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President’s Report from General Session at the 2019 US Equestrian Annual Meeting: Members Make It Happen

by US Equestrian Communications Department | Jan 10, 2019, 4:24 PM EST

US Equestrian President Murray Kessler addresses attendees at General Session (Photo by Taylor Pence/US Equestrian) 

Since the implementation of the Strategic Plan three years ago, US Equestrian 2019 Annual Meeting participants, members, and staff attended Thursday morning’s General Session to hear about US Equestrian’s progress, challenges, and success of 2018.

US Equestrian President Murray Kessler reminded the audience of that U.S. Equestrian’s mission statement, “to bring the joy of horse sports to as many people as possible,” and “to provide access to and increase participation in equestrian sports at all levels by ensuring fairness, safety, and enjoyment,” hasn’t changed. In fact, this vision and mission drive the virtuous circle that makes up the essence of the US Equestrian Strategic Plan, implemented in 2017.

Reiterating that the membership, a combination of volunteers and staff working with numerous committees, councils, and individual members, are the heart and soul of US Equestrian, Kessler presented updates around the five steps that make up the Strategic Plan and an overview for new members on the inner workings of US Equestrian.


Step 1: Improving Core Processes and Capabilities

  • US Equestrian’s new headquarters  is scheduled to be complete in 2019, saving over $300,000 annually
  • New and talented staff continue to be hired, including a Human Resources Director and Licensed Officials Director
  • Outsourcing of the USEF Lab; Dr. Scott Stanley, formerly with U.C. Davis, is now at the University of Kentucky, and he will oversee the laboratory operations once the transaction closes
  • Other initiatives included the creation of a Calendar Management Task Force, competition management training, staff training for professionalism and predictive index behavior, and new rule change communications and deadlines


Step 2: Ensure Safety, Fairness and Enjoyment for Members

  • SafeSport became a major topic of conversation in 2018 with Congress passing a law authorizing the U.S. Center for SafeSport to respond to reports of sexual misconduct within the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic movement, including US Equestrian
  • US Equestrian passed a rule that all adult competing members 18 years of age and older must have completed the three-module SafeSport training by January 1, 2019, in order to be eligible to compete at USEF-licensed events
  • The “You Are Not Alone” campaign was launched to help spread the word about the importance of Safe Sport and the training – over 33,000 adult competing members have completed the training to date
  • A new therapeutic use exemption status was announced for pergolide
  • The Equine Transaction Transparency Task Force was formed and activated to focus on education, transparency, and enforcement
  • USEF Lite (formerly Competition Lite) has added 80 new competitions to the calendar that were not previously licensed by USEF; continues to reach out to the grassroots level of the sport and alliance partners to grow this program
  • The USEF Disaster Relief Fund crossed over the $1 million mark in funds raised since its inception


Step 3: Provide a sufficient pathway for athletes to win at the highest levels and inspire the next generation

  • The sport department brought in top-tier leadership for the U.S. team, including Erik Duvander, Eventing Performance Director; Debbie McDonald, Dressage Technical Advisor; Charlotte Bredahl, Dressage Development Coach; and Isabelle Bibbler Parker, Vaulting Director of Performance
  • New sport development initiatives, such as the eventing show jumping course advisor program, combined driving navigator’s course, and dressage European Young Rider Tour, have proven that investment in these programs and others is bringing growth to the sport
  • Unprecedented wins in U.S. sport in 2018 included:
    • First, second, and fourth place for U.S. jumping athletes at the FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final and a second place for U.S. dressage athlete at the FEI World Cup Dressage Final
    • 12 medals won at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018, including three gold medals, five silver medals, and four bronze medals
    • U.S. Saddle Seat Team won two gold medals at the Saddle Seat World Cup
    • Top of the world rankings for both a U.S. Jumping and U.S. Dressage athlete
  • The Adequan® FEI North American Youth Championships presented by Gotham North received a complete makeover, including a name change, and were marketed as a top-tier international sporting event for youth
  • 116 USEF National Championships were awarded across the disciplines
  • A recent study by Deloitte® placed US Equestrian as a Tier 1 sport by the United States Olympic Committee, based on the number of staff, revenue, membership, USOC funding, and NCAA programs


Step 4: Marketing Spreads the Word

  • The JOY campaign continues through television, print, social media, and events across the breeds and disciplines
  • US Equestrian magazine reached all members through four issues; approximately 360,000 mailed issued and nearly doubling the circulation to 90,000
  • ShopUSEF increased sales by nearly 50%, with the Ariat Official Team Apparel at the forefront of those sales
  • The Joy Tour made over 20 stops across the country, including national championships, WEG, Equine Affaire, the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association, and other educational symposiums and events
  • The USEF Network helped to drive membership and value, adding 33,512 members, streaming over 50 events, with over 1 million plays, and 300,000 hours of on-demand content viewed
  • The Learning Center released 20 new videos in 2018, with 270,000 total views and 28 videos sponsored. SmartPak came on board as a Gold Level Learning Center sponsor
  • Sponsorship continues to expand with 69 total sponsors and 12 added in 2018


Step 5: Resulting in Growing Membership

  • Membership is up 35% since 2017 and 76% since 2016, totaling over 144,244 members
  • Revenue is up 8%, while reserves are up 16% since the start of the Strategic Plan

View Murray Kessler’s General Session presentation in its entirety here or watch it on-demand on the USEF Network.

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