Skip to content

Lordosis Rule Change Proposals Revised - Changes to be discussed at UPHA Convention



By Melissa R. Stevens

In what has become an extremely heated topic dividing professional horsemen, breeders and owners, several proposed rules changes regarding horses with lordosis, or low backs, and the stripping of horses in several classes will be discussed at the upcoming UPHA Convention Open Forums. Some revisions were recently made to the original proposed change to Article 3505, the rule regarding stripping in the Saddle Horse division.

According to the U.S. Equestrian web site, the proposed rule changes are as follows. Articles 3505 and 3529 have two separate proposed amendments which, if passed, will be combined into one.

Article 3502. Type and Conformation. [Rule XXXV. Saddlebred Horse Division, Chapter 1. General Qualifications] Changes to read: 2. The ideal American Saddlebred is well-proportioned and presents a beautiful overall picture... If they meet all other requirements for a particular event, they should not be penalized too severely except in stripped classes, Harness classes and In-Hand classes where extremely low backed horses must be severely penalized.

Article 3505. Stripping. [Rule XXXV. Saddlebred Horse Division, Chapter I. General Qualifications] Change to read: The stripping of horses for conformation judging is mandatory in Under Saddle Championship Classes in all sections except Pleasure and one horse classes and in all ASHA signature classes for horses three years old and under (i.e. ASHA Futurities, ASHA Sweepstakes ). Horses with extremely low backs must be severely penalized in all stripped performance classes. Extremely low backed horses must not be considered for judging in all stripped ASHA signature classes. Only two attendants per animal are permitted in the ring (see Art. 3542).

Article 3505. Stripping. [Rule XXXV. Saddlebred Horse Division, Chapter I. General Qualifications] Change to read: The stripping of horses for conformation judging is mandatory in Under Saddle Championship Classes in all sections except Pleasure and one horse classes at the Kentucky State Fair World’s Championship Horse Show and The American Royal/UPHA National Championship Horse Show (exception: Three Gaited and Five Gaited Pony, Park Horse, and Pleasure Horse sections). Stripping is also mandatory in all “A” rated Three Gaited and Five Gaited Open Championship classes. No other classes can be stripped unless it is so stated in the prize list. Only two attendants per animal are permitted in the ring (see Art. 3542).

Article 3508. Championships. [Rule XXXV. Saddlebred Horse Division, Chapter 1. General Qualifications] Change to read: 1. Championship classes are judged in the same manner as the qualifying classes. Horses are to be stripped and judged on conformation in accordance with Article 3505. In stripped classes, Harness classes and In-Hand Classes extremely low backed horses must be severely penalized.

Article 3525. Classes Offered and Specifications. [Rule XXXV. Saddlebred Horse Division, Chapter III. Classes and Specifications] Add and renumber remaining: 6. ASHA Two-Year-Old, Three-Year-Old, Four-Year-Old Sweepstakes; ASHA National Three-Year-Old Futurity; ASHA Kentucky Futurity (Two-Year-Olds): Exhibited at an animated walk; park trot (speed to be penalized) and "show your horse," to stand quietly. Judged on performance, conformation, presence, quality and manners. Entries to be stripped.

Article 3529. Classes Offered and Specifications. [Rule XXXV. Saddlebred Horse Division, Chapter IV. Performance, Five-Gaited] Change to read: 4. To be eligible ... If only an Amateur Championship is offered, horses are eligible if they have been entered, shown by an amateur and judged in the Ladies class or in any qualifying class having the same judging specifications. Stripping is mandatory in all Championship classes and two attendants are permitted in the ring. For specification regarding stripping Championships refer to Articles 3505 and 3508.

Article 3529. Classes Offered and Specifications. [Rule XXXV. Saddlebred Horse Division, Chapter IV, Performance, Five-Gaited] Add and renumber remaining: 6. ASHA Two-Year-Old, Three-Year-Old, Four-Year-Old Sweepstakes; ASHA National Three-Year-Old Futurity: Judged on performance, conformation, presence, quality and manners. Entries are to be stripped.

