As is tradition the USEA Board of Governors met this August to conduct the business of the United States Eventing Association (USEA). This is the first time the Board was able to meet in person since December 2019 and it was a productive two days. USEA President Max Corcoran had flown directly from Tokyo to the meeting in Dulles, Virginia, and managed to fight through her jet lag to welcome the members and share her delight of the busy year of eventing.
USEA CEO Rob Burk started his report by bidding a fond farewell to the Board members who were attending their final August meeting as their terms will be up at the end of the year. Darrin Mollett, Dawn Scott, Denise Dailey-Thomas, Eric Markell, Jonathan Elliott, and Mary Coldren are leaving some big shoes to fill as they step off the Board.
Burk updated the Board on the current USEA membership numbers which are rebounding nicely following a difficult 2020. Initial calculations suggest approximately 12,485 members by year-end, which would be in the top half for the decade. However, international memberships have not yet recovered to pre-pandemic numbers. Youth membership is on the rise especially due to the introduction of the Interscholastic Eventing League, as well as the age expansion of the Young Rider Program to 25 years, but the adult numbers have taken a bit of a dip, and the USEA will be focusing on meeting the needs of adult riders.
The Board voted on two topics related to adult riders including passing a motion to offer a discounted rate on life memberships for members over 60. The USEA will also now be offering a Century Ride Award for horse and rider combinations whose combined ages equal 100. In addition to the award, the pair will be featured on the USEA website and in the magazine.
On the youth side of the membership, the Board voted to create a task force to take control of the Emerging Athlete Program which is moving from the USEF to the USEA umbrella.
Horse registrations are also recovering following a substantial lull in 2020, especially at the Limited and Full levels. Future Event Horse registrations are trending down, but this is in line with U.S. breed associations who are also reporting declines in breeding.
Competitions and starters are very healthy this year with 232 competitions expected to run this year with 42,466 starters – an increase of approximately 700 over the average from 2017-2019. Certified instructors are also up from 165 in 2019 to 222 as of August 2021 and prospective officials have increased from 57 in 2019 to 70 in August 2021.
While the numbers look strong for 2021, the USEA is still trying to recover from 2020 and is projected to finish the year with a net cash flow deficit of $134,000, however that deficit is being covered by existing USEA savings. The budget for 2022 is forecasted to finish with $29,000 net income. The Board did pass a few new budget items for 2022 including supporting the Volunteer Incentive Program web development, partnering with therapeutic riding centers to provide them with awards, purchasing Intercollegiate, and Interscholastic certificates and decals for the members. Lastly, the Board will be working on developing an agreement with the USEA Foundation to establish program accounts within the Foundation from which an annual percentage of funds is dedicated to USEA programs.
USEA Foundation Updates
Trustees from the USEA Foundation gave an update to the USEA Board of Governors on the grant programs that have happened so far this year. Strides for Equality Equestrians (SEE) in partnership with the USEA Foundation awarded Helen Casteel with the inaugural Ever So Sweet Scholarship to go train with Sara and Brian Murphy at Overlook Farm in Berryville, Virginia for three months. SEE and the Foundation are also working to fund access programs in economically depressed areas.
The Frangible Technology Fund has continued to see great success and the USEA Foundation has raised over $519,000 specifically allocated for the Frangible Technology Fund. Through the fund, a total of 375 grants have been awarded to 130 venues all over the United States. Each grant awarded consisted of $1,000 and a chosen frangible hardware kit, enabling each event to construct a new frangible fence for their course. USEA cross-country builders have been busy constructing 180 new frangible tables, 76 collapsible oxers, 57 new gate and wall jumps, and 61 frangible corner fences for courses around the country. Following the presentation of the Frangible Fund update, the Board voted to survey venues to find out how many more frangible fences are needed to determine new fundraising goals.
In June it was announced that this would be the final year of the Rebecca Broussard Developing Rider Grants, however, USEA Board and Grant Committee member Sharon Anthony shared with the Board that they have requested an extension on the grants. They interviewed 17 candidates at The Event Rebecca Farm and the 2021 grant winners will be announced at the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention in December.
Vice President of Competitions Jonathan Elliott asked the Board to vote on a few calendar modifications for 2022 and the Board passed date changes for two events which both wanted to move off of the Kentucky Three-Day event date. Pending any necessary USEF approvals, the Board supported Barnstaple being held on May 21-22 and Waredaca on May 7-8. The Board voted against allowing Stable View to add an event on April 23-24 as it would be on the same weekend as Sporting Days, which was previously approved and is only 17 miles away.
Burk and Elliott shared an update on the strategic calendar which is being developed by the USEF for upper-level events for 2023-2027. There are 54 open dates that events bid for and the calendar is intended to create clear pathways to major events and championships.
Lastly, Elliott checked in with the Appendix 3 Task Force and shared that they are still working through details for the rule change and will be following the process set forth by the Eventing Rule Change Proposal Schedule.
Safety and Equine Welfare Proposals
Denise Dailey-Thomas, Chair of the Equine Medical Research Committee, put forth three recommended studies that the money raised from the $1 starter fee as well as some funding from the Cardiovascular Study would go to supporting. The Board voted to approve the Committee’s recommendations and $38,000 will be funding studies about the Equine Herpesvirus, equine lameness, and exercising arrhythmias. More detailed information about the studies will be released in a separate article.
USEA/ERAofNA Eventing Grooms Development Program
The Vice President of Active Athletes, Lauren Nicholson, brought a proposal to the Board on behalf of the ERAofNA (which is now a part of the USEA) to develop a program that would both provide education and recognition for grooms. While the specific details of the program are still being ironed out the concept proposed includes developing: a robust base of U.S. Eventing Grooms with a pipeline of future candidates, a clear understanding of and value of a groom’s role, a recognition program to distinguish outstanding performances, a benefits program, and a model for other equine industries. The Board did vote to support the concept and looks forward to assisting in its development.
The USEA Board of Governors will continue to meet via conference call until their next in-person meeting at the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention from December 9-12 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Three clear show jumping rounds in the CCI4*-S at the Plantation Field International Three-Day Event have placed Allie Knowles in first, third, and sixth place with Ms. Poppins, Morswood, and Business Class all owned by Katherine O’Brien. Phillip Dutton and Quasi Cool, a 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Quo Vados I x B-Estelle) owned by Caroline Moran, kept their cool to put in a double clear round and move up to second from overnight third place.
It was a historic week for U.S. Eventing as American athletes achieved their best results ever in the CCIO4*-S at CHIO Aachen. The Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team of Will Coleman and Off The Record, Sydney Elliott and QC Diamantaire, Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan, and Tamie Smith and Mai Baum took second place in the FEI Eventing Nations Cup – the highest result by a U.S. team at the prestigious event.
Perhaps one of the best reasons to be a member of USEA is the opportunity to qualify for and participate in the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds. This year there was a record 1,178 entries and a waitlist of over 150. There were 1,009 pinnies handed out and 939 horses started the competition. All combined it made for the largest horse trials in USEA history. Competitions ran in all USEA divisions and additional prizes were given for teams, incentive programs, amateur, and young rider divisions.
The 2021 Plantation Field International Three-Day Event kicked off yesterday with the CCI2*-S and CCI3*-S dressage, and culminated with the CCI2*-S, CCI3*-S, and CCI4*-S dressage today.