Ph. via NARG
The North American Riders Group annual meeting was held on Tuesday, February 23, 2016 in Wellington, FL. Now in its seventh year, NARG was formed by leading riders and figures in the sport of show jumping to work towards a better sport in North America.
“We started years ago, sitting in the old indoor ring after a grand prix in Lexington, KY, frustrated with the poor levels of shows in North America,” recalled NARG President Chris Kappler. “It was then that we started NARG to create a positive influence in the sport and instigate change.”
After years of knocking on the door of the United States Equestrian Federation and other governing bodies, NARG can now point to significant proof of progress. Board member Murray Kessler wasted no time addressing that progress to the roomful of top riders, trainers and industry members who attended the meeting.
“We started years ago, sitting in the old indoor ring after a grand prix in Lexington, KY, frustrated with the poor levels of shows in North America,”
“I’m not going to dance around it,” Kessler said. “You look at the bulging capacity at WEF, and clearly there is enough density to meet the competition standards with a second competition without hurting WEF.
After lobbying to USEF for years for changes to the mileage rule, NARG saw significant progress in 2015, with the USEF Board approving a New Exemption Process and rewritten Chapter 3 of the rule – Competition Licensing. This allows an event to essentially break the rule if it is justified.
There is now a process that allows you to appeal to a committee of a federation, to make the argument that the situation justifies an exemption. Competition standards, competition and calendar factors, and sport growth and visibility are the three major factors.
“This new exemption to the mileage rule relieves overcrowding in a given geography at a given venue,” Kessler pointedly stated to cheers and applause from around the room. He noted that the new Wellington Masters event was the first example of the mileage exemption rule in action.
““This new exemption to the mileage rule relieves overcrowding in a given geography at a given venue,”
“The Wellington Masters was a high quality event, the numbers were still huge that week at WEF, but there were a lot of smiles on faces that week at WEF,” he said.
Proof of progress for NARG continues with the increase in FEI-sanctioned events in North America. Compare the year 2014 in which there were just four FEI events between April and August in North America, to 2016, which now has 27 FEI events during the same time period, including 17 five star events, 12 of those in the United States.
“Our board is not trying to take credit for everything that’s been done here, but a lot’s been getting done,” Kessler said. “NARG has significantly influenced change and in some cases was the catalyst.”
NARG board members now represent the sport in many international show jumping organizations and affiliations. NARG assisted in streamlining vaccination rules to work with USEF in implementing a streamlined vaccination standard that works for all show organizers, instead of letting organizers set their own rules.
NARG Top 25 Goes on Hiatus
The NARG Top 25 has instigated major change in the sport, effecting the way exhibitors and management think about competition standards. Quickly, show organizers embraced it, and in five years NARG saw footing improve at 26 venues in North America. The list goes on; stabling was improved at 13 venues, Nations Cups events improved, and new European style events were added in North America.
That said, it was announced that the NARG Top 25 will now go on hiatus for several years. With the FEI is starting to take up competition ratings through their Event Classification System, NARG board members saw opportunity to begin a meaningful collaboration between NARG, USEF and the FEI, to have show standards maintained and rated in force.
“It was a great natural thing that NARG started and got going,” FEI Jumping Committee Chair John Madden said. “My own personal opinion as this objective and subjective evaluation of events gets more and more important, it’s not the place of a lobbying group to do that.”
“NARG remains issue focused and here for you,” Kappler stated. “The mission of NARG is to use its collective strength to make show jumping the best in the world.”
Other items of note were USEF Sporting Director Will Connell’s speech on building the foundation of the sport; Beezie Madden and Murray Kessler rotating off the NARG Board, and Mark Leone and Will Simpson’s re-election to the NARG Board.