Naples, Florida – January 15, 2022 – US Equestrian President Tom O’Mara and CEO Bill Moroney delivered the General Session presentation to members and staff on January 14 at the US Equestrian Annual Meeting in Naples, Fla. They looked back at the successes and improvements made by US Equestrian in 2021 and laid out three priorities for 2022 with the theme of Ride United. Grow Together. US Equestrian senior staff also provided updates on 2021 and what is ahead in 2022.
2021: Listen, Learn & Lead Together
O’Mara explained that three strategic priorities of Listen, Learn & Lead Together guided US Equestrian in 2021.
- Ensure our actions support our members and their horses
- Explore opportunities to grow membership and results
- Increase sustainability by diversifying revenue streams
O’Mara noted that US Equestrian put its members and horses first with input from stakeholders and careful analysis driving decisions in 2021. The equestrian community responded to environment challenges posed by COVID-19 and EHV-1 and safely returned to a full competition calendar. Compliance visits to licensed competitions increased significantly in 2021 to ensure quality experiences for participants. US Equestrian gathered more member feedback, which led to open and ongoing conversations with USEF leadership. Safety also remained at the forefront with objectives such as the Virginia Tech Helmet and Safety Initiative and continued commitment to SafeSport.
Competition and participation made a big comeback in 2021. In 2020, 1,367 competitions took place with 61,869 members participating as riders, owners, and/or trainers. In 2021, the numbers increased to 2,159 competitions with 79,221 members participating as rider, owners, and/or trainers.
Membership grew to an all-time high in 2021, and revenue followed suit. In 2020, the total membership was 172,000 with 81,000 competing or life members and 91,000 free or paid fan members. Last year saw the numbers jump to over 200,000 total members with 85,000 competing or life members and 115,000 fan members. Revenues exceeded expectation for 2021 and, in some cases, exceeded pre-pandemic levels.
Moroney said that member dialogue played a significant role in the positive changes in 2021. Member feedback was gathered using a variety of methods, such as member surveys, focus groups, and interactive member webinars. Conversations on competitions and the amateur rule led to the formation of the Competition Task Force and the Amateur Task Force, respectively. The work of the Competition Task Force led to accelerated key rule changes, including a streamlined mileage exemption process, winter trimester hunter jumper calendar process in Florida, and a hunter jumper competition restructure for beginning in 2023. The Amateur Task Force focused on steps toward a more accessible, updated amateur rule with the help of significant member input. The result was Extraordinary Rule Changes that took effect December 1, 2021, involving situations ranging from barn duties to social media influencers.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts became a key point of focus in 2021. The “I Am US Equestrian” campaign shared members’ individual stories through a Learning Center video series, on social media, in US Equestrian Weekly, and in US Equestrian magazine. Educational DEI awareness sessions and quarterly DEI community conversations, combined with the support of the newly launched USEF Community Outreach Program and USEF Opportunity Fund were all important steps taken over the past year.
Partnerships and sponsorships expanded on all levels in 2021. Six new sponsors joined US Equestrian and 15 sponsors renewed their agreements. The MemberPerks Program expanded to provide exclusive deals to USEF members from 29 sponsors.
U.S. athletes and horses inspired us all with top results on the national and international stages. The U.S. Dressage and Jumping Teams won silver medals at the Olympic Games, and the U.S. Para Dressage Team won bronze and Roxanne Trunnell and Dolton won two individual gold medals at the Paralympic Games. U.S. teams and individuals impressed in Nations Cups at Aachen, Boekelo, and Wellington and in FEI World Championships with the individual gold medal for Tracy Bowman and Albrecht’s Hoeve’s Lars in para driving and the junior squad silver medal and the senior squad and pas de deux bronze medals in vaulting. Youth athletes proved they are ones to watch for the future, claiming junior team gold at the FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Youth Final and young rider team bronze medal for dressage at Future Champions. Affiliate and breed champions were showcased nationwide on a variety of digital and social media platforms.
Marketing efforts created more content fueled by 2021’s momentum. US Equestrian’s social media platforms had 1.2 million followers, with Tokyo 2020 content going viral. The USEF Network had 2.5 million plays and the USEF Learning Center videos had 457,000 plays. US Equestrian’s communications department covered 80 competitions and send 330 press releases over the course of the year. A total of 280,000 copies of the print editions of US Equestrian magazine were mailed to members. Fifty-two issues of Equestrian Weekly received 1.3 million impressions. The Ride United campaign helped drive awareness of key USEF benefits with a microsite, 15 and 30 second launch spots, “Why USEF?” competition tool kit, and social and digital media campaign.
2022: Ride United. Grow Together.
