Skip to content

F.A.S.H. To the Editor

To the Editor,

I manage the F.A.S.H Spring Horse Show in St. Paul, Minnesota. Until recently, F.A.S.H has been USEF licensed. For the past six or seven years trainers, and new this year, exhibitors, have encouraged us to drop F.A.S.H.’s USEF license. We have resisted because we feel the sport needs to be regulated. However, we can no longer justify licensing the show. Being USEF licensed was once a competitive advantage. It is now a competitive disadvantage.    

Cary Bartz, Minnesota trainer and judge, gave me a copy of a handwritten note written in 1981 by her father Keith Bartz. Mr. Bartz made a lifetime commitment and many contributions to the show horse industry. To list just a few: former President of UPHA, served on USEF board, treasurer, and headed several committees such as licensed officials and Saddlebred. He held over 11 judges cards issued by USEF, formerly known as the American Horse Show Association (AHSA). He was also extensively involved with the ASHA board and committees. His service was immeasurable. He was a founding father in developing governance for the breeds and sport. 

These are his points, exactly as written in a note to himself, as he prepared to make a presentation on AHSA and governance:
1. Consistent standards for competition
2. Provide a democratic method for input of exhibitors to review and update standards on rules. 
3. Vehicle to enforce these standards as a protection for all exhibitors
4. Helps to keep a lid on drug abuse.
5. Serves as a “clearing house” for assigning show dates to help avoid most conflicts.
6. Keeps show records on recorded horses and gives Horse of the Year awards at the national and zone levels of competition.
7. Licenses and educates judges and stewards

 All these points are still valid and relevant to the current issues we’re facing today.
Do we need an effective governing body to perform these functions and oversee the sport? Yes, we do. Is USEF doing their job performing these functions? No, they are not. In fact, they are abdicating their responsibilities.

Less than 30 percent of all our shows are USEF licensed. With so few shows licensed, are we really regulated? No. Our trainers have given USEF a vote of “no confidence”. They are encouraging shows to drop their license. The low number of shows licensed by the governing body is a serious problem; the percentage of licensed shows should be much larger. This issue should be evaluated as we consider our future relationship with USEF.

USEF has made some concessions to “keep us in the fold”.  In doing so, they are not performing the functions that are the very reasons AHSA was formed. I know the Joint Leadership Council believes the Competition Lite Program is “a significant positive step”.  Please consider the following: USEF is our governing body. USEF states on their website [in the section titled ]’About Us’.  “US Equestrian contributes to the greater good of horses by assisting with their protection and welfare in crisis situations and natural disasters, as well as daily competition….”   

Competition Lite shows do not collect drug testing fees. The gentleman’s agreement to not drug test at Competition Lite shows does not help us ‘keep the lid on drug abuse”, an important concern, listed in Mr. Bartz’s note. Yes, they reserve the right to drug test, but they did not test one Competition Lite show in 2018. 
Licensed stewards are not required at Lite competitions. Show management can authorize an individual, they believe qualified, to perform the steward’s function. Licensed stewards help ensure the humane treatment of the horse and fair competition. They do more than just interpret the rules. They are on the show grounds, with their only purpose to protect the horse and ensure fair competition. 

We have lost stewards because not enough shows are hiring licensed stewards. With fewer jobs, they can’t justify the time and expense required to maintain their licenses. Designating a non-licensed person to be the steward is not as effective as having an independent licensed steward. A licensed steward provides a higher level of protection. Competition Lite decreases the need for licensed stewards. 

Drug testing and a licensed steward are the two most effective safeguards to help ensure the welfare of the horse. Competition Lite was created, in large part, to avoid modifying the drug rules. There are some benefits but overall, Competition Lite does not provide the same level of protection for the horse or the level of supervision for a regular USEF show.

Mr. Bartz’s note indicates licensing and educating judges and stewards should be the responsibility of the governing body. USEF will no longer be performing this function.

One of the key reasons to form AHSA, in the note, was to “protect us against government intervention”. Given SafeSport, are they even doing that? Not only are they implementing SafeSport in a way that does not consider the impact or the fairness to our membership, they are going beyond what is mandated by SafeSport.

For several years, we have been trying to get revisions to the drug and medication rules. USEF has refused requests for reasonable modifications to the rules because of issues unrelated to our breeds or the health of the horse. This should be a clear indication the needs of trotting breeds are not their priority. They never will be. They are driven by the needs of the FEI.  Another seat on the USEF board will not change that.

UPHA and the trotting breed associations are uniquely aligned. All organizations share common concerns. This alignment may never happen again. I encourage the Joint Leadership Council to look beyond the concerns listed in your letter to USEF.  

What will we need 10, 20, 30 years from now? We will need a governing organization that considers the needs of the trotting breeds and the impact to our sport, before they modify and write regulations.  

Will USEF make the changes necessary to be that organization? USEF continues, and will continue, to believe one size fits all. Substantive change by USEF will require a major change in the culture of the organization. Changing the culture of an organization is a very difficult change to make. 

We shouldn’t be shortsighted. We need to consider what our working relationship with USEF will be in the future. Will they be more responsive?  We continually commit valuable resources year after year trying to work with USEF; addressing the same issues, over and over.  We are wasting resources that could be directed toward addressing the many market and industry issues facing our breeds and sport.

We need to ask What is USEF doing for us? Will USEF be able to restore confidence and support with our trainers, amateurs, and horse show managers and secretaries. Are they providing the governance and support we need? If USEF concedes to every point in the Joint Leadership Council’s letter will more horse shows license with them?  As new issues arise, is USEF the best organization to address them?  Do we trust them?

More importantly, as we try to grow the sport and promote our breeds, we need to recognize today’s consumer is much more sophisticated and informed. We need a governing body that is, in fact, providing effective governance and protecting the legitimacy and reputation of the sport. 

There can be no question our governing body is ensuring humane treatment of the horse and fair competition. Programs such as Competition Lite give the appearance they are providing these protections, but they are not. If governance is not real, people will know it. People today want to be involved with organizations and activities they know are ethical and fair.  

Stephanie Peterson
President, Show Manager
F.A.S.H. Spring Horse Show

More Stories