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Inspired by a post in TPH Adult Ammy lounge, the origin of the USHJA Green Hunter Incentive

In a now-deleted post in TPH lounge, there was a pretty interesting discussion going on about the incredible cost of competing in the Green Hunter National Championships. One of the more hotly contested comments was that the Nationals aren’t meant to be for everyone, and are not meant to be accessible. It’s for the “best of the best” and so that means its okay that there’s such a high cost to enter. One individual mentioned that they’d interviewed a professional who had worked her whole life to show their with her homebred horse, and that this was an example that the event should only be for the cream of the crop.

While a lot of these comments gave the ick, it did make me curious as to the origin of the Green Hunter Incentive and oh boy was it interesting. I’ll link the article here, from the founder of the Incentive back when it was the Pre-Greens that has since morphed into the Greens as we know it, but will include the most fascinating quotes below.

There’s nothing wrong with going to Europe to buy a horse. There you see quality horses with more mileage in greater numbers than what you’ll typically see in the United States. And often times you can see more of a finished product. But with the right incentive program in this country, we may be able to develop more of that same opportunity here as well.

Many of us really enjoy training pre-green horses and developing hunters. For many people, budget alone will direct them to a pre-green horse. By developing an incentive program there’s a way to compete your young horse without overtaxing him, and there’s more of a chance that you’ll be able to develop a pre-green horse and recoup some of your investment.

Our goal is to provide an inclusive, stable, reputable, accessible and level-appropriate high-money competition as an incentive to develop young hunters here in this country.

In my vision, being inclusive also means having a final where we can have huge numbers of pre-green horses from across the country. To participate in the final you would have to be enrolled—a reasonable fee that funds the pot for the final—but otherwise the requirements for participating in the final would be extremely minimal, maybe just competing in one or two of the qualifying classes through the season. We don’t want anyone to over-show his or her horse to qualify, and we do want to encourage everyone to come to the final!

Part of being inclusive means paying out money beyond the top tier. I’m not a big proponent of giving all the money to the top players at the championship. In both the hunter and the reining worlds, you’ll always have the top players, and it would be very discouraging to the second tier, much less the third tier, if they thought they didn’t have a chance. More people need to win more money in the hunter world!

So what do you think?

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Well… that’s certainly not what the Green Hunter Incentive has turned into, I’ll say that.


Same goes for derby finals. They all originate as great ideas, then the same ol’ players come along and turn them the 385th hunter class of the week.


It’s such a shame, I wish there would be SOME effort by Ushja/usef to course correct. It’s the same issue as every hunter class though, the judges reward what they like, and they like to be put to sleep. But until people stop presenting them with horses that are going like that/coming from those players it’s gonna be business as usual, No matter how many programs/finals ushja puts together.


I don’t think the “way of going” is the issue though. It’s the costs to compete.

This isn’t how the finals are. Not anymore.

It’s become a pro division, the finals were starting midday on a Tuesday the week a lot of kids went back to school. This means the regular amateur or pro that works outside the industry can’t participate easily, or even go watch. It’s hard to create excitement for a “championship” that isn’t accessible. And it makes the whole thing very expensive, because now you the regular “budget conscious” person are paying a pro to campaign the horse as well. Might as well import something and start showing it in other divisions :woman_shrugging:t3:.


I was confused by some of the comments on that thread, since the poster was clearly asking about the cost to participate (not go with the potential winner). My understanding was that as of this year, the requirement of “qualifying” was eliminated. I know someone locally that took a cute but not fancy horse, had respectable trips in the mid/high 60s, and went home. At that point your price to play is the cost of enrollment in the program and showing at the venue - certainly more expensive for those not nearby, but necessarily that much more cost-prohibitive than any bigger away show.


candidly i was much more frustrated that piper took it upon herself to say that shows like this don’t need to be accessible, when the initial purpose of this particular show was, in fact, to be accessible.


And yet that sounds exactly like something she would say. I’m not sure how she is so blatantly unable to read the room, has zero self-awareness or sense of how her attitude presents and yet people continue to read her publication. It boggles the mind.


I don’t disagree! I just felt like some of the comments were similarly out of touch.

So, is the green hunter incentive program limited to N. American bred horses? If so, then it could, in theory, encourage more NA breeding. If it’s open to everyone, then it’s just a race to the bottom, again.

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Most definitely not.

From the USHJA website:

The Green Hunter Incentive Program is open to horses of any age that are eligible to compete as a green hunter at 3’0", 3’3", 3’6" or 3’9" fence heights under United States Equestrian Federation rules.

