Lexington, Ky.—Dec. 7, 2021—The 2021 USHJA Annual Meeting, presented by Equicore, began day two on Sunday, December 5, with the State of the Association, an in-depth look at the Association and the Hunter/Jumper industry over the past year and into the future, presented by President Mary Knowlton, USHJA staff and committee members. Sunday's schedule of meetings, sponsored by Official Ribbon Supplier of the USHJA Hodges Badge Company, also included discussions from the USHJA Diversity and Inclusion Advocacy Committee, the USHJA Zone and Affiliate Councils, USHJA Foundation Board of Directors and more.
"Our return to play really showed our resilience. Many of us took time during COVID to connect with the basics of horsemanship and teaching," Knowlton said. "What did we learn as we went through COVID? Well, clearly we learned to use tech because here we are once again virtual. Hopefully next year we will be live in Seattle. We are looking forward to that. We learned that our sport feeds our soul. Also, that collaboration is essential and adaptability is key. And last but not least, our kids are watching us all the time."
Knowlton began her presentation by discussing the impact of the pandemic on the sport and how things have returned to a new normal this past year. She highlighted a return in participation numbers in many of the USHJA programs with several standing out as experiencing vast growth, including the USHJA Outreach Program.
"It's really starting to achieve our goals," Melanie Mader, USHJA liaison for the Outreach Program, said of the growing program. "The Outreach Program is a national program to recognize riders competing at the local level."
Mader noted that Arizona, Indiana, Maine, New Hampshire and Texas all hosted their first Outreach competitions in 2021. Overall, more than 400 competitions were held with 5,000 riders participating this past year, showing a wide increase from pre-pandemic participation numbers. New awards were added to the program this year and Mader touched on the success of the new Outreach Backstage Pass, which gave an opportunity for high-scoring Outreach riders to participate in the Marshall & Sterling Insurance/USHJA National Championships.
Charlotte Skinner-Robson, chair of the USHJA Jumper Working Group, presented updates on the Jumper discipline's programs including two significant changes to the Markel/USHJA Zone Jumper Team Championships and Platinum Jumper Championships. In 2022, the 1.30/1.35m Zone Jumper Team Championship section will be moving to the Platinum Jumper Championships, opening up the section to professionals. In addition, a 1.0/1.05m section will be added to the Zone Jumper Team Championships in the 2023 competition year, giving the opportunity for more riders to compete. In the previous day's Zone Committee Meetings, Skinner-Robson and USHJA Jumping Technical Advisor DiAnn Langer also discussed the opportunity for riders from Zones 7 and 8 to select which contiguous Zone Jumper Team Championship and Platinum Jumper Championship they wish to compete at in 2022. This change comes with the absence of a host within those Zones for their 2022 Championships and allows Zone 7 riders to choose to attend the Championships for Zones 3 and 4 or 5 and 6 while Zone 8 riders may choose between Zones 5 and 6 or 9 and 10.
The biggest announcement came from USHJA Board of Directors Members Sissy Wickes and Britt McCormick who discussed upcoming rule changes to competitions, including a new channel system and competition licensing restructure, which updates ratings, mileage, prize money requirements and points, going into effect in 2023. Under the new channel system, Channel I (National) competitions include National "A" and Premier "AA" shows as well as Level 1-6 Jumper competitions. Channel II (Regional) competitions would eliminate the "B" and "C" ratings and include any Regional Rated Hunter competition and Level 1-3 Jumper competition. With the goal of opening up the calendar and providing more members opportunities to show, the mileage between competitions will update to 50 miles between Channel II competitions and 0 miles between Channel I and Channel II competitions. Mileage between Channel I competitions remains the same as it currently is for National and Premier competitions.
With the change also comes an update to the Hunter prize money requirements. Regional competitions must offer $0-$24,999 in rated and miscellaneous Hunter sections and classes, National competitions must offer $5,000-$74,999 in rated Hunter sections, and Premier competitions must offer $75,000+. In addition, a new point chart based on the number of exhibitors competing regardless of competition rating will also be put into use.
Other topics discussed included the announcement of the inaugural USHJA Naomi Blumenthal Memorial Training Grant recipients, an update on the USHJA Safety Committee's current focus including helmet and safety vest research, recognizing several new sponsors that joined the USHJA in 2021, and the USHJA's second-year honor as one of Kentucky's Best Places to Work. Additional goals Knowlton discussed for the coming year in her presentation included hosting more USHJA Town Halls as well as rider/trainer meetings at shows to encourage communication and discussion between the USHJA and members.
The 2021 USHJA Annual Meeting, presented by Equicore, continues with important sports governance meetings through December 10. For more information and to register, visit ushja.org/annualmeeting.