US Equestrian’s 2019 Annual Meeting: The Take-Home Points

January 28th, 2019

(Photos © Taylor Pence)

Entering the third year of the Strategic Plan, US Equestrian President Murray Kessler told Annual Meeting attendees that equestrian sport’s national governing body has much to celebrate and more to accomplish

US Equestrian members gathered in sunny West Palm Beach, Fla., in January for the organization’s Annual Meeting, where President Murray Kessler had good news to report and paid glowing tributes to US Equestrian’s many members and volunteers.

The meeting’s theme, “Members Make it Happen,” seemed especially appropriate at a time when U.S. equestrians are still basking in a season of outstanding results, including 12 medals (three of them gold) at last fall’s FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018. But Kessler pointed out that, in addition to the unprecedented sporting accomplishments the U.S. achieved last year, US Equestrian members—including active competitors, volunteers, licensed officials, and fans—are “making it happen” in many crucial ways, both in competition and behind the scenes.

During his keynote presentation at the meeting’s General Session, Kessler noted that the membership has grown dramatically since US Equestrian implemented its ambitious Strategic Plan in 2017. Kessler reported that membership has jumped by 35% since the plan’s launch and by 76% since 2016, for a total of more than 144,000.

That’s powered growth in other important areas, too. Revenues have climbed, rising eight percent, while the organization’s reserves are up 16% since the Strategic Plan’s implementation. Sponsorship, too, continues to expand; the 12 sponsors added in 2018 bring the total number of partners and sponsors to 69.

Kessler described the Strategic Plan’s five-step “virtuous circle” that has led to this growth, and he detailed key developments and accomplishments for each step in 2018:

Step 1: Improve Core Processes and Capabilities
-- US Equestrian’s new headquarters, scheduled to open in 2019, will save over $300,000 annually
-- Outsourcing the USEF lab to the University of Kentucky, where Dr. Scott Stanley will oversee laboratory operations
-- Other initiatives, including creation of a Calendar Management Task Force, competition management training, and new rule-change communications and deadlines

Step 2: Ensure Safety, Fairness, and Enjoyment for Members
-- Safe Sport became a major topic of conversation in 2018 with Congress passing a law authorizing the U.S. Center for SafeSport to respond to reports of sexual misconduct within the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic movement, including US Equestrian. US Equestrian passed a rule that all adult competing members age 18 and older must have completed the three-module SafeSport training by January 1, 2019, in order to be eligible to compete at USEF-licensed events.
US Equestrian also launched the “You Are Not Alone” campaign to raise awareness of the importance of Safe Sport and the training. More than 33,000 adult competing members have completed the training to date.
-- A new therapeutic use exemption status for pergolide was announced
-- The Equine Transaction Transparency Task Force was formed and activated to focus on education, transparency, and enforcement
-- USEF Lite (formerly Competition Lite) has added 80 new competitions to the calendar that were not previously licensed by USEF. US Equestrian continues to reach out to the grassroots level of the sport and alliance partners to grow this program.
-- The USEF Disaster Relief Fund passed the $1 million mark in total funds raised

Step 3: Provide a sufficient pathway for athletes to win at the highest levels and inspire the next generation
-- 116 USEF National Championships were awarded across the disciplines.
-- Unprecedented wins in U.S. sport in 2018 included
o U.S. Saddle Seat Team won two gold medals at the Saddle Seat World Cup
o 12 medals won at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018, including three gold medals, five silver medals, and four bronze medals
o Top of the world rankings for both a U.S. jumping and U.S. dressage athlete
-- Top-tier leadership for the U.S. team
-- New sport development initiatives, such as the combined driving navigator’s course, have proven that investment in these programs and others is bringing growth to the sport
-- The Adequan® FEI North American Youth Championships presented by Gotham North received a complete makeover.

Step 4: Marketing Spreads the Word
-- The Joy Tour made over 20 stops across the country at events like the WEG, Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association national championships, and more. In October, the tour made its way to the Grand National & World Championship Morgan Horse Show®. Coverage of this prestigious competition included two press releases, live updates on the @USEquestrian Instagram story, and a photo gallery shared to Facebook.
-- The Joy campaign continues through television, print, social media, and events across the breeds and disciplines.
-- US Equestrian magazine returned to print, with four issues reaching all members for a total of about 360,000 mailed issues.
-- The USEF Network helped drive membership and value, adding 33,512 members, streaming over 50 events, with over 1 million plays, and 300,000 hours of on-demand content viewed.
-- The Learning Center released 20 new videos in 2018, with 270,000 total views and 28 videos sponsored. SmartPak came on board as a Gold Level Learning Center sponsor.

Step 5: Resulting in Growing Membership, as described in the membership growth figures mentioned above.

Following Kessler’s report, senior staff—led by US Equestrian CEO Bill Moroney—elaborated on 2018 results and 2019 projects. Here are some of the take-home messages from those reports:
-- Safe Sport: As part of its continuing commitment to Safe Sport, US Equestrian will implement policies protecting minors and roll out SafeSport training for youth athletes by the end of the first quarter.
-- National Breeds and Affiliates: Priorities this year include promoting and enhancing USEF national (non-FEI) championships, simplifying the USEF Lettering Program, continuing U.S. Saddle Seat Young Riders Teams development and preparing for the 2020 Saddle Seat World Cup Team Trials; continuing work with affiliates for growth opportunities.
-- Affiliate Status: Working with affiliates, US Equestrian aims to develop clear affiliate status requirements, complete affiliate agreements, and establish regular progress meetings in 2019 and beyond.
-- Rule Enforcement and Hearings: Plans call for education and transparency around the rules and hearing processes.
-- Finance and Operations: In an effort to reduce members’ costs, US Equestrian is working to automate post-competition reports, implement paperless credit-card transactions, establish an automatic member call-back service, and offer a telephonic membership renewal process for Customer Care.
-- Information and Technology: A “flex membership” concept is under consideration in an effort to remove the Show Pass burden from competition organizers.
-- Competition and Athlete Services: In an effort to lower barriers for organizers and members, US Equestrian is working to refine the competition management program, provide FEI online entry training athletes, and automate online entries.
-- Licensed Officials: A new online application system, a new clinic information request system with affiliates, and clinic calendar promotions are the top goals for 2019.
-- Marketing and Communications: Evaluating competing and fan member benefits, strategic investment for exclusive content distribution for USEF Network, and expanding and optimizing sponsor programs for maximum impact are current priorities.
-- Drugs and Medications: The department is working on implementing online-only filing of Medication Report Forms. Also under consideration: enhanced sample-collection training for veterinarians, as well as educating athletes on sample collection and supplement research.
-- Compliance: Plans include increasing venue evaluations, town halls and forums, more education about the compliance program, and working with affiliates to develop and refine competition standards.
-- International Sport Development: Goals include setting performance indicators for each athlete; identifying and aiding development of and recognition of young athletes; developing world-class coaches, managers, chefs d’equipe, and licensed officials; enhancing the Sports Science and Medicine programs; and more.


Watch US Equestrian President Murray Kessler’s entire presentation and other highlights from US Equestrian’s 2019 Annual Meeting online at usef.org. Simply hover your cursor over the Network & News heading, then click "USEF Network."

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