From Endurance to Dressage
It's that time again ... Memberships for 2023 are now due. Each year, I sit down after Christmas and review my list of what needs to be renewed. I join the California Dressage Society which gives me a Group Member Organization (GMO) membership with USDF. I also join USEF as an Adult Amateur. I have written about this a million times before, but I know that people come and go from the sport of dressage so some may not quite know which memberships they need, so here ya go!
United States Dressage Federation
Good luck this show season. I know I'll need some luck of my own!
Yesterday, I shared my opinion about USEF's proposed changes to GR 1304.1.3. After I gave it some more thought, the proposed change made me even madder because of what it insinuated about dressage judges. Fortunately, there has been enough of an uproar from the dressage community, and maybe others, that USEF is doing some quick reevaluating - if the social media chatter is true. Either way, I am still annoyed at USEF.
According to the rule proposal's language, "The conflict of interest rules for officials should match regardless of the division. By creating special exceptions based on the division or type of license, level playing fields are varied across the breeds and divisions."
First, if there are special exceptions, and I am inferring that it is within the dressage division that there is the perception that "special exceptions" exist, it should make everyone wonder why other divisions need policing regarding the behavior of judges, trainers, and riders. Is there so much sneaking, bribing, and backdoor deal-making between officials and everyone else that every interaction between trainers and riders and judges must be scrutinized and prohibited? If so, shame on those other divisions. But let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater.
While my experience in the dressage world is pretty localized to Southern California, I don't see conflict of interest being the problem that GR1304.1.3 suggests it is. Dressage judges go through a rigorous training program designed to educate them about bias in order to standardize, as much as possible, the scoring process. If USEF believes that dressage judges are so easily swayed by money, it is the fault of the system under which dressage judges are trained, and should be corrected at the source, not once judges are doing their jobs.
Requiring a General Rule which prohibits judges from entering into financial transactions with trainers and riders suggests that dressage judges can't be trusted to score with impartiality and objectivity. If dressage judges were going to routinely score with bias, subjectivity, or favoritism, we would already be seeing it. And if there are some judges who are known to score riders with a propensity for favoritism, then those judges should be dealt with accordingly.
A General Rule which ultimately bans judges from teaching private lessons is ridiculous and unnecessary (subsection n). A General Rule which prohibits riders from showing under a particular judge because her parents or trainer has had a financial transaction with a judge is ridiculous and unnecessary (subsection l). Rework the General Rules if necessary, but please consider that what is fair and best for one division, may not be fair and best for EVERY division.
USEF Member # 5149384
And that ends my soapbox rant for the week. Probably.
If you haven't heard about the proposed rule change to USEF's GR1304.1 - you need to look at it and respond. You can find a link to all of the proposed rule changes at this link, and a PDF of GR1304.3 is below ⬇.
You all know how much I loathe USEF, and this is just one more example of the way in which that organization is hell bent on ruining everyone's lives. As soon as I heard about the proposed changes to the rules, I fired off a comment to USEF and submitted it.
I can guarantee that there is not a single dressage judge in favor of this rule change. There can't be many trainers or riders who would want it either. I understand the purpose of the rule - to reduce the conflict of interest that may arise between judges and competitors, but in dressage, this rule would wipe out our pool of judges. And frankly, the conflict of interest this rule is attempting to rectify is simply not a widespread problem in the dressage world.
Below is my comment to USEF. I hope you'll agree and submit your own comment to USEF as well.
Submitted to USEF on Saturday, December 3, 2022
The adoption of General Rule 1304.1 subsection 3, should not be adopted as written. While the purpose of the rule ("Purpose: The conflict of interest rules for officials should match regardless of the division. By creating special exceptions based on the division or type of license, level playing fields are varied across the breeds and divisions.") is to reduce conflict of interest, that is not what it will achieve in the discipline of dressage. What it will do is either reduce the number of available dressage judges who can officiate, or prevent dressage judges from making a living.
Each equestrian discipline is unique with its own set of conflicts and needs. A one-size fits all approach such as GR 1304.1 will have the effect of creating conflicts rather than eliminating them.
The two main problems with GR1304.1.3 are the definition of client and the draconian step of insisting on permanent termination in the relationships between dressage judges and dressage instructors and clients.
Please consider the following:
A Judge’s client, employers, or employees;
What is the definition of client? How frequently must a rider receive instruction before that rider is deemed a "client?" If a rider takes a lesson once a month or twice a year, is that rider deemed a client? Please clarify with specificity what constitutes a client.
A rider whose parent, guardian, or instructor has had any financial transaction in connection with the sale, lease, board, or training of a horse with the Judge, unless the sale was made and fully concluded at public auction;
This rule, as written makes no sense unless "minor" rider is inserted, and even then, it is illogical as it relates to an instructor. An adult rider's parent's financial transactions with a judge should have no effect on an adult rider's eligibility to show with the same judge. For the same reason, why should an instructor's financial transaction with a judge affect that instructor's student's eligibility to show under that judge? A rider should not lose their eligibility to show under a particular judge because of the financial transactions that an instructor may make with a judge.
Consider this scenario: an instructor purchases a horse from a judge. Two years later, that same instructor gains a new client who intends to show. The show in their area is being judged by the previously mentioned judge. This rule would mean the rider cannot show. If the instructor purchased the horse from a trainer who lives across the country (or across the street), how could that be a conflict of interest for the rider? I suppose that a less scrupulous judge might show favoritism to the rider in hopes of future dealings with the trainer. This, however, is an issue where the judge should be recalled for additional training, not one where the rider should be prohibited from showing under judges with whom her trainer might have had a financial transaction.
