Dec 10, 2021

USEF CEO Addresses Eventers in USEF High Performance Athletes Open Forum at USEA Convention

By Leslie Mintz - USEA Staff
USEF CEO Bill Moroney (far right) along with members of the USEF Staff. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

There was a major shakeup in the US Equestrian (USEF) High Performance program at the beginning of December when Erik Duvander’s contract was not renewed and Jenni Autry was let go from the organization, so that topic dominated the USEF High Performance Athletes Open Forum at the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention today.

USEF CEO Bill Moroney was joined on stage by USEF SVP, General Counsel Sonja Keating; Director, Public Relations & Communications Carly Weilminster; Director, Eventing Programs Gemma Stobbs; Director, Eventing Performance & Program Support Christina Vaughn; and Director of Eventing, Sport Management & Administration Amber Braun. Moroney began by explaining his background and then jumped into speaking about the situation and the Federation’s plans.

Moroney shared that over the last 10-12 weeks the USEF has been conducting an evaluation of the high performance elite and pre-elite programs using a two-pronged approach – confidential interviews with many eventing stakeholders and extensive surveys that were sent out. The feedback was considered from every constituency; however, athletes provided the greatest response.

“The feedback that was provided during this evaluation process absolutely informed the recent decisions that were made,” explained Moroney. “And they were determined that they were needed to strike out on the path forward. None of these decisions were made lightly. We know that every decision affects everybody's lives in a different way, not just the people involved in making the decision for the people that it might affect right up front. But it affects a wide audience of people as well.”

“Throughout the process, we had an incredible amount of feedback and one of the key points that made the decision-making process even harder was that Erik [Duvander] brought a certain element in the training that he did with people one-on-one and they really valued and appreciated. However, the evaluations weren’t done off one situation – they were done off the analysis of multiple situations across the board that led us to the place that we are at today,” continued Moroney.

Moroney explained that the USEF is a business and like in all businesses some personnel information can’t be disclosed “in these types of situations where it is involving personnel there are some things that can be shared and some things that can’t be shared,” Moroney said.

“We also fully understand and respect that not everyone will fully understand and respect the decisions that we made, but we hope that you will understand and respect the decisions from the reality that we did conduct a full and robust evaluation and we did make the decisions we felt necessary for our sport.”

Moroney shared that the main themes that came out of analyzing the surveys were the topics of leadership and personal accountability. For a change in the team environment, a restructure needed to occur. One topic that was brought up was the potential to change the role which Duvander held from coach to more of a technical advisor – similar to that of the show jumping discipline.

To facilitate the restructuring of the eventing high performance program, Moroney said that a task force is being appointed by USEF President Tom O’Mara to lead the way. The task force will include a variety of eventing constituents but will also incorporate an outside facilitator. Moroney assured that the athletes will also be involved and told the audience to email him if they want to be involved. “There are underlying currents of mistrust of people having a louder voice than others in the reconstruction,” said Moroney. “While Tom [O’Mara] and I won’t be voting members we will have oversight to make sure we have the resources available for the people to be able to make a final draft.”

“Let's be real here, and I'm not embarrassed to say when I came into this job five and a half years ago, the first thing that I had to deal with was the fact that the discipline of eventing was not satisfied and wanting to make changes of five and a half years later we are right back there,” said Moroney. “The sport of eventing wants changes to happen. And here we are, again making changes. Something has to change and we've heard from the athletes we cannot keep doing wash, rinse, and repeat. We have to take the time, and that doesn't mean we can't also be concentrating on championships and keep moving, we got to find something that's going to get this right.”

The USEF had two days of intense meetings and laid out the immediate needs that will be prioritized by the current eventing department of which Moroney said “They love the sport, and they have knowledge. They may not be out competing every single day, but they're very knowledgeable about the sport, they understand the governance structures, and they are also overseeing nation to where we need to go and how we need to evolve.”

Some of the immediate needs the USEF is focusing on alongside the restructure include:

  • Recruitment of a managing director. The role has already been posted on the USEF website.
  • 2022 calendar
  • Rules rewrite to align with new FEI Rules
  • Providing feedback to the FEI on the 2024 Olympics rules and format
  • Selection of athletes for the training lists and emerging athlete lists. However, the training lists won’t be publicized until the USEF can determine what support can be offered.
  • Communication to athletes on international competition opportunities
  • The Youth Team Championship and Young Horse programs
  • Possible Performance Advisory Team restructure
  • Grant information
  • Identifying coaching and performance enhancement opportunities
  • 2022 World Championship Selection Procedures
  • Athletes Working Group elections
  • Eventing Owners’ Task Force (development of goals/purpose)
  • Eventing Watch List procedures

Moroney spoke for about 40 minutes before the floor was opened to questions from both webinar and in-person attendees.

Questions about the USEF Eventing high performance program? Contact the USEF Eventing Department.

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About the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention

The USEA Annual Meeting & 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 other eventing enthusiasts. The USEA organizes multiple seminars in addition to committee meetings, open forums, and tons of fun! The 2021 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention is taking place at the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque Hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico, December 9-12, 2021. Click here to learn more about the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention.

The USEA would like to thank the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention Sponsors: Adequan, Bates Saddles, Gallops Saddlery, Mountain Horse USA, Nunn Finer, Nutrena, Parker Equine Insurance, RevitaVet, Rebecca Farm, SmartPak Equine, Standlee Premium Western Forage, D.G. Stackhouse & Ellis Saddles, Sunsprite Warmbloods, World Equestrian Brands, Area X, and Saratoga Horseworks.

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