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Breeds, Disciplines Share Ideas at Affiliate Roundtable

by Glenye Cain Oakford | Jan 20, 2018, 6:06 PM EST

Representatives from the United States Equestrian Federation’s 29 breed and discipline affiliates convened Friday at the Annual Meeting in Lexington, Ky., for a vibrant Affiliate Roundtable discussion on a broad range of topics.  

The Roundtable agenda was based on feedback from the affiliates, who submitted topics of interest they’d like to discuss. The meeting covered such subjects as  

  • opportunities for collaboration, growing membership, and sponsorship
  • ways to improve communications between US Equestrian and affiliate organizations
  • support for licensed officials
  • USEF affiliate membership benefits 
USEF Chief Executive Officer Bill Moroney listens to the discussion.
(Photo: Taylor Pence)

“Everybody in leadership at USEF is focused on growing equestrian sports and bringing the joy of horse sports to as many people as possible through every breed and discipline, and we know we can’t do that without great affiliate relations,” USEF President Murray Kessler said in opening the meeting. “This is a major priority for us.

“We view ourselves as the governance experts and you as the discipline and breed experts, and it doesn’t work unless we all do it together,” he added.

The collaborative discussion gave affiliates the opportunity to offer feedback, share ideas among themselves, and ask questions on the behalf of their organizations. There was lively conversation about communications and membership growth, in particular, which sparked a number of ideas for exploration. Those included the development of a digital portal for affiliate leadership to access USEF communications, and a proposal that affiliates offer free USEF fan membership as a benefit to their members—a strategy that could aid membership for both groups and also help attract sponsors.

That idea led to discussion of sponsorships, including working together toward sponsorships that benefit both the USEF and its affiliates and the positive effect growing USEF sponsorship revenues can have on affiliates through USEF support for affiliate programs.

“We need to be putting forward to our sponsors and to our members clear, transparent benefits from both of us, because we do exist for different reasons and we do provide multiple benefits,” USEF’s Chief Marketing and Content Officer Vicki Lowell said of USEF and its affiliates. “And it’s a win for the members and the sponsors.”

“There are so many places we can collaborate,” observed United States Hunter Jumper Association President Mary Babick. “Network is one, sponsorship is another. It’s really possible to do this in such a good way that we all are benefitting. I think in the beginning there’s going to be a lot of stumbling around. It’s a little bit of new, uncharted waters. Instead of thinking, “There be dragons,’ we can work together.”

Affiliate representatives’ desire to see more breeds and disciplines in consumer-facing US Equestrian imagery prompted an idea

Shetland Pony Club President Stephen Henderson (left) attended, as did the Western Dressage Association of America's President Cindy Butler (center) and immediate past president Ellen DiBella (right).
(Photo: Taylor Pence)

to form a collaborative library of affiliate-approved, rights-free photos and video that USEF can use to promote those breeds and disciplines. This year’s FEI World Equestrian Games™ at Tryon International Equestrian Center also presents promotional possibilities for a variety of breeds and disciplines, and USEF senior staff reported that the federation is working with WEG organizers on those affiliate opportunities. Moroney suggested that the group consider a “marketing retreat” to collaborate on other marketing-related strategies.

Another potential area of collaboration: shared notifications on the outcome of background checks under the SafeSport initiative. “One background check gets done, but multiple organizations could be noticed on the outcome of the background check,” explained USEF’s chief executive, Bill Moroney. He said that there had been some discussion among Olympic sports about potentially lowering the cost of background checks by aggregating their requests through a single company. Ideally, “USEF could get that background information, and then we, in turn, could have a way to let our affiliates that want to use background checks would be able to see whether the person passed or failed that check,” explained Moroney.

The roundtable group agreed to reconvene once or twice by conference call in 2018 to follow up on discussions and continue sharing ideas, both among themselves and between affiliates and the USEF.

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