Article 3533. Classes Offered and Specifications. [Rule XXXV. Saddlebred Horse Division, Chapter V. Performance, Three-Gaited] Add and renumber remaining: 6. ASHA Two-Year-Old, Three-Year-Old, Four-Year-Old Sweepstakes; ASHA National Three-Year-Old Futurity: Judged on performance, conformation, presence, quality and manners. Entries are to be stripped. (Refer to Arts. 3502.2 and 3505.)

Article 3561. Classes Offered and Specifications. [Rule XXXV. Saddlebred Horse Division, Chapter X. Park Pleasure] Add: 5. ASHA Two-Year-Old , Three-Year-Old, Four-Year-Old Sweepstakes; ASHA National Three-Year-Old Futurity: Shown at a flat walk, trot, and canter. Horses must stand quietly and back readily in the the line-up. Judged on manners, performance, conformation, presence and quality. Entries are to be stripped. (Refer to Articles 3502.2 and 3505.)

Article 3565. Judging Procedures. [Rule XXXV. Saddlebred Horse Division, Chapter XI. In-Hand and Model] Change to read: 1. Conformation and finish count 50% of the total score. All entries should be judged according to the standards for the ideal American Saddlebred type and conformation. Defects should must be penalized. Way of going and natural action count 50% of the total score. All entries should be judged according to the standards for the walk and trot. Undesirable traits should be penalized.

Article 3567. Model. [Rule XXXV. Saddlebred Horse Division, Chapter XI. In-Hand and Model] Change to read: 2. Judging Criteria: Horses in Model classes are to be judged according to the standards for the American Saddlebred type and conformation. Defects should must be penalized. Entries in Model classes are to be judged on conformation and finish only and are not to be moved on the line; way of going is not to be considered.

Opinions surrounding lordosis throughout the Saddlebred community are extremely varied. Some believe the gene that is responsible for creating low backs in horses is a defect and should be eliminated. Some believe horses with low backs should not be penalized during conformation judging at all. Some believe the percentage conformation counts during the judging process should be changed. Other groups of horsemen and breeders fell low backed horses should not be considered for judging in stripped or harness classes.

Because the views regarding this situation are so varied, several options for amending the rule book have been offered. One of the few to publicly voice an opinion on the matter, Melissa Moore has spearheaded a campaign to eliminate stripping in the Ladies, Amateur, Juvenile and Pleasure divisions, but to maintain the current format of stripping all open championship classes and stripping all Breed classes such as UPHA Classics, State and National Futurities and Sweepstakes classes. She has gained several signatures voicing support for her plan, which according to some is a compromise on which many people on both sides of the issue can agree. Moore and her proponents feel that eliminating stripping in these classes would not only protect the horses and riders in these classes, in which riders must dismount, wait for their horses to be stripped and resaddled, and then remount, but it would also speed up the lengthy judging process.

In addition to the rule change proposals, there has been and continues to be a concerted effort within the industry to research the lordosis gene so that its occurrence can be decreased during the breeding process. This will of course take time and money.

There are two open forums scheduled for the UPHA convention which will deal with these issues. The first one is on the scheduled for Friday morning during the UPHA General Membership meeting. That session will be a discussion only. The second session is the U.S. Equestrian rule change forum on Saturday morning. U.S. Equestrian committee chairs will be in attendance to answer questions, direct discussion and ask for informal votes to get a general consensus on the proposed changes. The U.S. Equestrian Saddlebred Committee will meet directly after the forum to consider the discussion when making final amendments to the proposed rule changes to send to the U.S. Equestrian Board of Directors the following week in Los Angeles.

(Editor’s Note: The following was written by Karen Fish, Director of Breeds and Western Disciplines, for the United States Equestrian Federation, Inc., to help members of the equestrian community better understand their rule change process in light of the recent rule change proposals regarding lordosis and other issues.)

The Process of Change

As we approach the end of another rule change year I find that I am spending an unusual amount of my time on the phone with our membership at United States Equestrian Federation (formerly U.S.A. Equestrian and now doing business as U.S. Equestrian). I am answering questions and correcting misinformation about the rule change process and rule change proposals submitted for approval by the Federation’s Board of Directors in Los Angeles on January 17. As sometimes happens, various rule change proposals submitted by our committees at U.S. Equestrian are creating a lot of discussion within the equestrian community. One of my goals for the new year is to help our membership to better understand and become a constructive part of the rule change process.

