The Grassroots Competitor

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?




20 thoughts on “The Grassroots Competitor

  1. I absolutely LOVE that the USEA does this! I think it’s a great way to keep riders coming back for Horse Trial after Horse Trial, and as you mentioned, us adult ammys make up a large percentage of the competition field so I think it’s great that they recognize riders of all levels. You’re right: the USHJA doesn’t present any of their riders with any kind of awards unless you’re at a big rated show and on the national scene, which is a shame. Yes, this award is a piece of paper in a blue folder, but I definitely think it’s significant for you and Henry, and a really awesome gesture by the USEA 🙂 Congrats!


  2. I’d have it framed. 🙂
    And I think USEA does such a good job of supporting the lower levels bc you have to be a pretty real rider to compete at ANY level in recognized eventing, just due to the nature of the sport.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Definitely true in dressage too- the majority of riders really aren’t going to make it all that further than First level. The USDF is doing a better job these days in recognizing the grassroots competitors. At the end of every year we get a little plaque indicating the number of scores we had at each level. I know they’re doing patches now but I don’t know anything about them, and my chapter in CDS does rider awards at each level for the member who scored the highest at each level each year.


  4. I love it when organizations realize who their base competitors are. In dressage, most people show 1st level and below. It’s really kind of hard to be inspired by the USDF at those level. You can get achievement awards at each level, which helps. However, you aren’t getting far towards something like a bronze medal. That can feel like it takes FOREVER to get. (And it does. Fingers crossed and everything goes to plan it should take me 4-5 years to finally finish it. Yeesh.)


  5. So I haven’t shown yet this year but little acknowledgements make me want to be back in the game sooner rather than later. Karen @ Bakersfield dressage said it best – they’re little but it’s an “atta girl” that means something for sure. And it makes it less painful to pay dues each year 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  6. i love this – as a rider who isn’t likely to get beyond the lower levels, it definitely feels good to be acknowledged and still make to feel like an important part of the sport. tho i’m not even a USEA member (not competing recognized so what’s the point?) – but my local organization has all kinds of points and awards and plaques and trophies etc etc. i’m super excited to see how the year-end stuff pans out!


  7. I knew about the medal program (I got excited and thought Moe and I were halfway to a bronze medal at Novice, until I realized our scores are all way too old), but didn’t know they’d mail you certificates of achievement! That’s pretty cool.

    It’s nice when organizations can recognize the lower level competitors that comprise the majority of the sport. The USDF could do a better job of this, although I have to say that the local GMOs here do an excellent job of it.


    1. the Cert of Achievement is only at BN, but it’s pretty neat to see it show up in the mail unexpectedly. It’s like a “hey girl, way to go, keep on keepin on” kind of thing. Sometimes that’s nice to get.

      I admittedly am not a member of any local associations so I don’t do any of the year end stuff or points.


  8. =) Congratulations!! I love the USEA awards programs for lower levels. They’re better and more available than many other sport and breed organizations’ programs which require advance sign-up and additional fees.


  9. Frame it! I have my dog’s Canine Good Citizen and Rally Novice certificate’s from the AKC framed and hanging on a wall in our office. It’s an awesome little reward for all those hours spent working on obedience. Another thing I always enjoyed, they have a qualifying score at all events. If you hit that threshold you earn a leg towards the award and you earn a green qualifier ribbon. High scores are awarded rosettes.


  10. This is super awesome – the fact the USEA has these achievements as a way to recognize the lower levels, the fact that you emailed them to tell them you appreciate it, and also that you got one! I’d totally frame it! An achievement is an achievement no matter how big or small it is and every milestone is worth some recognition IMO.


  11. It’s been one of my biggest complaints about USHJA. I know I’m not a bigtime competitor — I don’t show at the highest levels, I don’t show all that often and I don’t win when I do show. But… I’m still out there. I wish that I got some recognition for all the fees I pay for continuing to do it and support the organization.


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