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Grassroots to Grand Champion: National Breeds and Disciplines Council 101 and Looking at the Year Ahead

by US Equestrian Communications Department | Jan 15, 2021, 8:27 AM EST

Lexington, Ky. – The national breeds and non-FEI disciplines are a diverse group, represented within US Equestrian by the National Breeds and Disciplines Council (NBDC) and the National Sport department. “Grassroots to Grand Champion” explained the role of the NBDC, reviewed wins and challenges throughout 2020, and shared US Equestrian’s 2021 goals for the national breeds and non-FEI disciplines during the virtual 2021 US Equestrian Annual Meeting. Panelists included Mary Babick, Chair of the NBDC, Terri Dolan, USEF Director of National Breeds & Non-FEI Disciplines, and Kelsey Shanley, USEF National Breeds and Disciplines Program Manager.

National Breeds and Disciplines Council 101

The NBDC consists of 22 members as a whole, including at least five athlete representatives, and their role is to oversee the national breed and non-FEI sport programs of the USEF. Through its representative leadership, the NBDC provides a forum that ensures the needs of the affiliates and members across 21 diverse breeds and disciplines are heard and addressed. They provide guidance on proposed rules and support, develop, and enhance the many programs that bring value to USEF, recognized affiliates, and the membership, as well as managing the program budgets.

“[The NBDC] is an excellent way for the horse people of our world to meet each other and connect while serving the members and our sport,” said Babick. “We are a welcoming, inclusive group and I am grateful to have learned about so many aspects of equestrian sport that I probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to know about otherwise.”

The USEF National Sport Department supports the work of the NBDC on a day-to-day basis. This department oversees programs, national championships, and other interests of the breeds and non-FEI disciplines. Such programs include but are not limited to the USEF Pony Finals; saddle seat, hunter seat, and Western seat equitation medal finals; fielding teams for the Saddle Seat Young Riders and Saddle Seat World Cup competitions; the USEF Interscholastic Athlete Program; and youth grant programs.

They also manage relationships with recognized affiliates and education partners, as well as coordinating the rule change process for the national breeds and non-FEI disciplines.

Learn more about the NBDC here.


2020 Highlights from the National Breeds and Non-FEI Disciplines

Panelists discussed key highlights from the last year. A summary of these highlights can be found below. The complete “Grassroots to Grand Champion” information session and presentation is available on the USEF Network to watch on demand.

Affiliate Relations

The National Sport department facilitated the expansion of the NBDC Advisory Group, strengthening the voices of smaller recognized affiliates.

USEF and its recognized affiliates have diligently worked to make the relationships stronger so that both organizations can more effectively serve the membership. This was of particular importance in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone to pivot and grow in unexpected ways. Whether it was ensuring competitions could go on safely or exploring how to navigate the virtual world, USEF and its affiliates leaned on and learned from one another more than ever.

Learn more about USEF’s recognized affiliates.

National Championships

COVID-19 called for changes to qualifying requirements for every USEF national championship in the non-FEI disciplines, but most of those competitions were fortunately able to take place before the end of the competition year.

Competitors can expect to see changes rolled out for the USEF Pony Finals in the coming months, as well as the launch of two new Western seat equitation medal final programs – one for juniors and one for adult amateurs.

Youth Programs and Opportunities

Formalized agreements with the six USEF Education Partners were established in early 2020, creating opportunities for cobranding, reaching new audiences, and sharing educational content and leadership opportunities. “Introducing audiences to equestrian sport early in life is important to USEF in our role as the National Governing Body,” said Dolan. “[USEF’s Education Partners] offer programs for equestrians all the way from grade school through the collegiate level.”

Learn more about USEF’s education partners.

Working in collaboration with the education partners, USEF also rebranded the Lettering Program to the Interscholastic Athlete Program. This resulted in many improvements, namely that students now have two options for earning their letters: Requirements can be met by logging the number of hours of participation or by logging the number of competitions they compete in. “Not every member goes to horse shows but that should not stop them from earning their letters in equestrian sport,” said Dolan.

Learn more about the Interscholastic Athlete Program.


2021 Goals for the National Breeds and Non-FEI Disciplines

Panelists then shared US Equestrian’s 2021 goals for the national breed and non-FEI disciplines. A summary of these goals can be found below. The complete “Grassroots to Grand Champion” information session and presentation is available on the USEF Network to watch on demand.

Continue Strengthening Relationships and Improving Efficiency

Committees for the national breeds and non-FEI disciplines will have agreed upon business goals for the year ahead and new committee members will receive an orientation, including a review of the rule process and timelines.

The established Affiliate Workshops model for sharing ideas and opportunities will continue in 2021. USEF will work with each recognized affiliate to create a 2021 game plan to ensure they are taking advantage of USEF services. These one-on-one meetings will help USEF work for greater participation and hear feedback on existing programs, or determine if there is a need for a new program in order to bring meaningful value to the affiliate and its members.

Marketing Opportunities

USEF strives to develop a meaningful presence at recognized affiliates’ national championships and conventions by providing information and services that their specific memberships are seeking. USEF also intends to look at revenue driving opportunities, such as identifying new sponsors, and examine opportunities to grow the affiliate fan base. USEF will continue collaborating with affiliate leadership, staff, and volunteers to promote their breed/discipline, USEF membership, and equestrian sport as a whole.

USEF will work with recognized affiliates on advancing the USEF Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan, as well as support the affiliates in their efforts to ensure that equestrian sport is a welcoming place for everyone. The United States Hunter Jumper Association and the American Saddlebred Horse Association have already announced their own committees and action items related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.


A key priority in 2021 is ensuring the USEF competition license brings value to horse show organizers in the national breeds and non-FEI disciplines. USEF will strive to enhance the product offered and be a thoughtful partner to those organizers.

Enhancements to the Competition Lite model will be rolled out in the coming months following feedback from the organizers about what can be streamlined, while still providing the coverage that a USEF license covers, such as access to the U.S. Center for Safe Sport resources.


Additional Information about the 2021 US Equestrian Annual Meeting

Watch the “Grassroots to Grand Champion” session and more from the 2021 Annual Meeting on the USEF Network.

View the complete schedule and learn more about how to register to attend the remaining sessions of this year’s Annual Meeting. Stay up to date with the 2021 Annual Meeting by following US Equestrian on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.