A New and Bold Vision for US Equestrian (Federation)
US Equestrian Convention Photos
There were a lot of bold statements coming out of this year’s United States Equestrian Federation annual meeting, beginning with a name change to US Equestrian, logo change and a vision of “Joy” for the organization.
So much was happening that was “new” that it was sometimes hard to accept as true. However, continued reinforcement by CEO Bill Moroney and newly elected president, Murray Kessler, made many of us believers.
New visions, new ways of running things, invitations encouraging media to attend and press conferences (something unheard of in the past) encouraged those of us covering the event to trust that acceptance of past mistakes and a determination to make strong changes were more than just words.
“A USEF focused on customer service, meets the needs of our members and engages its membership,” was how Moroney sees the “new” US Equestrian.
Other major changes included reducing the number of committees thus allowing the members to be more focused and make better use of their time, as many were on more than one committee with redundant agendas.
Throughout the convention there was an emphasis on certain phrases and a variety of repeated comments such as:
- We are all one family. Together we can do more.
- We must collectively ensure this sport is fair.
- A new non-discrimination policy is key.
- Integrity in the decision making is critical.
- For drugs & medications: Not testing more but testing smart and targeted to potential areas of abuse.
- Implementing, see something, say something.
- For the Budget: You must live within your means.
- Cheaters and cheating must be eliminated from the sport.
- The importance of transparency.
- Pathways from the grass roots to the Olympic Games must be generated.
- Together we can bring the “joy” of horse sports to as many people as possible.
- And my favorite: Positive feedback makes me feel better – Negative feedback makes me better.
One of the key innovative changes was adopting the “Joy” campaign and the idea that spending time with horses is fun. This was implemented with the addition of a wide variety of photos emphasizing the horse through the “O” in jOy.
The “Joy” campaign is based on the concept that horses bring everyone together and that it’s the feeling, the community, the human-animal connection, that is the cornerstone of this new movement.
This has also been supported by a newly designed website that is more informative and easier to navigate.
Another positive addition are the short training videos about topics that are important to the various members of US Equestrian. These include athletes offering five step approaches to competing, grooms providing advice on how to take care of a horse after competing, and other important topics that horse enthusiasts can learn from.
One more encouraging addition is bringing Vicki Lowell in as the Chief Marketing and Content Officer. Vicki’s background includes working at Animal Planet and being heavily involved with the Washington International Horse Show, where she still holds the title of president of the board among other things. She has also been instrumental in helping to create the training videos.
One of the important issues emphasized by Vicki was to “know and grow” its membership by keeping them happy and wanting to stay a member. Her vision is that retaining membership is done by marketing content that inspires and informs. Partner outreach, athlete engagement and an emphasis on social media is also necessary.
Increased recognition of the efforts of staff members is clearly part of this new US Equestrian. At many times throughout the various sessions someone would acknowledge the great work staff members did to get their job done by putting in the necessary effort and hours to achieve positive results.
New safe sport policies were also implemented in December and the USEF has been working closely with the USOC to ensure sexual misconduct and sexual abuse is addressed. The goal is to have uniformity and keep those individuals out of all sports, including the equestrian disciplines.
What those involved in this new change have emphasized is that this is a 24/7 plan. Watching the leaders in action makes it clear that many of them are workaholics, which this present effort will require in order to succeed.
When the weekend came to a close and CEO Bill Moroney was asked the three key issues he felt are most important they were:
- Customer Service
- Enjoyment of the sport
When Murray Kessler was asked that same question his response was:
- Providing more access at the grassroots level
- Finding the resources to be able to grow
- A commitment to making a strong stand on cheating
A large part of the annual meeting is about presenting awards to those deserving them. For some it was to thank them for their annual successes and for others their achievements. One of the major awards is the Lifetime Achievement Award, which this year was given to Larry Langer, whose endless devotion to horses and horse sports was the significant reason for his selection.
In Larry’s acceptance speech he often repeated that he is not finished yet and “Wow!” That “wow” came from the many memories he recalled over his lifetime, including officiating at the 1996 Olympic Games as well as a host of other successes. For him, age will never be a factor. His determination to continue to enjoy the sport he loves and make it even better goes without question.
Another significant award was given to outgoing president Chrystine Tauber, for her years of service not only to the USEF but also over her lifetime. She was honored with The Equestrian of the Year award. She began her career as a successful rider and course designer and continues to guide and improve the rules and regulations of governance on many levels.
The recipients of the William Steinkraus Trophy were Phillip Dutton (who garnered both an eventing individual and team bronze medal in the Rio Olympic Games) and Laura Graves (who was a member of the bronze medal dressage team). Mighty Nice, ridden by Dutton in Rio, was the recipient of the International Horse of the Year. David and Becky Gochman’s horse, Catch Me, garnered the Horse of the Year title.
Hunt Tosh won the Emerson Burr Trophy for his endless list of successes in hunter competition.
For a complete list of award winners and to learn more about US Equestrian, visit the website at www.usequestrian.org.