Much of the information provided here is also found in the 2004 U.S. Equestrian Rule Book and on our web site at www.usef.org. The web site has become an important tool for our membership to stay current with the rule changes that are being submitted for consideration by the Federation’s Board of Directors. The web site also contains staff and committee lists complete with contact information. There is a comment form (located under “Rules”, “Rule Changes” and then “Summary of Proposed Rule Changes”) that U.S. Equestrian members may use to submit opinions on any proposed rule change posted on the web site. We welcome your input and your comments will be forwarded for review by the individual committees who submitted the proposals. Rule Books are sent to current members free of charge upon request. If you would like to receive a 2004 Rule Book please contact the U.S. Equestrian office and one will be sent to you. The Rule Book is also printed in its entirety on the USEF web site.

The breed/discipline committees, who submit many of the rule change proposals each year, are made up of a maximum of 19 individuals who are chosen according to their experience in the segment of the industry which they are representing. They are made up of individuals who either compete (both professionals and amateurs), or are involved in an official capacity, such as show officials or licensed officials, as well as breeders. I am the liaison for the Saddlebred, Saddle Seat, Hackney and Roadster Committees and I work with these groups all year to facilitate the results of their work. Committees are appointed by the President of USEF subject to final approval by the Executive Committee and they serve a term of four years. You will find detailed information on committee structure and responsibilities in Bylaw 503 in the 2004 Rule Book.

The committees that I represent meet on the average of three times per year to consider new rules and rule amendments. They normally meet at competitions and conventions. Committees are sometimes approached by affiliate organizations, such as the American Saddlebred Horse Association and United Professional Horsemen’s Association, with requests for rule changes. Those requests are taken under consideration and if approved are submitted as rule change proposals. The meetings are closed to all but committee members with the exception of meetings held at the USEF Annual Meeting or if the committee chair or co-chairs agree to open them. All meetings are conducted according to Roberts Rule of Order and proposed changes must be voted on by a quorum and passed with a majority vote. This is only the beginning of the process.

The committee deadline for submitting rule change proposals is September 15 each year. After that date, the proposed changes may be amended or withdrawn by the committees up until the day before the Federation Board of Directors final meeting in January of each year. Open rule change forums are generally scheduled at the United Professional Horsemen’s Association convention each year so that everyone may have their say and exchange ideas in a public forum. The location of this venue for this rule forum is due to the fact that is the last major gathering of Saddlebred, Hackney, Roadster and Saddle Seat general members as well as committee members and the dates traditionally fall one week before the USEF Annual Meeting. Rule forums may be scheduled at other times of the year as needed. Committee chairs are in attendance at the open rule forums to answer questions.

Individual U.S. Equestrian members may also submit rule change proposals. The rule change deadline for individual members is June 1 each year. Membership rule change proposals are reviewed by the USEF Legislative Committee, as are all others. If you would like to submit a proposal on your own I recommend that you contact the respective breed/discipline committee liaison for assistance in using the rule change form as well as direction in wording the proposal. If a proposal fails to comply with the requirements of the official form, is late, incomplete, inexact or confusing it may be rejected by the Legislative Committee. If an individual member submits a rule change proposal, that individual is the only person who may withdraw the rule from the process. That doesn’t mean that the rule cannot be defeated by the Board of Directors, only that no other group or committee may withdraw a member’s individual rule change proposal. Additional information on amending and submitting rule changes can be found in Chapter XI in the Rule Book.

Once the deadlines for submission have passed and the rule change proposals are all posted on the web site, the process of debating the value of those changes gets into full swing. Typically two more meetings of the Saddlebred, Saddle Seat and Hackney committees and one more of the Roadster Committee are held after September 15 to discuss and amend or withdraw the proposed changes. This is an opportune time for membership’s opinions and concerns to be heard by the committee members either through direct discussion, at rule forums, or through the web site comment form. After the last meetings and rule forums are held, usually at the UPHA convention, the proposed changes move forward to the USEF Annual Meeting for approval or disapproval by the Board of Directors.

