From Endurance to Dressage
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 ...
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
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Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
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(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
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