Dec 09, 2017

USEA Programs in the Spotlight on the Second Day of the USEA Annual Meeting and Convention

By Leslie Mintz - USEA Staff , Jessica Duffy
Diarm Byrne speaks on the new EQRI system launching in 2018.

The second day of the USEA Annual Meeting and Convention at the Westin Long Beach Hotel in Long Beach, Calif. was packed full of educational presentations, open forums, and USEA program sessions. Read more about those USEA programs and stay tuned for our coverage of the educational sessions! Can't be in Long Beach for Convention? Be sure to check out the livestream and keep an eye out for our written coverage.

ERQI Is Coming to the United States

Diarm Byrne of EquiRatings began his presentation with an explanation of the history behind EquiRatings and how the company got its start, progressing from a rather simplistic predictive data analysis to the software that now allows them to create a “data footprint” for every horse that then can then be used to predict future performance. The EquiRatings Quality Index (ERQI) is a number between 0 and 1 that indicates risk based on data, and Byrne explained how each horse carries a different level of risk based on the level.

In 2017, EquiRatings and the USEA focused on collecting high quality data and identifying outliers in that data in preparation for launching the ERQI in the United States. They are still in the process of trying to balance between creating a data system that computers can understand that still captures nuances. For example, the system cannot currently differentiate between a rider that runs clear around course and elects to retire versus one that had three stops on course before retiring. Because of this, the data quality is not yet high enough to implement based on findings. As the tool stands now, it is an assessment tool that is working to help people understand the potential for risk. The ERQI for each horse in the USEA database will be available coming in 2018 on each horse’s profile on the USEA website.

Strong Showing at the Volunteer Incentive Program Meeting

It was standing room only at the Volunteer Incentive Program (VIP) meeting, with plenty of discussion and support for the program by those in attendance. The meeting began with a presentation by Irene Doo of the teaser of the new cross-country jump judge video. Gretchen Butts is the technical advisor for this project, which is funded by a grant from the USEA, and will be ensuring that the finished product covers every topic and utilizes appropriate terminology. Release is currently slated for May/June of 2018.

Next, Nick Hinze of discussed the improvements that were made to the site in 2017, including new features like an in-app messaging system, sign-up confirmation reminders, volunteer coordinator profiles, event information pages, volunteer opportunities sent out via email blast, and the ability of organizers to post to Facebook and Twitter from the app. Coming in 2018, they plan to redesign the event dashboard, develop the ability to track no-shows, create a questionnaire feature for the volunteer sign-up process, create custom position groupings and a documents and resources section, and enable volunteers to see who else has signed up to volunteer at any given event.

Gina Cindric, Volunteer Coordinator for the Maryland Horse Trials and VIP Committee Member, detailed the process for converting volunteers to, including sending mass emails with instructions on how to use the site, offering assistance to the technologically challenged, and explaining the benefits of using

This was followed by a healthy question and answer session which covered issues from recognized versus unrecognized competitions, connectivity issues, leaderboards, incentive programs, and more.

Equine Medical Research Fund Supporting Multiple Studies

Dr. Michael Van Noy kicked off the meeting on USEA Funded Equine Health Research with a recap of the process by which a $1 starter fee was added to every entry to support Equine Medical Research, including some of the driving forces behind the decision to implement and the challenges that were faced.

Next, Katherine Cooper talked about the current state of equine research in general, identifying key players that fund research, how much is typically spent on a single research grant, and the most researched topics. She explained that the USEA has been a leader in health and safety for both horse and rider in the past, and this is a cause which both generates positive PR and benefits our animals by ultimately increasing their longevity. Horses are not eligible for USDA funding and drug companies don’t fund equine-specific research because it doesn’t make financial sense.

The USEA donates the funds raised by the $1 per entry starter fee to Morris Animal Foundation for a number of reasons, including that the Equine Medical Research Committee is able to review the potential studies Morris has selected for funding and then can select from that list which studies they want to fund. They try to select a combination of studies that focus on the sport horse and then also donate to general health and welfare studies that affects all horses. That list is then approved by the Board of Governors.

In 2017, the Equine Medical Research Committee chose to fund studies on the following topics:

  • Creating a New Tool to Study Wound Healing
  • Filling in Gaps in the Horse Genome Related to Tendon Health
  • Managing the Spread of Salmonella
  • Investigating a New Treatment Strategy for Equine Asthma
  • Improving Regenerative Therapies

For additional details on each of these studies, click here.

USEF Event Owners Task Force is On a Mission to Revitalize

Without owners there would be no high performance eventing, but finding owners and bringing new owners into the sport is one of the most difficult aspects of the business of eventing. The USEF Event Owners Task Force was founded several years ago to support event horse owners in America, and the Task Force is on a mission to revitalize their group. “No one wins a gold medal by themselves,” said Dr. Mark Hart, Chair of the Task Force. “I was on the last trip when we won the team gold medal in 2002, and I am hungry for another one.” That hunger to win a gold medal is just one reason that people become owners, however, several other owners in the forum also shared their reasons for supporting riders on the journey.

Erik Duvander, the new U.S. High Performance Director, spoke about his experiences meeting the riders over the last six weeks and said, “America has a fantastic group of riders. The riders lack ego and it’s all about the love of the sport and horses. The other strength is how they take care of horses. I would definitely send my horses to American riders.” Duvander has a few ideas from his time with the New Zealand Team and how they attracted owners which he hopes to develop in the U.S. He also emphasized that the U.S. riders need to develop a deep string of horses including 4-year-olds to win at the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles and how lovely the U.S. bred horses – especially the Thoroughbreds – have been.

Organizer’s Open Forum Provides an Outlet for Collaboration

The theme of this year’s Convention is organizers, so the Organizer’s Open Forum was a central part of the day. The Forum began with a presentation on the USEA Volunteer Incentive Program as the committee encouraged all organizers to utilize the software as a benefit to the volunteers.

Jonathan Elliott then opened the floor to questions from the organizers and riders who were in attendance. Topics of discussion included a question about riders “selling entries” to fellow competitors. Most organizers were not in favor of allowing it and plan to update their Omnibus listings to reflect their policies. Then Lisa Owens, Managing Director of Competition Services for the USEF, spoke and said that there is no right to sell an entry as it is a rule that all entries must be made in the same way for everyone.

Matt Brown, the incoming Chair of the Professional Horseman’s Council, asked organizers what professional riders can do for organizers. “We know we put a lot of pressure on the events for good footing, prize money, supporting our owners,” said Brown. Some of the responses included supporting local one day events by bringing students and re-energizing the culture of volunteering. Mary Coldren did add in “there is a misconception that upper level riders don’t volunteer, but they do. You just need to find them jobs that don’t take place on the weekend like putting up dressage rings, decorating fences, etc.”

Coldren, VP of Safety, also shared with the organizers a few of the rule changes that are coming down the pipeline from the safety committee that they need to be aware of and prepare for.

Course Designers/Builders Open Forum Focuses on Frangible Technology, Guidelines and More

The Course Designers/Builders Open Forum opened with a review of the rule changes to frangible technology and measuring which were proposed by the committee and put forth to the USEA Board of Governors this morning. Tremaine Cooper reminded all in attendance about the Cross-Country Obstacle Design Guidelines which he said is a constantly evolving document. Currently the committee is working on adding a section on ground lines, but there are so many factors effecting the use of ground lines (terrain, trees, type of fences), so they are working to make it helpful, but not too restrictive.

One competitor in the room asked if a course designer would ever be able willing to change something on the course based on a competitor’s concern. “We want feedback,” said both Cooper and James Atkinson. “If you come up to us with something that we haven’t considered or is wrong we absolutely will change it. If we think the question is fair then we may not. The rider rep is key and the timeline is key.”

Another question was asked about how do you solve the problem of consistency of course difficulty throughout the country? There is no rule solution according to Atkinson except to build to height as that is the set standard.

Classic Series Committee In Full Swing

This was the first year we had an active Classic Series Committee after it was formed and set goals the year prior at the 2016 USEA Annual Meeting and Convention. Committee Chair Gretchen Butts shared frustrations/concerns from last year and updates on what we accomplished this year. The committee focused on putting together updated guidelines/rules/regulations for the Beginner Novice through Preliminary Classic Series events, adjusted some of the language, added some clarifications, and are currently working on some rule changes.

The other main initiative of the committee this year was to promote the series to the membership and general public. The USEA stepped up and created the Classic Corner in the USEA eNewsletter, which we then posted as PDFs on the Classic Series webpage. We now have more content and information available to help competitors prepare for a Classic Series event. More content is needed, and the committee is continuing to work on this. The USEA invites anyone to help write articles, submit content, and help provide insight for members to compete in a Classic Series event.

Members discussed ways to incentivize more professionals to compete in the Classic Series events, perhaps by tying the program into the Young Horse programs. A desire for more prizes and prize money was also expressed.

Additional Future Event Horse Championships Coming to Texas

FEH Committee Co-Chair Robin Walker updated the members on the status of the Future Event Horse Championships and the successful addition of the 4-year-old FEH division. Entries continue to hold steady on the West Coast and there were numbers of entries on the East Coast at Championships. The committee is arranging for a professional handling team to work in the jump chute for the 3- and 4-year-olds in 2018.

Walker announced the new 2018 Central Championships that will take place at the Texas Rose Horse Park in September 2018. Jane Lloyd will be the organizer and they are purchasing a new jump chute that will be up to the same standards as those currently owned by the USEA.

Walker discussed how there is an expressed need for more judge's education. There have been complaints about inconsistent judging and some judges have expressed their discomfort with judging these classes. The committee is working to create additional judges' seminars and online training and testing programs. The FEH portion of the USEA Educational Symposium in Ocala will focus on judging. The committee is actively working to improve the judges' system to keep up with the program.

The committee raised the qualifying score for FEH horses to a 72% and saw much higher quality at Championships.

Young Event Horse Program Making Big Changes in 2018

The Young Event Horse Committee has heard a great deal of member feedback about the program and is hitting the ground running to make large changes in 2018.

The committee is:

  • Shortening the dressage tests
  • Developing an entire new scoring system with new scoresheets
  • Working to educate all the judges and focus on judges at the Ocala Symposium
  • Removing the “bye-year” for mares competing
  • Removing the conformation phase from qualifying competitions, and keeping it just in the Championships. This is to ease the judging flaws in the conformation phase while developing and enhancing the judging system until the judges are more comfortable with it. At Championships a conformation will be brought in just for the conformation phase.

The committee also announced the YEH Championship judges for 2018: Lucinda Green and Sally Ike.

During the open forum portion of the session, Marilyn Payne presented videos of horses at Championships and working with the crowd to judge them and compare notes. This was to help the judges AND the riders understand what is being asked and judged.

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About the USEA Annual Meeting and Convention

The USEA Annual Meeting and Convention takes place each December and brings together a large group of dedicated USEA members and supporters to discuss, learn, and enjoy being surrounded by eventing enthusiasts. The USEA organizes multiple seminars in addition to committee meetings, open forums, and tons of fun! The convention is made possible through the support of sponsors: Adequan, Devoucoux, Nutrena, Charles Owen, SmartPak, Rebecca Farm, Mountain Horse, Merck Animal Health, Standlee Hay, Auburn Laboratories, Eventing Training Online, DG Stackhouse & Ellis Saddles, Point Two, Professional’s Choice, Bit of Britain, Staples Inc., World Equestrian Brands, Gallops Saddlery, RevitaVet, CWD, H.E. Tex Sutton Forwarding Company, and Parker Equine Insurance.

Learn more about the 2017 USEA Annual Meeting and Convention by visiting the Convention page on the USEA website.

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