The rule change proposals that are approved by the USEF Board of Directors are issued an effective date. Normally that date is December 1 of the following competition year. If a committee feels the need to initiate a rule sooner, March 1 of the current competition year will be issued and the rules will be printed in a supplement available to members, as well as being posted on the web site in the Rule Book section. Once the rule change process is completed in January all approved changes with effective dates are posted on the USEF web site.

In closing I offer a few suggestions:

Keep yourself current on the rule changes and breed/discipline committees by using the USEF web site. It was created as a tool for you and is full of information on our organization as well as current events in the equine industry.

Don’t be afraid to discuss the proposed changes or any industry concerns with committee members. They are directly involved in the day to day issues that affect the industry and are volunteering their time and energy toward creating fairness in competition as well as protecting and supporting the welfare of the horse.

Understand that proposed rule changes are just that, proposed. Sometimes rule changes are proposed with the idea of getting feedback from membership and creating dialogue on a subject that is in question. Because a rule change is proposed does not necessarily mean that it will become a rule.

Feel free to contact staff at U.S. Equestrian with your questions. You have a valuable resource available to you through our experienced staff members and we are more than willing to spend as much time as is needed to help you with your questions or concerns.

Finally, get involved! Bring your ideas and suggestions forward. Positive feedback and innovative ideas from those of you who are participating in the sport will help to create a set of rules that will work effectively for everyone in the industry.

If you have further questions regarding the rule change process, need help negotiating the our web site, or need assistance with any other aspect of the business of U. S. Equestrian please feel free to contact us at 859-258-2472. Our office hours are 8:30 to 5:00 Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

Karen Fish

Director, Breeds and Western Disciplines

United States Equestrian Federation, Inc.

More Stories

  • **Updated Event Cancellations

    Saddle Horse Report will provide daily updates to the list of canceled and postponed horse events. Read More
  • A Blast From The Past

    Saddle Horse Report is pleased to bring you a series of past feature stories on some of the greats of our sport. Please enjoy this walk down memory lane. Read More
  • A message from Saddle Horse Report

    It’s been a while since I’ve had the time to write an editorial, although there have been instances I’ve wanted to offer my two cents on issues facing our industry/sport/hobby. However, now is not the time for discussing “issues.” Read More
  • A note from Jimmy Robertson

    Even though none of us can control what’s happening in our world today, we at Robertson Equine Sales LLC can help with this: our consignors have these nice horses listed at http://RobertsonEquineSales.com... Read More
  • Silicon Valley Horse Show Update

    We are reaching out to you with an update about the Silicon Valley Horse Show, which is scheduled for May 15-17, 2020. We continue to monitor the unprecedented situation that we face with regard to Covid-19 and the effect it will have on the scheduling of our show... Read More
  • Ten Years Ago - Diamond Jubilee

    Let’s take a trip back to 2010 and remember some of the highlights of the Diamond Jubilee at the famed Del Mar Fairgrounds. Read More
  • UPHA Maria Knight Memorial Scholarship; Up to $10,000 Offered

    The UPHA Maria Knight Scholarship was established to honor UPHA Professional, Maria Knight and her commitment to providing a college education for her daughter... Read More
  • From the Desk of Marty Schaffel: Acts of Courage

    I was never prouder to be a member of our association than when I saw the statement that was signed by so many of our members. Clearly, these are difficult times. Tough decisions have to be made. What is reassuring to me is that people are making those decisions and are acting with courage. Read More
  • American Saddlebred Museum Launches Educational Resources & Movie Club

    The American Saddlebred Museum has added online resources and educational offerings to its website. These resources include reading lists, activity sheets, coloring pages and writing prompts. Resources range from fun activities to true educational resources for educators. New activities will be added regularly to keep the page fresh and young minds active!   Read More
  • A Letter To UPHA Membership

    I hope this email finds you healthy and safe. These are frightening times for all. Our membership is unique: We are not just working to keep our families and staff safe; we are also tasked with providing the highest level of care for our horses and ponies. Read More