Last week when I made my bi-weekly trek down to the mailbox to check the mail (sorry mailman, I’m lazy), I was surprised to find a big envelope from USEA in there. Not having a clue what it could be, I excitedly ripped it open and found this inside:
A Certificate of Achievement! I have been so wrapped up in AEC all year that I totally forgot about all the cool little awards USEA does. Of particular interest to the lower level competitor (like me) they have:
The USEA Medal program for BN-Prelim
The Blue Ribbon Award program for all levels, BN through Advanced
The Certificate of Horse and Rider Achievement program for BN only
Hate on USEA if you want, but they do a good job of making the lower level rider feel included and encouraged. I certainly never got anything similar from USHJA, a world where it feels like you really don’t exist until you’re competing in a nationally rated division. I sure don’t see them mailing out certificates to 2’6″ riders, which is really too bad when you think about it… the grassroots levels are, after all, a huge source of funding. Over 75% of USEA members compete at Training level or below, according to USEA themselves. 75% at the lower levels!!! I know it’s the same at h/j shows and I have to assume it’s true for dressage as well.
IMO it’s a huge mistake to treat the grassroots level riders like second rate citizens. We are the majority, and we represent a lot of income. Some people don’t have aspirations of ever riding beyond the lower levels, whether it’s due to lack of time, lack of funds, or just plain lack of desire. That doesn’t mean they aren’t contributing to (and loving the hell out of) their sport. And it doesn’t mean they matter any less. Quite the contrary… the grassroots competitors are what keep all of these sports alive.
So I filled out the application for Henry’s silver medal award for BN (which I didn’t even realize we’d qualified for until Bobby mentioned it) and decided to also make it a personal goal to get his silver medal for N this year too. Then I decided to send USEA a thank you email. It’s easy to complain, to point fingers, to find fault, and to list a million things that your governing body is doing wrong. But if we’re going to point out the wrong, it only seems fair to also recognize the right.
Cheesy as it may be to some, I’m trying to find a good place to put Henry’s first little award. Sure, it’s just a piece of paper in a pretty blue folder, and it’s just for Beginner Novice, but in a way it represents a pretty big milestone and I’m grateful to have it. Hopefully it’s just the beginning of more great things to come with this little brown horse of mine.
Do you think it’s important for your governing body to recognize the grassroots competitors? How good of a job do you think they do? What things are they doing right? What things are they doing wrong? Do you feel like you’re given good opportunities for awards and recognition?