US eventing rule change proposals

It looks like they have revised the proposed changes to the MERs to be much more reasonable and actually showed some statistics supporting why they decided on 6 MERs.

“Fall rates are reduced by at least half when riders have six or more MERs prior to moving up a level. At Preliminary, horse falls go from 1:240 starts (<6 MERs) to 1:556 starts (≥ 6 MERs). Intermediate shows the greatest difference at 1:70 vs 1:251, and Advanced at 1:44 vs 1:88.”

The proposal to add a second TD is interesting. I agree the TD is often spread too thin, but this would certainly impact a lot of HTs in Area II, since they are almost all one-days with SJ and XC running concurrently.

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I’m ok with adding more MERs before Preliminary and Intermediate and Advanced. I wonder when it would go into effect. I was surprised at how fast that the show jumping 20 penalty maximum went into effect this year. I was seeing the CRs (compulsory retirement) in July. It looks like the change could include making an MER mean you have to get a 45 or better on your test. The sport is really changing.

Good! I love to see that.

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Jealoushe- why do you say good about lowering the MER dressage score from 50 to 45? Honestly wondering.

A note on the CR rule in SJ. I think it’s ridiculous that the rule was passed as a purported safety measure to keep horses that can’t cleanly do the show jumping from going out on XC, where the jumps don’t fall down. That’s all well and good, but why, then, do people still get eliminated when SJ is held after XC? If it’s all about allowing a potentially dangerous horse not to go out on XC, I don’t get why we’re eliminating combinations that safely, and most often cleanly (no stops), made it around the XC. The rider wouldn’t be getting a MER from the weekend anyways, so I don’t understand why the USEA has to rub salt in that wound by also eliminating them. Riders don’t get letters for having a single stop on XC, even if it doesn’t count as a MER, and yet they do when they knock 5+ rails in the SJ, even after completing the XC phase.

I don’t mind the new requirement for 6 MERs and appreciate that there is actual data to back it up- rather than, say, one upper level rider saying that on average, they take a horse training 10 times before they move it up to prelim (and all 10 of those trainings go perfectly and receive MERs).

I am, however, deeply concerned about the part of the proposed rule that requires that a horse have received a MER within 8 weeks of a show. So putting that in to practice means that after giving my horse this winter off from competing, I must enter my confirmed prelim horse, who has three solid seasons at prelim under his belt, in a training. It’s not the worst idea at the beginning of the season, but the decision is being taken out of my hands even if I’ve done all the homework, had schooling outings prior to entering my first 2022 recognized event, and feel like my horse and I are both ready to tackle a preliminary course. Also, where I live, the ground turns to concrete in the mid to late summer. Let’s say that I run my horse from April through the end of June and then concentrate on USDF and USHJA shows. Or even just concentrate on combined tests and other schooling shows. We’re still competing, I’m still taking lessons, and we’re still schooling XC questions in the ring. I’m just not pounding on his legs and feet for the months of July and August. Come September, I want to enter my fit, prepared horse in a preliminary event and my Level IV ICP instructor agrees that it’s an ok idea. But- I can’t. I have to run a training. And only then can I run the prelim. And let’s say this horse moves up to intermediate eventually and in an ideal world, he runs a whole season at intermediate and is solidly an intermediate horse. The next spring, after stepping back from competing during the winter, we have to run a training. Then a prelim. THEN an intermediate. Or the next summer, I either have to keep running him at prelim/intermediate over the hard ground, or otherwise I have to move down to training, then to prelim, THEN to intermediate. I think that this bad for both riders and horses. It’s going to encourage riders to give their horses less breaks from competing and/or from spending time competing in other disciplines to iron out issues and improve specific phases. It’s also going to put more financial strain on adult amateurs that don’t travel south and/or who try to economize their budget by weighing the costs of lessons, schooling opportunities, and a full competition calendar with a show every 8 weeks to keep qualifications “current”.

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Is this the case every time or just the first time you move up a level?

I thought the MERs were about moving up a level and once you were confirmed at that level (I.e., received a MER at the new level), then you were set to continue competing at that level. But I can’t find that anywhere in the rule book, so maybe I am confused. But I do not think there is any way you would have to go back to Training after doing a season of Intermediate.

I agree with Gardenhose. Although it is not explicit in the proposed new rules, I think the intention is that the “within 8 weeks” refers to the first time the horse or rider moves up to the next level. Not when you pick up at the same level after a winter break. But it would be worth submitting that as a comment.

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The problem with having a vagueness in the rules is that it can be interpreted different ways. Perhaps the USEA should reconsider its wording and clarify, because as it’s written right now, it’s open to interpretation, and I am NOT comfortable with that. Perhaps it’s my training as a lawyer speaking, but I think the implications of a proposed rule should be considered under its strictest, to-the-letter reading. If the USEA is going to attempt to legislate its populace into safety, it should at least do so in a clear manner.

Edited to add: I already voiced my concerns about this in the USEA’s survey. I also voiced my concerns about the new TD requirement. I don’t think it’s a bad idea, but I also foresee it making large events even more expensive than they already are if a second TD must be hired.

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Actually, the rule about being established at a level is there, but it is under EV 105, Loss of Qualifications, instead of the section about the MERs, which is why I didn’t see it earlier:

“EV105 Loss of Qualifications

For certain levels of competition, horses and riders must meet qualifying requirements. Those requirements are de-tailed in Appendix 3. Loss of these requirements (qualifications) is outlined below and pertains to any combination of Federation and FEI Events.

  1. ESTABLISHMENT OF QUALIFICATION

When a horse and/or rider obtains a Minimum Eligibility Requirement (MER) at a level, then they are “established” (qualified to compete) at that level. This “establishment” does not expire; however, it is important to remember that in all cases, when entering an Event at the CCI1* level or above, at least one MER must be obtained in the 12 month period prior to the competition.”

