In a year of unprecedented challenges and seemingly endless unknowns, associations have struggled with difficult choices. Key among them has been making decisions that are best for the most members. The National Reining Horse Association, like other equine organizations, has waded through difficult waters, very aware of the reality that what benefits one member can negatively impact another.
The recent move of the NRHA Board of Directors to reinstate the NRHA World Championship races and titles for 2020 is a perfect example. In June, the championships were suspended because of how the COVID-19 pandemic had reduced the amount of shows, but feedback from members resulted in reconsideration of the issue.
NRHA President Mike Hancock noted, “At an impromptu meeting held at the NRHA Derby, people spoke of the months and months of preparation and planning that were part of hauling for a title. They stressed how important those World Championship races were to members, noting it was the title and not just the awards – that in view of the NRHA’s budget constraints, they would pay for their own awards if the titles were just reinstated. The board took a lot of time with the issue – considering several alternatives – from continental championships for North America and Europe among other ideas. But the central theme of what the board tried to accomplish, in my opinion, was helping us return to some form of normalcy even though it was still not the same for everyone. This decision does allow a large portion of our membership to reach goals they had set out many, many months in the past. Likewise, the members of the board do realize that there are people who are negatively impacted by this. There are just no simple answers.”
He explained that the issue will be reconsidered for 2021 and all options will be examined. For 2020, exhibitors must win money in seven NRHA approved shows to be eligible for titles.
An acknowledged impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the drastic reduction in revenue to the NRHA from shows around the world. A barebones budget enacted by the Board and Finance Committee resulted in staff and travel cuts and in some cases, member service streamlining. With that reality, the funding is simply not available for a full round of World Championship awards. At this point, some of the year-end awards have been sponsored by members wanting to assist and the board is hopeful that others will join suit in support of the program.
For NRHA Professional Jared Leclair, the process has been enlightening. “When I had an assistant trainer finish Reserve in the world for the Rookie Professional, I realized how important such a title can be for a young trainer. This was the first year I tried to go for a title, myself. I started out the year and didn’t completely understand how big a deal it was until the program was canceled.”
He continued, “People told me how important these standings and titles are to them and their careers and businesses. I had a dog in the fight for sure but I learned that there is a silent majority out there who base their business on this program and there are a lot of non pros for whom this is the ultimate goal.”
He complimented the process of addressing the issue – and the dedication of the NRHA Board. “This is a group of people who are volunteering their time to better the association. I saw them listen to all perspectives from the membership and try to come up with the best decision they could make in a difficult year.”
As far as the reduction in awards, Leclair noted. “Everyone who runs a business understands budget cuts. With this pandemic, we have all had to adjust our business models. We just need to keep people playing – keep goals for them. Sure, we’d like to get a truckload of awards, but the title is the thing. We can understand as a group we want to keep this program going, keep the NRHA strong, and keep the industry alive for everyone.”
He urged others in the industry to step forward to help with sponsoring awards. Individuals and companies wishing to sponsor different classes should contact NRHA Senior Director of Corporate Relations Sammi Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since the world title race has been reinstated, all NRHA event approvals received January 1 through August 1 will be considered Top Ten Events, which count for year-end standings. For these events to count toward the standings, the approval must be complete with all information required. This gives show management and affiliates the opportunity for August and September events not yet submitted to be considered as Top Ten Events.