A rider that has been instructed, coached, or tutored with or without pay by the Judge; and
i. The conducting of clinics or assistance in group activities, unless private instruction is given, will not be considered as instruction, coaching, or tutoring.
This means a rider may participate in a clinic and that instance will not be considered as instruction, coaching, or tutoring. This is very fair. However, the proposed change below is not.
The above relationships are permitted if the relationship has been permanently terminated at least 30 days prior to the start date of the competition.
This means that a rider who has been instructed, coached, or tutored by a judge can never show under that judge regardless of how infrequent that instruction may be. The ramifications of this rule change would effectively eliminate the judging pool or prohibit riders from learning from the very best trainers that the sport has to offer. And, how is anyone going to enforce this rule?
Consider this: Many adult amateur riders and professionals alike search out opportunities to receive occasional instruction from top judges in their area. These opportunities may happen in private lessons. To effectively prohibit this practice will penalize both riders and judges. Riders need these educational opportunities. Most judges do not make their living by merely judging. Many judges are instructors and clinicians as well.
As the USEF Board of Directors considers these rule changes at their 2023 Mid-Year Meeting, they should keep in mind that many equestrian sports have a very small pool of participants and judges. This means that they interact with each other much more frequently than in disciplines with far greater numbers. Dressage in particular is an intimate sport. By necessity, the paths of riders, instructors, and judges cross much more frequently than in many other equestrian disciplines. Riders seek out advice from the best in the best - judges. That is what judges are for, to give feedback which should allow a rider to improve. That is the definition of a feedback cycle.
Dressage judges already spend vast sums of money to become judges. Most are still competitors and instructors who have bills to pay. They earn their living by teaching, coaching, and judging. Making their client pool permanently ineligible to show in front of them will only serve to reduce the pool of judges.
General Rule 1304.1.3 as proposed should not be adopted. Instead, the previous language of 30 days etc. should remain. This "cool off" period is more than sufficient to eliminate possible conflicts of interest. It also permits riders to seek out and receive instruction from the sport's most knowledgeable resources - judges, and judges will be able to continue earning a living.
USEF Member Number: 5149384
One more thought tomorrow ...
Please give me a moment as I wait for my head to stop exploding. Oh, USEF, What. The. Frick.
I do not know if you truly and sincerely understand how much I absolutely, unequivocally, categorically despise the behemoth known as US Equestrian. To this day, some twelve years of membership later, I am still trying to figure out in what way this organization has done me, as an adult rider, a single ounce of good.
Shut up. I hear you already mumbling something about USEF being an organization who makes it possible for the sport to exist blah blah blah. No they don't. Schooling shows do just fine on their own. My own Group Member Organization, the California Dressage Society (CDS), offers fabulous awards and educational opportunities that have given me tremendous motivation. The United States Dressage Federation (USDF), our sport's national governing body, does even more with even fewer of my membership dollars. Both USDF and CDS are in touch with their members and are genuinely here to serve.
USEF offers me nothing in return for my membership dues. I get a card that says I can compete as an amateur. I get a worthless magazine that has no appeal to me as a rider who has zero aspiration (or means) to compete on the international stage. So what good is this organization? In my opinion, USEF is a a group of bureaucrats whose sole purpose for existing is to bilk grassroots riders out of their money in an effort to line their own pockets and serve their own greedy interests. So what has me riled up this week? This pathetic message that was sent out on Tuesday.
Lexington, Ky. - In support of action taken at the Mid-Year Board meeting, the USEF Board of Directors approved an Extraordinary Rule change to GR 202.1 Membership Requirements amending the approved use of Show Passes effective 12/1/22.
The emphasis is mine. An extraordinarily sucky rule change is right. And yes, it "streamlined" something - your money heading straight into USEF's pocket. They thought they'd fool us into thinking they've done something good for us. They haven't. What they've done is made it even more expensive for those riders who only want to show once or twice a year. Riders who maybe don't have more than one or two shows that are within driving distance. Riders who can't afford to do more than one or two shows a year.
Now, those riders have to pay for a full membership, which by the way is more than I pay to be a member of CDS and a group member of USDF combined. And how about those horse show moms and dads? The ones who just want to give their kiddos an opportunity to play an individual sport. Those moms and dads who want to coach their own kiddos now need to fork over annual dues as well. Want to know what else all "senior members" in good standing have to do? They have to take USEF's worthless SafeSport training every year.
I am not generally a conspiracy theorist, but I'm three-quarters of the way through Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Google it if it's not on your radar. Holy cow. Shit's gettin' real. I am over this current notion that Americans need to be forced into doing someone else's version of what is "right" - à la SafeSport. I do not need some jackass in Washington (or Lexington) tinkering with my moral compass. I can take care of that on my own. I am not molesting kids, and if I were, we'll let the police take care of it. Oh, wait. Those same jackasses wanted to defund the police.
This idea that self-appointed individuals in our society should somehow have the right to decide what is in everyone else's best interest horrifies me. Has no one ever read a book? When we give up control of our lives, nothing good EVER comes of it.
Shame on you, USEF. Shame on you. And you know what? Shame on me for continuing to be a member of an organization that disgusts me.
I know that Dover isn't everyone's favorite tack store, but you have to admit, they run good sales if you're willing to dig through the sale emails and/or settle for something other than your favorite color. I've been doing a lot of Dover shopping these past few weeks which means I've been watching my email pretty closely. That's where Dover slips in all those good deals. Here's one I saw last week.
I am already a USEF member of course, but if you don't show, a fan membership might be just the ticket. And of course, 10% off every Dover purchase makes the price of that free membership even more attractive.
I hate US Equestrian, but I love saving money.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: