving back to the sport of Eventing?
    • Education, donate our time
    • What do you need from us? We are willing to do it.
    • Redirect education funds that aren’t being used in areas to helping organizers

21st Century Sport/Business

  • We are in a business to provide a sport and everyone needs to be educated that the organizers that they are running a business.
  • Educating our trainers better about business models so they can bring in the young riders, educate the AAs and still go to the Olympics.

Adult Amateurs

  • Want this referred to as our sport not our hobby
  • Need to have true amateur divisions in all areas of the country
  • We want value – sometimes you get eliminated for doing something that isn’t unsafe, can you have a way to complete? Is there a clear policy that can be listed in the Omnibus so we understand what happens.
  • Creep of course – some are maximum and it isn’t clear. Can you truly state the level and have a course designer explain what they are trying to teach the horse with that question.

Eventing Costs

  • For recognized HT $210 – Unrecognized HT is $90. Why?
    • Officials, reward the volunteers, prize money, farrier/vet on site, ambulance, USEA fees
    • Can you drive down costs/control them?
  • Design and build costs of jumps. Purse adjustable jumps?
  • Sponsorship – not enough recognition of sponsors and those who give.

Membership Growth

  • How to sell the USEA to the unrecognized competitor?
    • Different level of USEA membership
    • Developing more streams then just cradle to grave
    • Better relationship with affiliates
    • Rebates for ICP program participation (requires USEA membership)
    • Course design – keep the inviting and simple


  • CEO becomes a collective voice can listen to concerns of individual events and help get them resolved
  • Communicating with competitors and volunteers – using e-mail blasts, tell people to look at that site for updated information.
  • Volunteer leaderboard was well-supported

The moderator, Kevin Baumgardner, concluded with the statement that the USEA is hoping to convene at least three of these town halls to continue the dialogue throughout the country. “So important to not feel like you are screaming in the wind, continued Baumgardner. “We are one sport and we need to stay together.”


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