Friday, December 11, 2015

"Green" with.... Envy.. I Mean Experience?

There are many aspects of Hunterland that as an objective observer, my husband finds somewhat absurd. 

Expensive braids, inexpensive ribbons and seemingly endless flat classes are high on that list.  But one of his all time favorite crazy-hunter things is the whole "Green" program, and the fact that "Green" horses seem to be "Green" until they are eating senior feed for breakfast.

If he's exaggerating - it's not by much. 

I understand the benefit of having a division (or maybe 2?) where our new little horses can come out and play and not get creamed by horses that are old pros at their job.  It really does makes sense. 

I also think Green divisions are a great way to let owners have fun with younger horses, as well as encourage trainers to develop a pipeline of talent. 

But First Year Green horses are expected to jump around a 3'6" course, and Second Year horses get to face 3'9".  That may be easy for the horses who will spend their career in the High Performance divisions, but for lots of horses, even the First Years are well beyond where they will likely spend their careers.

So the Pre-Green Division was made.  Giving horses two years of competing at 3' (or 3'3") hidden away from seasoned AA and Children mounts.

But now that there are big, expensive incentives for the Pre-Green horses, they can't just start at 3'... they need something to prepare them for the big money classes and increasingly competitive Pre-Green division...

Never fear! There's a Baby Green division at 2'6" too!

It's all done with good intentions, but as it stands, the program makes it possible to hide in the "Green" divisions for five full years


I don't know what you call a horse that's been showing for five years and is jumping 3'9", but it's not green

But that is somewhat beside the point.  I'm pretty sure USHJA is already arguing about what these divisions should be called, and I meant to talk about a different obstacle with our Green Program. 

Since USEF (and by extension USHJA) isn't an international governing body, they rely on USEF show records to determine whether or not a horse is really eligible to compete in it's appropriate Green Division. 

As prize money and incentive have pushed more prestige and better competition into these divisions, it's taken a higher and higher quality horse, with more and more perfect rounds to win - even in the "rookie" division. 

The horse world has repeatedly taught me that if Trainers have to rely on keeping their clients happy and delivering ribbons, they will find a way to gain a competitive advantage.  Hopefully that advantage is classy and legal.. but sometimes it's not.

In the case of trying to maximize your competitiveness in the Greens, the work around has been Europe.

Go to Europe, buy a horse that's been bombing around 1.30m or higher (sound familiar?), then import it, register it with USEF (maybe with a new name, though no one really cares) and BAM, you have a legally "Green" horse that can step into a 3' Pre-Green Division and not bat an eyelash. 

a perfect 3' Pre-Green candidate...
Of course, that division will also be filled with the Prairie's of the world who have just started jumping and aren't actually too sure about flower boxes yet, as well as OTTB's learning to use their right lead, and the rest of the US bred horses that couldn't gain the same show experience as Mr. Euro Pants (and still legally show the Pre-Greens).

Obviously this loophole has pissed people off, and wasn't very well aligned with the initial intent of the Green Divisions.  So the USHJA finally came back and said that a horse's FEI record could be used to determine Green eligibility. 

This makes total sense to me.  If you have a horse that has been competing at an FEI level, it shouldn't be able to compete with supposed rookies.

But as I recently found out, there is no accountability in disclosing a horse's FEI record if you don't want to. 

When I went to get Windsor his USEF card, I chose to list his microchip, FEI number, and Selle Francais info.  I did this because I think it's honest, and it allows his full record to easily follow him.

I also don't really care if my Trainer shows him in the Greens or the unrestricted Performance Divisions...

But if I were importing horses as a business and trying to make money selling competitive Pre-Green horses ready to dominate in the 3' ring... I'd register them with USEF under "Dude's Slick Ride" and conveniently omit all that extra mumbo jumbo. 

USEF doesn't have the time or resources to chase that missing information down, and frankly it'd be awfully hard to prove without the actual papers in your hand.  There have been a few instances of BNTs getting busted with experienced FEI horses presented as 3' Pre-Green mounts in the States, but it doesn't happen often and usually someone has to file a protest with the USEF to get anything done about it. 