It is a professional hunter division and costs a pretty penny to even start the process. I had one in it. It’s like $450 to even register for the membership, if I recall? That’s not entries or any show costs, just to be eligible to qualify.
Those horses aren’t your wild and young hunters out there swapping leads, spooking at shadows, and wide-eyed. Nope, they’re horses that have been out there doing the baby greens, the young hunters, the USHJA 2’6/2’9 classes, and now have finally stepped up into the bigger stage… usually to be determined if they’re contenders for higher or being made up for amateurs and juniors.
You want to go and be competitive? You need a well-known pro and a minimum of a 200k budget… and even that seems on the Iow side., if your expectation is going there with the intention to walk out with a score in the 80’s or a ribbon.
Sure, you can import one, but you’re gonna sink a few years and tens of thousands of dollars in solid horse show miles before it’s going to be ready to really shine.
If you just want to go and have fun… great, but I believe from the OP on TPH, they were looking for one that would be reasonably competitive and the sheer sticker shock in some folks was certainly amusing.


There was also a follow up post by someone else at TPH in the same group who had the same tune, which is disappointing, but also not surprising when you see someone’s cover photo and it’s a picture of them competing at a prestigious show that is unattainable for most in the sport.

I could not agree more with this post. I think there is a difference between “going and competing” and “going and COMPETING (for a ribbon and money.) while yes, the former still does require the large registration fee and showing at a few shows to “qualify” you could certainly take a 3’ green hunter with a sticky lead change that can get around the step to Finals. The show itself is going to cost a bit and that atmosphere and how they build those jumps might be shocking for a regularly local A - B level horse. But nothing limits that competitor from going, probably no more than a regular “A” show season budget of carefully selected shows.

It’s the “reasonably competitive” budget that makes me laugh that people are so up in arms over. I think the title “Green Hunter” maybe gets some less exposed people confused. These are the top tier animals really “debuting” on the championship stage. To your point, they’ve BEEN showing in the baby greens, age hunters, ushja and now they’re maybe in year 2 or 3 or god even 4+ of showing and the winners are QUALITY animals. Is it a departure from the original intention? Sure, maybe. But as with anything in this sport - if you have a hunter, the difference between scoring a 90 in the 3’6 finals and getting around the course in the 60s is far and wide when you think about the cost of the animal and the related training and program costs.

I might be in the minority but I think that “accessible” does not necessarily equal “equal chance at winning” when you have the horseflesh card in question. An unfortunate truth of the horse sporting world. I myself fall on the “hey, we just want to say we did it and get a nice picture” side of the coin :joy:


Same, girl, same.
I legit said to someone the other day… " When I try something that’s a bit intimidating…my new goal is to get around and over at least 3 jumps, so I have a few photo options." They cracked up. We all have our motivational drivers… glad we share some!


Like everything usef they are out to exclude everyone but the elite showing 3/4 weeks a month. Our industry and organization aren’t going to stray from this narrative. Remember when WEC was suppose to be the cheaper option? It’s just as expensive as WEF.

Change doesn’t happen in our sport. It’s been this way from the get go.


I hear ya and totally agree, but my point is that that was not the original purpose of it. In a time when so many things in this sport are out of reach, it would be nice to have one event that the average person can compete and have a chance in.

That being said, I absolutely agree with just trying to get over fences sometimes (…as witnessed by my post history lmao), but wouldn’t it be nice to feel like there’s a big event out there that you could qualify for and not have to pay the equivalent of a mortgage to compete?

Correct. I sold one who is on this trajectory for a decently pretty penny. She was imported by me and showed in the 2’6" twice before being sold, then had the remainder of 2022 at the 2’6" last year, and a full year at the 2’9" this year, with the goal of targeting the incentive in the 3’ next year. They have almost certainly spent her purchase price in showing and campaigning her, with the intention of her ultimately being a junior hunter for the owner’s young daughter.

I have a very fancy one I will aim at the 3’ next year if I don’t sell him before next year but that will almost certainly include perhaps 10-12 shows in the 3’ before KY.

It’s basically more expensive. My trainer just crunched the numbers and we are going to WEF…

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Yeah, but so what? There is a whole world of H/J horse showing out there that isn’t USEF. USEF is for the people with deep pockets. That’s not me, so I go someplace else. For me, that someplace else is a very nice local circuit, where I can go to 7 nice 2-day shows/year for a tiny fraction of what it costs to go to rated shows.

The world is full of things that most of us can’t afford. There are many sports where the upper levels are populated entirely by people who have the big bucks or are bankrolled by people with big bucks. Horse showing is not an isolated example.