AHSA Approves Budget Supplement

A special meeting of the American Horse Shows Association (AHSA) Executive Committee was held late on Feb. 22. Its members voted to approve a supplement to the 2001 budget of approximately $3.5 million, immediately responding to any threat to international athlete funding support that might be caused by the United States Equestrian Team’s move to challenge the AHSA’s historic status as National Governing Body (NGB)\ for Equestrian sport.

The special meeting was triggered by a USET trustees telephone conference earlier in the day. USET trustees were advised by Vice Chairman Armand Leone, Jr., that he and Chairman Finn M.W. Caspersen had already signed and submitted a formal challenge of the AHSA’s status to the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) without seeking advance approval of the trustees. Upon a motion by USET trustee James Wofford that the USET officers immediately take steps to rescind the challenge, Leone ruled the motion out of order without waiting for a second. During the ensuing discussion, Leone stated that he had been “forced” to commence this litigation since the AHSA/USET Operating Agreement was due to expire Sunday evening, Feb. 25. AHSA president Alan F. Balch, who is also a USET trustee, asked Leone why the expiration of the Operating Agreement should cause this action, since the USET grew for 46 years without such an agreement with the AHSA. Leone had stated that the USET could not rely on the “whim” of the AHSA’s oversight of its activities. At the conclusion of the meeting, Leone accepted a motion by trustee Dorothy A. Matz to endorse the challenge. It passed by a wide margin, but with 4 abstentions and 4 votes against.

The AHSA Executive Committee meeting was noticed to all members of the AHSA Board of Directors, affiliates, athlete leadership, and equestrian media, who were invited to attend the teleconference. The budget supplement was approved on the recommendation of the AHSA Budget and Finance Committee, which had met immediately upon the conclusion of the USET trustees meeting. The supplement approved will authorize investment for new efforts in marketing and development, including staff hiring, to raise the needed funds. The overall budget as approved now forecasts a deficit for the 2001 fiscal year of approximately $17,000 in a total budget of about $15.6 million. The new expenditures will be devoted to international athlete programs and competition, and additional hiring which may be necessary in that area, should the USET withdraw support. Balch emphasized that he saw no reason for the USET to do so, since the AHSA as NGB had always welcomed support by any approved affiliate organization to support international competition efforts for the United States. The USET has historically filled such a role.

A sweeping resolution was also passed by the Executive Committee authorizing the AHSA officers to take any necessary steps to defend the AHSA against the formal challenge by the USET filed with the USOC.

Following the meeting, Balch said, “I want to repeat how disappointed we all are that the USET has chosen to take this approach to the sport’s governance, as well as by its tone in doing so. But the AHSA has been tested many times over the decades in protecting the whole sport in the USA, and has always had the ability to do it effectively. We will continue to welcome the USET’s assistance in supporting our country’s international athletes, if they choose to offer it. A formal challenge can be filed, and it can also be withdrawn at some point. We continue to believe that a consolidation of the sport’s important governance functions, international, national, and administrative, is best for its long term health, and we also believe the law requires it. We’ll go forward this weekend to the USOC Membership Committee with these ideas, while seeing to it that the rights and opportunities of all equestrian athletes are protected and funded without interruption. The USOC’s procedures for resolving such formal challenges as the USET has filed will be followed in every respect.”

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