O’Mara plans for US Equestrian to build on the growth and momentum over the past year to reach new heights in 2022. Last year produced over 200,000 members and fans; 459,000 unique website visitors; 1,247,100 social media followers; outstanding national and international results; and an active and engaged membership. O’Mara aims to expand the strategic plan virtuous circle by refining US Equestrian’s product and developing new products and benefits. The virtuous circle involves:
- Keeping US Equestrian’s house in order,
- Refining our product
- Developing new products and benefits,
- Winning to inspire,
- Telling our story and selling our brand, and
- Delivering results.
O’Mara said members and horses are still the first priority. He plans to continue to grow avenues for members to inform decisions and governance with increased athlete representation on the Board of Directors and committees, expanded competition evaluations, phase two of the Amateur Task Force, progress with the Eventing Restructure Task Force, and dedicated inboxes for member feedback. O’Mara wants to navigate challenges with the ongoing calendar management process. He aims to strengthen sport structure and results with post-Olympic sport reviews, top results at FEI World Championships, and improvements to the Coaching Development Program. Safety and welfare will remain one of the main focuses for US Equestrian with Safe Sport and a new Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Policy as well as horse care and biosecurity educational resources. O’Mara wants to tell US Equestrian’s story better with an expanded Ride United campaign, the continuation of the How It Works department in the magazine, and more educational interactive webinars.
The second priority is growth with the target of 1 million members, subscribers, and fans. Moroney elaborated on plans to maximize US Equestrian’s new membership tiering structure. Fans (formerly free fan members) receive some benefits, such as the USEF Network livestream, and have an easier sign-up process with no promo codes and auto-renewal. Subscribers (formerly paid fan members) receive full benefits aside from being able to compete. US Equestrian plans to expand member acquisition with strategies such as maximizing USEF Network content, new affiliates and member conversions, DEI Action Plan outreach, and Competition Lite.
The third priority for 2022 is to diversify revenue. Diversifying the revenue will help grow the sport by leveraging existing USEF assets to new target markets, becoming a more broadly recognized sport resource and lifestyle brand, and identifying new sources of revenue that achieve significant scale through partnerships with others.
O’Mara wants to progress the Business Innovation Group (BIG), which is designed to identify and drive new revenue sources that increase US Equestrian’s reach, visibility, revenue, and ultimately membership. Development is underway with advisors and potential partners with ideas, such as USEF results and data aggregation products, USEF-branded event series, and USEF virtual coaching partner.
O’Mara’s 2022 priorities will help guide US Equestrian toward important goals, including:
- Building on our strong foundation,
- Strengthening the sport with new opportunities at all levels,
- Developing new products through innovation/partnership and outsourcing,
- Selling our brand and reaching new markets,
- Becoming financially diversified, and
- Optimizing the existing talents and assets of the Federation to achieve results.
Senior Staff Updates for 2021 and Beyond
The US Equestrian senior staff shared what tasks employees worked on in 2021 and plans for the future. Numerous steps were taken by the competitions, compliance, and equine clean sport departments to make competitions better with:
- Increased compliance visits guided by 1,600 competition evaluations,
- New online horse transfer process,
- Streamlined horse/pony measurement process,
- Improved online horse and rider reports,
- New drug testing app for a paperless process,
- Licensed official library of resources,
- Steward planning schedule, and
- DEI training for licensed officials.
The marketing and sport departments noted the progress seen in growing pathways and success over the past year. The Ride United campaign shared the top eight benefits to US Equestrian membership. National breeds and disciplines had strong participation in national championships and ways to bring more value to those competitions and other programs were discussed. The U.S. teams were highly successful in Tokyo due to adaptability, flexibility, and stability of the team and supporters. Sport pathways will focus on excellence at every level, from youth to high-performance levels. Social media was able to capitalize on sport success to engage members and fans, while attracting sponsors with US Equestrian’s strong analytics on its platforms. Membership and revenue growth will be a focus of the marketing department in 2022.
US Equestrian did much work to support its members through the finance, human resources, information technology, and legal departments in 2021 and plans to do more in 2022. The organization had a strong year financially and looks to have a solid year in 2022. The information technology department completed 45 major projects in 2021, including upgrading the member and competition dashboards, and aims to accomplish Business Innovation Group projects and other initiatives in 2022. The legal department did important work with Safe Sport and the minor athlete abuse prevention policies and completing the USOPC audit. US Equestrian employees work on a hybrid remote schedule and numerous human resources benefit programs are available to members.
Watch the full General Session and more from the 2022 US Equestrian Annual Meeting on the USEF Network.
Source: Press Release by the US Equestrian Communications Department for USEF / US Equestrian – United States Equestrian Federation
Photo: © Ashley Swift / US Equestrian