USHJA Board of Directors Submits Rule Change Proposal Recommendations to USEF Board of Directors

Rider safety and horse welfare at heart of rule change proposals


Tampa, Fla.—Dec. 13, 2018—The 2018 U.S. Hunter Jumper Association Annual Meeting, presented by World Equestrian Center, concluded today with the USHJA Board of Directors submitting recommendations to disapprove 34 rule change proposals and approve 27 rule change proposals in order to support rider safety and horse welfare.

Following last year's USHJA Annual Meeting, presented by World Equestrian Center, Joe Dotoli, a pioneer in standardizing safety helmets at USEF-licensed competitions many years ago, was tasked with chairing a Safety Ad Hoc Committee to look at rider safety at competitions. In partnership with the Amateur Task Force, these two groups brought forward two rule change proposals that the Board is sending forward to USEF with a recommendation to approve.

"Safety is important to us all I know. Over the years we've made great progress------ helmets, breakaway cups. That's great, but we all know this sport is not without risk," said Joe Dotoli. "We've reduced the number of accidents, but when something happens what is our level of care? It's not an easy task, but that's what we're working toward, improving outcomes for our riders. These rules are a step in the right direction."

The first rule change proposal (GR901.8 - Tracking No. 334-18) would require all Hunter/Jumper competitions to publish certain safety information in their prize lists to allow exhibitors to make informed decisions about where they compete. The rule change proposal will move forward to USEF with the requirement that competitions publish information on the mileage to the nearest hospital with emergency care and to the nearest Level 1 Trauma Center. The second proposal (HJ113.19 - Tracking No. 279-18) would require USEF Premier or Jumper Level 5 competitions to have at least one onsite medical professional be a paramedic, in an effort to improve outcomes for riders after a major injury.

Another safety issue heavily discussed last year and again this year was the use of electronic devices in schooling areas. This year, the Board of Directors unanimously recommended approval of rule change proposals for the Hunter, Jumper and Equitation chapters (HU Appendix A - Tracking No. 286-18, JP103.9 - Tracking No. 285-18, and EQ105.7 - Tracking No. 287-18) that would prohibit the unsafe use of electronic devices, including cell phones, with or without earphones/buds while mounted in all areas designated for schooling.

In support of horse welfare in the Equitation ring, the USHJA Board of Directors recommended USEF approve a rule change proposal (104.1 Tracking No. 289-18) that would ensure Equitation horses are provided the same protections as those in the Hunter ring, citing 19 inhumane practices currently explicitly prohibited in the Hunter ring.

The USHJA Board of Directors voted on 61 rule change proposals that will be considered ultimately by the USEF Board of Directors in January. Credit: Tricia Booker/USHJA

When it came to disapproving rule change proposals, again, the USHJA Board of Directors deliberated thoughtfully to provide recommendations and comments to the USEF Board of Directors. Key among those rule change proposals recommended for disapproval was a proposal (GR309 - Tracking No. 321-18) that sought to more clearly define four categories of Special Competitions, as well as define the application and review process of each category, the information needed for application purposes, and the modification process. The USHJA Board of Directors recommended disapproval, commenting that if approved with the four categories currently included, it may stifle and prevent innovation, inadvertently hurting potential future sport growth opportunities.

Among those recommended for disapproval and heavily discussed throughout the USHJA Annual Meeting was a proposal (GR311 - Tracking No. 325-18) to revert to the Pre-Green, First Year Green, and Second Year Green nomenclature that was changed to Green Hunter 3', 3'3", 3'6" and 3'9" in 2016. In a 10-4 vote, the Board recommended disapproval, citing the need to allow rule changes to be in effect for some time before revisiting them and noting the significant amount of work and consideration taken when the original nomenclature and structure changes were made to those sections.

Additionally, the Board recommended disapproval of two rule change proposals (GR609 - Tracking No. 349-18 and GR703 - Tracking No. 214-18) that would impose penalties and restrictions for people associated with individuals who receive temporary suspensions and permanent bans from the U.S. Center for Safe Sport. The Board indicated that while perpetrators should be penalized, the proposals were an overreach that unduly penalized innocent individuals.

The comprehensive list of recommendations made by the USHJA Board of Directors may be downloaded here. These recommendations will move forward to the USEF Board of Directors for consideration during their Annual Meeting in West Palm Beach, Florida, January 8-12, 2019. Only the USEF Board of Directors may enact a rule change for USEF-licensed competitions.

At the conclusion of the Board of Directors meeting, outgoing Board Member Shelley Campf addressed the incoming directors to ask them to add as their first agenda item revisiting a decision of the USHJA Board of Directors regarding the Board's nomination process.

Earlier this year, following the Nominating Committee's submission of the slate of candidates for the USHJA Board of Directors, Nominating Committee member and outgoing Board Member Tom Brennan sought to nominate himself to the slate of candidates during the 10-day Board floor nomination period. After submitting his name for candidacy, he resigned from the Nominating Committee. The Nominating Committee questioned whether his nomination was eligible for inclusion on the ballot. Based on legal counsel, the Board of Directors determined that it was not eligible, so his name was not included on the Board of Directors ballot.

"The Board of Directors followed the process outlined in our bylaws in accordance with legal counsel," said USHJA President Mary Babick. "We will continue to review and refine our processes and policies to ensure they are clear and best meet the needs of our members and the sport."

For more information about the USHJA Annual Meeting, presented by World Equestrian Center, visit


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