My thoughts are with you and your family and I hope everyone is well and adjusting to the changes necessary due to COVID-19.
As a valued and loyal supporter of the USET Foundation, I want to let you know how the Foundation is faring and provide an update on the USEF High Performance programs.
The USET Foundation office and training facility in Gladstone, New Jersey, has been closed since March 16, and all staff are working from home. Although we have been able to continue business operations, we have missed being able to engage with our donors and friends in person.
Like so many organizations, the USET Foundation has carefully reviewed expenses and revenue projections based on the current climate. We have reduced expenses by 15% and we applied, and were approved, for the Small Business Association PPP forgivable loan, which will help bridge gaps over the next couple of months.
We communicate weekly with USEF leadership and the Sport Department. They have been extremely conscientious and proactive in reviewing their plans and making necessary adjustments. As you can imagine, their plans remain fluid and they are keeping the athletes informed through virtual meetings and conference calls to provide the most up-to-date information, including Olympic and Paralympic Games selection.
Bonnie Jenkins, USET Foundation Executive Director, is working with USEF CEO, Bill Moroney, and Director of Sport, Will Connell, to reassess program needs for 2020 and 2021. Our goal is to provide appropriate funding this year, but also create a reserve for 2021 when the High Performance programs have returned to their normal schedule, and competition and preparations for the Olympic and Paralympic Games are back underway. Some of the championships canceled this summer could run next year, which brings another dimension to the budgeting and planning process.
2020 was shaping up to be an exciting year when COVID-19 “lockdowns” began, just as the early part of the competition season was gearing up. We were all looking forward to a home Dressage and Jumping World Cup Finals in Las Vegas, the Para-dressage team had achieved some remarkable results, and Eventing was focused on the upcoming Land Rover Kentucky CCI5*.
Despite the cancellations, the USEF sport staff has been busy staying on top of the changing landscape. Qualifications, selection procedures, programs, logistical planning and, of course, the national and FEI competition calendars, have all been turned upside down, along with a myriad of rules that have had to be revisited.
Challenging times are always a catalyst for innovation, and the coaches and staff have not disappointed. Communication has been at the heart of all their activities. Coaches have been using Pixio Move ‘N See to give real-time lessons from afar, including the other side of the Atlantic. Online “judging” has escalated – athletes are videoed riding a dressage test, which is then uploaded and critiqued by a leading international judge. Another innovation has been the introduction of a weekly “assignment,” an exercise sent to a group of athletes, for example, a jumping schooling exercise. Out of these assignments have come group discussions and feedback sessions with coaches. Many resources have been made available to athletes including sports medicine and support to help people through the postponement of the Games and the challenges COVID-19 have caused. Although competitions are currently suspended, many equestrians have been able to continue training and the break has allowed athletes and coaches to concentrate on addressing some core weaknesses and take things back to basics.
Ensuring the safety and welfare of horses, participants, and all stakeholders at USEF Competitions remains a top priority of USEF. They have developed a Licensed Competition COVID-19 Toolkit for Competition Organizers and Participants that includes an Action Plan for USEF – Licensed Competitions to assist with managing risk associated with the COVID-19 Pandemic. Please make sure you read this, and exercise caution and good judgement while interacting with one another at competitions https://www.usef.org/media/covid19-toolkit.
The USET Foundation’s efforts to secure support for the High Performance programs and important international competitions continue through the Annual Giving Program and Raising the Bar campaign, however we recognize the fundraising climate may be more challenging in the short term. We are grateful to all our supporters for remaining generous and steadfast in understanding that the need continues even during these uncertain times.
Thank you for your friendship and support of our United States Equestrian Team and the High Performance programs that train and prepare our athletes, not only for the championships this year and next, but also for future generations.
Wishing you and your families much health and wellness. I look forward to seeing you soon and waving the flag proudly for our teams!
W. James McNerney, Jr.
Chairman, President and CEO