I could not think of a better indoctrination for an incoming Area Chair than participating in the Annual USEA meeting. In addition to the educational seminars, which are incredibly useful, I found attending meetings of the Area Chairs, open BOG, organizer, rules, licensed officials, financial, and the open forum to be incredibly valuable. It gave me an appreciation and understanding of how USEA works and where the power lies. However, rather than just deal in generalities I will point to some key issues and what I took away that I would like to share.
- A lot of time was spent going over financial issues. There are several important messages that came from these meeting. i) a new set of financial guidelines were agreed to (thank you DC for your hard work). This simplifies the financial control, but also tightens up a lot of loose ends and the potential for wasteful spending. I will post the new guidelines on our website when they are finalized and distributed to the area treasurers and chairs. There was a 4 hour meeting between the USEA financial staff and officers and the chairs, treasurers, YR and AR coordinators from the areas. This meeting explained in detail a number of complex issues. ii) a lot of time was spent explaining the financial outturn from last year and the outlook ahead. Importantly, USEA finances are in the black despite a decline in starters over the last few years and strong financial management has meant USEA now has had several years of clean audits. The good news is that the number of starters has finally stopped falling. Also noted was that the areas have a lot of idle cash on hand. One change which has a big impact on our treasurer but little impact on others is that the fiscal year will now coincide with the membership year.
- There were several behind the scenes meeting regarding the AECs. The chairs of Area 3 and 2 met along with the organizer of Chattahoochee Hills (Rich Temple). It was clear that the organizers of the two areas shared the same concerns and more or less had the same suggestions (i.e. the riders like it a lot, make it into a real championship, it should be at the end of the competition year). However, there is not yet a consensus of whether it should have a permanent home. It appears that USEA is forming a task force to look into whether a permanent date and permanent home are feasible.
- Safety issues entered into a lot of the discussion. Carol Kozlowski summarized the findings of a voluntary confidential survey USEA has begun distributing to riders who fall in competition. Interestingly, in the responses reviewed, most riders took the blame for the fall, and provided insightful explanations for the cause. Going forward, I will be helping Carol and others to improve the survey and distribute results. There were also lengthy discussions about the one fall and you’re out rule, including interest in re-examining the basis for the rule and consider possible change, given that more data has now become available. There were also several presentations related to head injuries. The basic theme was that the medical profession has changed its view a lot over the last few years. There are new “return to play” rules in place this year, and new rules regarding the responsibilities of rider representatives.
- There were 2 related concerns regarding officials. Competitors felt that there was not a clear process in place in which to complain or praise officials. It was explained that there is a well defined process, but based on several discussions, it was not clear it was working. There are high degrees of confidentiality and because of that, information may not be getting to the oversight group or the officials that could benefit from seeing their evaluations. The officials explained that they can learn from evaluations and strongly urged competitors and HT management to file the confidential USEF forms. They reiterated that these are confidential and the results that get back to officials and the oversight committee are summarized. Malcolm Hook and others are going to look into the process further. USEA also emphasized that event evaluation forms should also be used to discuss officials along with other concerns or praises for an event. Bottom line: fill out evaluations of both officials as well as HTs (both good and bad). Event evaluations are available on the Area II website.
- The Professional Horse Council (PHC) as the representative of the upper level riders is trying to play a bigger role. At a minimum, they want to ensure that the rider representative has a larger role to play. Currently it has been ineffective. While a new rule will be in place, the riders recognize they will have an increased responsibility to bear in working with officials and riders at all levels.
- Rule Changes: The only one I will address at this time is what was not passed. The Eventing Committee had proposed requiring a 2nd TD (or additional eventing judge) in the event of large numbers of competitors. This proposal was tabled, as the Committee realized that it was not numbers but both scheduling and numbers. They are going to go back and reflect and redesign a rule in terms of official’s responsibilities. Some of the other rule changes have already been discussed ad nauseum on the COHBB or elsewhere,
What I am not going to elaborate on some of the meetings that really are only tangentially related to the responsibility of the area chair. Most of these others can be seen via the Internet. Many were quite interesting and informative (such as liability issues and how to make sure you run as a business). Oliver Townsend’s talk was extremely funny yet quite eye opening, and the WEG team meeting was also quite interesting. The WEG riders’ presentations showed that they are a real class act!