What Matters? Facts Matter.
Published Date: Aug 29, 2019
And it was with that spirit that the American Saddlebred Horse Association (ASHA) invited the President and Executive Vice President of the Arabian Horse Association (AHA), Nancy Harvey and Glenn T. Petty respectively to present the findings of the AHA Ad Hoc Committee to study the viability of leaving the USEF. And, at a breakfast meeting on Thursday, August 22 at the Crown Plaza Hotel attended by about 50 interested people, that is what Nancy and Glenn did—they presented their procedures for the study, their thought process, their challenges. They answered questions forthrightly. Their goal was to study creating an organization from scratch that would not have any dropoff of quality of services to their membership. Here are some highlights:
Photo by Allie Layos courtesy of Saddle & Bridle Magazine
- The Ad Hoc Committee’s work was anonymous and confidential until presented to the board: Nancy reiterated over and over how important she thought it was for the Ad Hoc study committee to be anonymous through the process. Although the members are public knowledge now, she wanted them to be free from influence to do their job and be independent. Not an easy task in the world of social media.
- The Ad Hoc Committee was thorough. They studied so many different organizations. They studied and contacted a number of breed organizations who are not affiliated with the USEF—the Quarter Horses, the Pintos, and many more. They studied other non-profits outside the industry. They had the past budget director of Microsoft and the EVP doing the financial pro formas. They studied the relationship between Equine Canada and the USEF. They were thorough and deliberate and independent.
- Though the AHA Board of Directors voted 29-0 to stay with the USEF, Nancy and Glenn both reiterated that many members of their Association remain dissatisfied with the USEF. If you read the PowerPoint they issued, you would notice that this isn’t the first time the AHA considered disaffiliating with the USEF and its predecessor organizations. They have issues of representation. They have issues of communication. They have issues of policy implementation. In short, they have continuing issues, much like the ASHA. But, in the end, and for now, they believe that the risks of leaving outweigh the challenges of staying. And they state with great clarity in their report, they recommend to “review of [USEF] relationship will be ongoing, with an anticipated result of a stronger equestrian community for all breeds and national affiliates.” That means, “let’s work together to make things better.”
- And…it’s not about Safe Sport. Glenn went out of his way to say that their challenges with the USEF affiliation is not about Safe Sport. He said this predates Safe Sport legislation and that because the AHA (as is the ASHA) a sport dealing with youth going across state lines, you can’t escape the Safe Sport legislation.
- There’s a lot of risk in leaving. In the end, the big concern was the unknown around the question of “What if we leave”. They pointed out that their financial pro forma had a $500,000 swing between best case and worst case scenario on an overall budget of roughly $1 million. They stated they put $100,000 in the budget for legal fees but acknowledged that if a serious law suit were to occur, that $100,000 would just be the tip of the iceberg and could be very significantly more. They also talked a great deal about how to set up a hearing process to adjudicate disputes. They already have an Ethical Practices Review Panel but felt that isn’t sufficient to adjudicate things that happen at shows like drug disputes, among others.
- They feel as though, if AHA were to leave the USEF, there is the perception that fees will go away, or be reduced. In their pro forma financials, that is clearly not the case because of the need to not lose money for the organization as stated earlier.
- Rules, judging, officials are a big concern. There are many big concerns related to these topics. For example, they talked at length about the challenges concerning FEI disciplines like Dressage and the rules related. The rules are copyrighted by the USEF. The tests are copyrighted by the USEF. The judges are licensed through the USEF for those disciplines. They believed recreating or sourcing of those things would present challenge and diversion.
- They were not willing to take money from “non-showing members” and reallocate to “showing” members. They stated that they have a large and very diverse membership (as does the ASHA) and that roughly 50 percent of their members don’t show and so join the AHA for other reasons. They also stated that it was predominantly the “showing” members who have challenges with the USEF. So, they didn’t feel it was appropriate to take focus away from the interests of 50% of their members to address the concerns of some proportion of the other 50% of the members. As they stated and bolded in their Power Point presentation: “QUESTION: Would investing heavily in competition rules and processes deflect investment in other areas of equine activities to the detriment of our membership?”
- Progress is being made in USEF. Finally, they talked about the progress that has been made with the USEF since the national affiliates, both breed and discipline, banded together in January. Though incremental, it has given them hope that further progress can and will be made through collective efforts of the national affiliates.
In the end, and at the crux, was the belief that it would take between 12 and 18 months to set up a new organization that would replicate, and as stated earlier in this What Matters column, an organization where the members and customers of the ASA would see no dropoff in the quality of services provided. They recognized this challenge as a tall order, one to be taken seriously, and with the risk that the USEF might “invite” them to leave earlier if they state their intentions to leave.