Murray Kessler Outlines Key Areas of Success and Introduces Goals for the Future at 2020 US Equestrian Annual Meeting
In 2017, US Equestrian’s President Murray Kessler launched the now widely-referenced Strategic Plan, intended to revitalize and re-establish membership, support, and success within US Equestrian and the many services it provides. During Thursday afternoon’s General Session, Kessler spoke to an engaged group of members, affiliates, and staff about the continued commitment to the strategic goals of the organization and the many positive changes identified since the plan’s initial implementation.
US Equestrian President Murray Kessler speaks at the General Session of the 2020 US Equestrian Annual Meeting in West Palm Beach, Fla.
“We started with a stagnant membership. It was a slightly declining membership of 80,000 that was stuck there for more than a decade, and we were being criticized, and it was viewed that USEF was just a place to get a license to be able to compete and serve no other purpose and had no other benefits. It was a pretty tough place to be,” said Kessler, reflecting on the progress that has been made across the organization. “We took on the role saying we were going to change all of that and we put forth the vision to bring the joy of horse sports to as many people as possible and then over the last 3.5 years, we have been through a disciplined approach working through what we call our virtuous cycle.”
Renewed Interest in Membership and Reach
- For nearly two decades, membership at US Equestrian remained stagnant and slow, but since 2016, membership has skyrocketed, currently exceeding 187,000 total members and 100,000 fan members. More than 45,387 new members joined the organization just this year, with an increased number of former members renewing their membership at some level.
- In 2019 alone, 81,000 horses competed in more than 2,300 events nationwide, while 14,062 members competed for the first time ever, showing a significant increase in competition attendance and increased opportunities for members to compete.
- Members are engaging with good content. US Equestrian’s Learning Center is home to over 80 educational videos, which have been viewed by 32,000 unique members and amassed an impressive 320,000 views across US Equestrian’s social media platforms. Currently, US Equestrian’s social media platforms have over 800,000 followers, generated 20 million video views, and 170 million impressions on the 5,000 posts curated in 2019.
- USEF Network has become a valuable asset and platform for engaged members with more than 1.3 million total plays on streams and content this year, up 25 percent over previous years. New content and streams showcasing the diversity and scope of equestrian sport continue to bring people to the network for more.
- Fan memberships, when first launched, were met with apprehension, but have brought short and long term value to the organization through added revenue and access to new members with diverse equestrian interests. Currently, 14,847 fan members were at one point former competing members, which shows the ability and opportunity for US Equestrian to re-engage with audiences who were once not engaged with renewing membership.
- The past year did not come without challenges and value driven decisions, including the reaffirmed commitment to Safe Sport and the implementation of the federally-mandated Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention (MAAP) policies. As a result of the organization’s due diligence and support of the Safe Sport movement, 61,534 active members over the age of 18 are Safe Sport trained and US Equestrian received a Safe Sport audit score of 100% in review of its compliance with its policies and procedures. Also, in an effort to bring more clarity to Safe Sport compliance, US Equestrian will be unveiling an improved communications plan so members can easily stay up-to-date and informed about Safe Sport education and resources with new videos and webpages designed to meet the needs of specific groups with relevant information for trainers, parents, participants, competition organizers and licensed officials.
- This year, US Equestrian transitioned and outsourced all drug testing to the University of Kentucky lab, overseen by Dr. Scott Stanley. Along with the change in laboratory and testing site, Medroxyprogesterone (MPA) and Cannabidiol (CBD) were both added to the list of banned substances in an effort to protect horse welfare.
- Affiliate relationships have continued to grow and positive conversations are ongoing to find ways to create two-way value for affiliates and US Equestrian. Fifteen of 19 affiliates currently have agreements in place, while 2019 also marked an end of affiliate partnerships with the American Driving Society and the American Endurance Ride Conference.
- US Equestrian proudly unveiled its new office building at the Kentucky Horse Park in November 2019, signifying the beginning of a new future for the organization. The new headquarters will save more than $200,000 annually and has provided a collaborative, functional workspace for staff to better serve member needs.
- US Equestrian members will now have access to improved member benefits including health and liability insurance, as well as group policy insurance rates. The insurance program for members will continue to grow in 2020 and offer flexibility and additional coverage needs for all paying members.
- With FEI World Cup™ Finals back on U.S. soil, hosted in Las Vegas, Nev. in April, alongside team preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games moving to the forefront of focus, this year will heavily concentrate on the success of US Equestrian teams and individuals in elite international competition. When U.S. programs succeed, it inspires others to follow suit and ultimately strengthens programs that are committed to developing talent for the future.
- Driving sponsor relationships and revenue will be a key indicator of success in 2020. Sponsor partnerships bring value and benefits to members, while simultaneously supporting team performance and program enhancement for athletes and competitors.
- Youth teams excelled in 2019, sweeping numerous competitions and bringing home medals from top international competitions. Investing in the youth talent of US Equestrian reestablishes the commitment of supporting a strong future for U.S. programs as we look towards events that will serve as performance indicators in the next eight to 10 years, including the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games.