A New Point Increment System Highlights the USHJA Annual Meeting

December 14, 2011

It’s just one of the many successful outcomes during this year’s meeting in The Big Easy.

New Orleans, December 14, 2011 – After decades of discussion, debate and consternation, the current increment system—the way points are calculated when a horse places in a class at a rated competition—was successfully revamped.

“It’s something that’s not happened in our lifetimes,” noted United States Hunter Jumper Association President Bill Moroney with a smile. “This is a massive change. The beauty of this system is how easily it’s understood. This rule change had unanimous support, too; it’s what the sport wants.”

A record number of 362 attendees gathered in New Orleans, December 5 to 8 for the seventh annual USHJA Annual Meeting, presented by the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau. There they discussed a number of issues, including standardizing zone children’s and adult specifications and a national children’s/adult jumper championship, a new amateur definition, accident and return to play, jumper prize money, participation fees for jumper classes of $25,000 or more, and points versus money won, to name a few.

Most of the approved rule changes will become effective December 1, 2012, after receiving the stamp of approval during the United States Equestrian Federation Annual Meeting, January 14 to 18.

In a nutshell, the new increment system provides a base number of points for each placing, depending on the show’s rating, and then awards the horse one additional point for each horse in the class. Section champions will be awarded two times the total first-place point value of the first class in that section. Reserve champions will receive 1.2 times. The national increment system also extends to the International Hunter Derby classes and Hunter Classics, while National Hunter Derby points are zone points only.

"It's the best way to give credit for the number of horses competing rather than grouping them as was done before," said Moroney. "I must commend the Affiliates Council for proposing this change and [USHJA Board of Directors members] Shelley Campf and Geoff Teall for their hard work. It’s a fair and balanced solution."

The increment system change was a byproduct of the ongoing debate over calculating Zone and National Horse of the Year awards through points versus money-won in the professional sections.

After a year of research and discussion by various USHJA committees (while the professional sections calculated HOTY by money won for the first time in 2010-11), a new rule change was proposed that would establish two HOTY awards, one based on points and the other based on money won. The USEF leadership is supportive of this proposal, and the two organizations are working through the progress of its implementation.

Another major topic centered around a proposal initiated in 2010 by the USEF but taken on by the USHJA that seeks to standardize zone specifications for the C-rated children’s and adult divisions across the country. Currently, each of the 12 zones set specifications for these divisions, and these specs vary from zone to zone, which has in the past created some challenges and points issues for riders competing outside their home zones.

After the rule changes were studied and tweaked this year in committee meetings and zone retreats, their new versions still didn’t receive support and were mostly disapproved at the committee levels.

Similarly, a proposed national children’s and adult jumper championship for 2012 was also tabled for further discussion and development. USHJA leaders plan to develop a task force to work out the details for this team-type championship in time for a 2013 debut.

Safety was also a prevalent theme during the meeting, and the USHJA Board of Directors passed several rule changes addressing the welfare of riders, including the accident and return to competition proposal.

A proposed expansion of GR1317, known as the “return to play” rule, further stipulates when a rider who loses consciousness or suffers a concussion may return to the show ring. After a lively debate in the General Rule Change Forum and in the final board of directors meeting, the rule was approved as submitted by the USEF Safety Committee.

Over the past decade, the mandatory use of ASTM/SEI-approved helmets has slowly become more common in the hunter/jumper world, and one more inroad was made at this meeting when an amendment to GR801.2 was approved: All persons at USEF-licensed shows must wear an approved helmet while mounted anywhere on the competition grounds.

The word "amateur" was once again a popular one throughout the week as the USHJA Amateur Committee and Owners Task Force celebrated a milestone with a major revision to the USEF definition of an amateur. After their proposal last year drew attention at the USEF Annual Meeting, president David O’Connor appointed a task force of members from the various breeds and disciplines to rewrite the definitions of an amateur and a professional. The resulting GR1306 is now on its way to the USEF Annual Meeting, where USHJA Amateur Committee Chairman Tracey Weinberg is confident it will pass.

"While this endeavor started at the USHJA committee level three years ago, it’s because of the importance of the issue, which is defining an amateur, that it’s taken a village to get it where it is today," said Weinberg. "With David sensing the need and urgency as well as the members of the task force and USEF’s [general counsel] Sonja Keating, we feel the challenges of this rule have been met. Jointly, we feel this rule is solid and is something the Federation can put forward as an enforceable rule."

Moroney was also thrilled with the number of National Jumper Committee members who attended the meeting and who were on-hand to hear his presentation on restructuring the USHJA governance to better serve the jumper and hunter constituents.

"I’m pleased that so many more members came and got involved with the process, wanted to learn about the process and understood it," he said. "People came and actually said what was on their minds. It was refreshing to see the door open for everyone. People were saying what they thought, and sometimes it didn’t come out as well as we would have liked, but it helps us moving forward, and we all learn what we can do better."

The award presentation's featured honorees included Jane Dow-Burt as Volunteer of the Year; Diana Dodge and Gegi Winslett as Lifetime Achievement Award winners; Marcia Bobek as the Amateur Sportsmanship Award winner; Helen Lenahan as the Owner’s Legacy Award winner; Jacob Pope as the Youth Sportsman’s Award winner; Taylor Harding as the Young Horseman’s Award winner; George Heston and Brenda Outwater as the Vital Staff Award winners; and Dianne Johnson and Kit Sydnor as the winners of the Jane Marshall Dillon Award.

This year, two hunter riders reached the half-million-dollar level since the USHJA began tracking the total money earned in 2005. To mark this milestone, Amerigo presented each winner with a saddle. They were Kelley Farmer ($501,220) and Scott Stewart ($532,740).

The USHJA thanks its many sponsors for making the Annual Meeting a success, including Mississippi Gulf Coast Visitors & Convention Bureau; Texas High Performance Series presented by GSEC, Pin Oak Charity Horse Show and Spring Gathering; Goetz Insurors; Gulf Coast Classic Company; Sheila and Britton Sanderford; FarmVet; the USEF; the USHJA Foundation; Mr. and Mrs. Wilson Dennehy; Diane Carney; and Greg Franklin.

Complete coverage of the USHJA Annual Meeting will be published in the February 2012 issue of USHJA In Stride. Visit the rule changes page.

Photo Credit: Danny Robertshaw (2010 Lifetime Achievement recipient) presents the 2011 USHJA Lifetime Achievement winners Gegi Winslett (L) and Diana Dodge (R) the Gene Mische Perpetual Trophy – Photo from USHJA/Tricia Booker
**Photo may used free of charge only in conjunction with this press release. Please contact USHJA for a high-resolution version.

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