But in theory, if we are mostly policing ourselves, the USHJA had made it clear that we aren't supposed to be presenting our FEI horses as Green....

But then it became apparent (as I've also recently learned) that while the FEI does a good job of reporting results from it's larger competitions, it doesn't always archive FEI classes from smaller shows.  This baffles me, but apparently it was happening enough regularity to make relying on FEI online records a bad standard to rule by. 

Add on to that the folks who just omit the FEI record all together, and the rule change was pretty terrible at actually leveling the playing field for US born and bred horses. 

This brings us to last year, when another proposed rule change lit up COTH boards and the meeting rooms at the national meeting... I can only imagine the horror of debating Hunter rule changes in a meeting format, but from some locals I know who were there... it was ugly.

The rule change that actually passed at that meeting flipped our current mindset on it's head and states that if we can't keep European horses with Jumper experience out of the Greens, we should let US horses with the same experience in.

So where eligibility used to be restricted by how high your horse has jumped in competition of any sort... it is now only restricted by how high your horse has jumped in Hunter (or Equitation) classes.

You get a free pass to jump as much and as high as you want in the Jumpers

.... at least until you start campaigning in a Green Division. Once you start showing a horse in USEF Green Divisions, you may not compete higher than that division in the Jumpers... That seems like a somewhat unnecessary restriction, but whatever.

If you're curious about the actual wording of the rule... it is listed under HU103 in the USEF rule book.

Basically, if Windsor starts to show as a First (or Second) Year Green horse (which I'm shocked he's now allowed to do), he wouldn't be able to show over 1.20m in the Jumpers at the same time. (oh darn)

Opinions on this rule change are rabid, and I understand why.  I can see how disregarding jumper experience will help the US breeders...  eventually. But it does seem like a tricky flood gate to ever close again.

In the rule change explanation (huge nerd here), it is clear that the Board approved this change with the intent of changing it back once USEF figures out how to manage a universal ID system that would accurately allow us to track a horse's record overseas.  (see all of the current arguments over microchipping that are going on now..)

If and when that ever happens, it seems like an overwhelming majority of the membership wants to see the Green Divisions returned to the young, green horses they were meant for. 

But that will be much easier said than done. 


  1. huh this is all really interesting - and i'm not entirely sure what i think about it.... kinda doesn't seem like 'green' is the right descriptor tho

    1. There's lots of talk of changing the names, while not changing the eligibility, etc... but who knows.

  2. This is mental and incredibly convaluted & confusing. Fair play for spelling it all out. Having no experience or reference point for Hunter type events myself, it all baffles me to no end!

    1. It baffles us even with experience :) it's most similar to the Age classes you see in jumpers and Dressage. In fact I know there is also a proposal to phase out the Green programs and replace them with a 5 year old division, 6yo, 7yo etc... I haven't really looked into the pros/cons but obviously other disciplines make that work just fine!

    2. I've always found the age limit classes very demanding on young horses here. But I guess at least it would keep things level/even as every year the horses would have to change division & couldn't cherry pick entries to keep under certain points so as not to be forced to move up as i think can currently happen in USHJ? Apologies if I am out of line in saying that, as i said...i don't know enough about H/J

  3. I think my head hurts now trying to keep that all straight. Ye gods!

  4. All of this left my head spinning and is a part of why I have zero desire to show.

  5. All of this left my head spinning and is a part of why I have zero desire to show.

  6. Well until there is a Neonatal Green 2'- 2'3" division, I'm good. Lost the funds, brain, resolve to show higher after second kid.

    Also this stuff just fries me. I pay boat load money to compete against horses of totally different caliber.

  7. That's really interesting, I've never been involved in hunter world. Very educational post :)

  8. The rules always make my head hurt... I feel like there are so many loop holes and people will find a way sadly.

    I need to win the lotto to be able to compete lol!!

  9. Proposed Hunter Division Restructuring should help some of this by actually having age grouped division (micrichipping/and dna typing as well for some of the other abused divisions)

    I wish I could have taken advantage of it now with mine, to keep my 2009 Green horse from competing against 2006 green horses.


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