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Rebecca Walton
May 12, 2014
Green Hunter Eligibility and Sport Issues Take Center Stage at USHJA Open Forum
By Rebecca Walton
Monday, May 12, 2014 :: Posted 11:01:11 PM EDT

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© Emily Riden: Forum Leaders
USHJA Open Forum Leaders

Lexington, KY – May 12, 2014 - Today at the Kentucky Horse Park, some of the top professionals from the hunter industry gathered for the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association Open Forum to discuss the future of green hunters, green eligibility and age restrictions. USHJA President Bill Moroney, USHJA Vice President and head of the Hunter Working Group Mary Babick and USEF National Hunter Chair Geoff Teall headed the event. Professionals in attendance to voice their opinions included Havens Schatt, Peter Wylde, Tim Goguen, Jeff Gogul, David Belford, Cookie Beck and Otis Brown, among others.

The main focus of the event was how to best move forward with the Green Hunter divisions. Earlier this year, a rule was put into effect that defined a First Year Green Hunter as one competing in classes where national specifications require horses to jump 3'6" or higher. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult to track this information, as USEF does not check records for eligibility unless there’s a problem, and it is difficult to track the records of horses imported from Europe through the FEI system, as it is often not up to date.

To address this issue, the USHJA is proposing a rule change that would take effect in 2016 opening up the Green Hunter sections and stating that any horse’s hunter career starts when it competes in his or her first HUNTER or EQUITATION class with jumps of 3’0” or higher in the United States or Canada.

The main issue that riders had with this is that, in theory, a horse could only have shown in the jumpers, competed at any level, and then it is turned around and competed in the 3’ Pre-Green Hunters.

It is also important to note that the structure of the hunter divisions would change. Rather than Pre-Green, First Year and Second Year Hunters, there would be sections of 3’9”, 3’6”, 3’3” and 3’ Green Working Hunters (GWH). Once a horse competes in the 3’6” GWH, they are no longer eligible for the 3’ GWH, and they many only compete in the 3’6” GWH four times before they become ineligible for the 3’3” Working Hunters.

© Emily Riden: Forum Attendees
Forum Attendees

Many of the professionals also pushed the importance of adding an age structure, which the USHJA addressed by adding the “Young Working Hunters,” (YWH) which would be introduced as awards, incentives and specials events, rather than as separate divisions. For instance, if a horse falling into the ‘7 & Under’ category is competing in the 3’3” GWH, although they may not be the division champion, they could receive their own awards and honors if the show chooses to offer it.

In addition to the YWH awards, shows would have the option of offering special events such as 6, 7 & 8-Year-Old YWH stake classes. It was clear that many of the professionals were in favor of something like this but hesitant to believe show management would offer such events, which brought on a long discussion of the state of the hunter industry.

In many ways, Havens Schatt summed it up the best stating, “The problems we have right now are so vast that you are not going to fix it in six months with one rule.”

Many were looking down the line, thinking five years in the future, in the hopes that micro chipping might allow for better records to be kept regarding eligibility and by 2020, there might be an age cap for the GWH divisions. By making professionals aware of potential rule changes early, they would be able to find horses that fit the descriptions of the divisions.

Colleen McQuay and Bill Moroney were quick to point out the importance of not limiting the divisions too drastically. Moroney noted that the entire sport has only grown 1 percent in the last 10 years. While many will admit the professional hunter divisions numbers have been on a downward spiral, at major events such as WEF, Kentucky and Old Salem, they are still filling, while in other areas of the country these divisions cannot even be run.

Moroney stated, “What works for the shows you go to doesn’t work in other areas of the country.”

David Belford, Tim Goguen and Havens Schatt spoke to the cost of the sport, noting that it is hard to convince owners to invest in young horses when there is no incentive to do so. The cost to take a horse through the current Pre-Green, First Year and Second Year system is extremely high with little reward.  Many owners now choose to ride their horses themselves in the Amateur divisions, rather than having professionals show them.

© Emily Riden: Mary Babick and Havens Schatt
Mary Babick and Havens Schatt

Schatt’s concern with having a GWH division without age caps is that there will be an incentive to have a green horse, but not a young horse, because a 10-year-old that showed in Europe is going to beat out a 6-year-old getting mileage, and if no one is willing to put in the time and money to make up the young horses because there is no incentive, soon there will be no young horses.

At the end of the forum, it seemed that the rule to open the GWH divisions to any horse competing in the hunters or equitation for the first time might be the solution coming in 2016, as the current rule is not effective. However, Teall, Moroney and Babick will still be striving to find a way to keep the Green Hunter concept alive while finding a way to include an age component that can be verified.

For more information about the USHJA, please visit

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