It has come to my attention, and that of the management of the National Horse Show, that questions have arisen about how to most effectively present the ASPCA Maclay National Championship competition. As Chairman of the Equitation Committee for the National Horse Show, I believe that it is my duty to respond to the concerns and present our hope for future competitions. It is my intention to create a dialogue that will allow solutions to present themselves, and for all parties involved, to find an equitable path forward.
To begin, I think it is important to understand the circumstances that led to the formation of the Maclay National Championships as a two-phase event. To my knowledge, the issue that lead to the Maclay not being able to run solely in one day was focused around meeting FEI requirements that stated that a grand prix had to be held on Sunday afternoon so that audiences in Europe would have access to a live streaming event. Therefore, all necessary parties agreed to a two-day format to accommodate both important disciplines, hunters and jumpers, that have traditionally been a part of the National Horse Show since its inception.
The agreement to have the first round of Maclay competition begin at 5:30 a.m. can easily be traced to a USHJA Task Force Retreat held in Lexington, Kentucky, the Monday and Tuesday prior to the National Horse Show. As the Chairman of the USHJA Equitation Task Force, I personally initiated the 2015 retreat to help the organization better address the difficulties that were being experienced, especially on a regional level. At the invitation of the task force, Mason Phelps, the president of the National Horse Show, was invited to that meeting and was allotted time to discuss the championships as well as the regionals competitions. Trainers from all the regions requested that 175 riders be allowed to return for the championship competition and Mason graciously agreed to that request with the clear understanding that there would need to be a 5:30 a.m. start time. There was a unanimous vote by the task force at the end of that meeting that 5:30 a.m. was fine.
In 2016, there was a repeat of the 2015 scenario with USHJA Equitation Task Force and invitation to Mason Phelps and there was again a unanimous vote for 175 riders and a 5:30 a.m. start time.
As a trainer, and horse show event manager, I feel sympathetic towards Mason Phelps and the entire National Horse Show Association because they were proactive in asking what the equitation community wanted, and were honest about the requirements to achieve our desired goal only to now be subject to negative scrutiny.
In yet another proactive effort, this year the National Horse Show Association formed an Equitation Committee to act as an advocate for equitation competitors. As the Chairman of the National Horse Show Equitation Committee, I am pleased that we will have a person that can be identified for people to approach with their concerns. Whether it’s myself or anyone else, there is now a person who is responsible and can be held accountable for representing any concerns brought to the committee’s attention.
Following this year’s horse show, I think we have a Committee that may need to be reviewed or possibly re-vamped. This Committee 2.0 will be active, and will work to come up with solutions and will welcome input from influencers at all levels of our sport, including the USHJA Equitation Task Force.
I think what is important for the broader community to understand is that the National Horse Show, as an individual event, is much more intense and complicated than may appear on the surface. I am overwhelmed by what an undertaking this event is daily basis and although no limitations are insurmountable, we need to be cognizant that we are facing issues with ring space, international event requirements, and sponsorships that make easy solutions hard to obtain. Having said that, I am committed to working toward the best solution possible.
With the National Horse Show Equitation committee in place, I am hopeful that people will utilize our channels of direct communication to understand the issues before going public with criticisms, especially to various media outlets. None of the solutions to these complicated issues are easy but I am confident that with hard work and open dialogue, we will be able to continue our tradition of hosting a meaningful and compelling ASPCA Maclay Championship.
By: Geoff Teall, Chairman of the National Horse Show Equitation Committee