So if your horse is established at Prelim, you should not have to go back out at Training to start the season unless you lose your qualifications based on one of the reasons outlined in EV 105. However, I agree that it would be useful for them to clarify the wording around the new time limits.

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In times past, the three phases of eventing were testing particular things. Dressage being about training, suppleness and straightness, obedience. Endurance and xc was about stamina, fitness, courage and partnership. SJ was another test of training as the horse jumps in a different style over the show jumps and, most particularly, courage, stamina and fitness since the third phase asks a tired horse to try again after the previous day’s mammoth effort.

Modern world, we now have short format eventing. Dressage is still testing training, obedience and preparation. One reason for having MERs based on dressage score is because it offers a crude but quantifiable indication of training and preparation. Someone who can not obtain a minimum score steering around lines and circles on the flat probably hasn’t got sufficient riding skill to go xc. Or their horse isn’t prepared sufficiently to go over jumps. Or everyone is having a bad day: tough luck, it’s horses.

The SJ may take place before or after the xc, for practical organisational reasons, but it is still testing preparation, training. A MER based on SJ scores works because a horse regularly demolishing a significant number of show jumps offers a fairly crude but nonetheless quantifiable measure of training and preparation before xc.

The xc is still testing training, stamina, courage etc and, in these times of more technical fences, is also about straightness, balance and adjustability and that is where dressage training particularly helps xc performance. There are multiple ways to penalize minor errors and big problems, such a three refusals at the same fence or a fall, lead to “letters”. Actually a lot more penalties than in the SJ phase. Evidence indicates it tends to be the same horses and/or the same riders who fall or fault xc. MERs offer a crude but quantifiable means to weed out those horses and riders and to keep them at a level suitable for their ability. Some riders are cr*p even if they can’t admit it.

A horse penalized or eliminated in SJ is penalized or eliminated because it failed to jump clean in the arena. Nothing whatsoever to do with previous performance in xc. Not a safety issue. Overall, it has failed the test specific to that phase. For practical purposes, keeping consistent rules about faults and penalties across all show jumping, at any level, makes sense. These rules are international.

It is precisely the subtle interplay, the interaction of the three phases that makes Eventing such a fascinating sport. It is fairly easy to find a horse good at two things but it takes immense skill and many years of training to make a horse that is consistent at all three.

MERs are a base line measure, an indicator, a threshold to cross, not an objective or target in themselves. Most importantly, just because the MER has been achieved, it does not mean the combination is ready or experienced enough to move up.

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I wonder if the TD could use an assistant or two, not to make decisions but to filter and organize the requests so the TD can be directed to the most urgent things while someone is making sure no balls get dropped. I would guess someone is doing this already but making it more official might help things flow more smoothly.

Continually asking the person who’s trying to get stuff done whether they have done your thing only delays the entire process. This is why we have an ‘incident commander’ at work when something goes wrong – this is not the person actually fixing it, it’s the person keeping everyone else informed about what is happening.

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I like @wsmoak’s idea of an assistant to the TD. If two TD’s have the same decision-making authority, there will need to be clarity and transparency on whose decision is whose for the policy to actually increase efficiency and improve outcomes.

That is already the case. If there are two TDs, only one fills out the TD report. The other TD is called the assistant TD. The assistant TD can (and does) make decisions “in the field of play”, but defers to the main TD in any final resolution.

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Because the CR rule needs to be consistent across horse trials, regardless of what order the show runs the phases. Not really rubbing salt in a wound, just maintaining the same rules in each competition.

Potentially, that could encourage riders whose horse has a hard time getting through SJ without rails to seek out competitions where stadium is last to avoid getting eliminated.

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Why would this be a bad thing if the point of the rule is to keep them safe on cross country and their horse does cross country safely?

Now that I typed that I suppose it would be a bad thing if their horse was dangerous at cross country and knocked rails in stadium.

If a horse does fantastic dressage, zips around xc clear and within the time but constantly, regularly, every time has multiple poles down in SJ well, sorry, but your horse isn’t an eventer. If your horse regularly and consistently has dressage scores in the 60/70 + but zips around clear xc and clear SJ, well, sorry, your horse isn’t an eventer. Eventers have to perform adequately over all three phases. That is what makes the eventer a special horse. Obviously, we all have bad days and horses are horses but, like “luck”, eventing performance tends to get better with effective practice. Alternatively, the horse is telling you something.

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It’s not just about how the horse ran XC and SJ that day though. The stats suggest that they are more likely to have a fall on XC with 5+ rails. Maybe they didn’t that exact day but letting them complete at events that run SJ last won’t help with safety in the long run, because riders will select towards those events. The rule is meant to discourage horses with higher risk of falling from competing at that level. Either you go back and fill in any holes or stay at a level where the horse is jumping proficiently.

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Do you remember where this stat came from? I’m curious because I may have seen it but wouldn’t be able to pinpoint where, and would like to ascertain whether that is truly the basis of this proposed change.

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I understand what you’re saying and don’t entirely disagree. But at the same time, the vast majority of us are eventing for fun. As long as horse and rider are safe, who cares how “adequate” their scores are? And is a horse who scores 45 in dressage really safer over fences than one who scores 50?

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I don’t see where they ever share the actual data but when it originally was discussed the decision on number of rails and implementing at T + was due to a review of the data on falls. Maybe I heard it on the usea podcast, but when questioned on why the rule wasnt implemented at lower levels it was indicated that number of rails wasn’t predictive of falls at that level.

I used the term stats colloquially but presumably some methodology was applied other than eyeballing fall rates…hopefully.