Fix A Rated Horse Shows Before it's too late

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In February of 2019 There are only approximately 66,000 competing United States Equestrian Federation members scattered across 29 different breeds and disciplines.

Many of our riders flock to Europe where you can participate in a healthy sport- the German Riding federation alone has over 690,000 members- a country 25% the size of the United States population wise.

The 2017 economic impact study done by the American Horse Council estimates that there are over 38,000,000 horse enthusiasts in the United States.

Why aren’t more of them joining USEF and competing?

Let’s take a look at USEF’s flagship product- an A rated show.

The easy answer is that the price of this product has skyrocketed and only the wealthiest 66,000 out of 38,000,000 can afford to make it all the way to that stage.

How can you lower the price of a product?

One answer is that you allow more than one competitor to enter the market.

What do I mean?  Currently, the USEF only allows one A rated horse show per 125 miles in any given week.  Keep in mind horse shows are run by for profit business owners. People become less price sensitive when there is only one game in town.

Imagine if the National Association of Realtors only recognized one real estate agent every 125 miles.   That lucky agent could raise his or her prices.

“Owning a date” has become big business.  This means that you and you alone are allowed to put on an A rated  horse show in a  given territory.  Once you “own a date” you don’t even have to put on a horse show.  Common practice is to “lease the date” to someone else and let them put on the show. You can even charge someone to compete against you- because they will need your permission.  Eventually you could sell the date.  In some cases dates are left in their wills and successfully passed to their heirs.  Not joking.  None of these practices will lead to affordable events.

Don’t blame the A rated horse show manager.   They are just good business people and have found a lucrative business opportunity.  In some cases incredibly lucrative.

How does USEF decide who gets the permit for the A rated show?  Many people want it.  But usually only one gets it per territory.  The answer:  USEF handpicks who USEF wants.  They have a small committee that handpicks who gets it and for how long.   In practice it has generally been the same small group of people who have had the same dates for decades.  And very often they pick people in their own organization- people on their committees and boards.

The problem with that is two-fold.  One- USEF is giving someone a monopoly’s- so regardless of who they choose it’s going to be a high priced product.    Two- in a free market the CONSUMERS effectively picks which business owner they want.

As a consumer of A rated horse shows- I WELCOME a new business owner who wants to try and deliver a better product at a lower price.  Healthy business competition is the best way to create better and better products and services.  Horse show managers would be pushed to produce the kind of events you just couldn’t miss, provide so much value you had to load up the trailer and be there.  Innovative formats you had to see for yourself.  We won’t get there by using the same horse show managers and formats over and over again.  

Horse trainers have to keep their prices in line with the competitor down the street.  Why shouldn’t A rated horse shows?  I can’t really think of any other situation where an organization as powerful as the USEF intervenes and interrupts what should be a free market.  Maybe you can.

USEF says that they have to restrict and handpick who gets permits to put on A rated shows in order to “keep the competition pools healthy”

USEF’s role and focus on keeping competition pools healthy is admirable-but their focus is off.  They should be focusing on growing membership on a national level.  USEF should have 1,000,000 members.  That would keep competition pools healthy.  66,000 feels like an endangered sport.  There are more Narwhal Whales (an endangered species) than there are USEF competing members.  The United States Tennis Association has approximately 700,000 members by contrast.  Furthermore- the principles of supply and demand are fully capable of equalizing the number of competitors and competitions naturally and better than any outside governing force can.  

We respectfully ask that the USEF board of directors review the mileage rule and consider eliminating it to allow free market economics to naturally produce a better and better A rated horse show.