The United States Equestrian Federation has had a “mule rule” proposed during their annual rule change season and it will be coming up for a vote in January. With the passing of this rule, mules would be able to participate in all non-breed related divisions at USEF competitions. These include hunters, jumpers, eventing, reining, western, vaulting, and others.
The USEF has a rulebook that dictates all the rules for showing in sanctioned USEF events. In the General Rules chapter there is a rule that defines the term “horse” throughout the rulebook. Currently this rule states, “GR126 Horse: 1. The term ‘horse’ as used in these rules denotes either a horse or pony. 2. In all levels of all Federation licensed Driving and Endurance Competitions and in the case of any other Federation Rule as it relates to the Driving or Endurance disciplines as the context permits it, the term ‘horse’ shall also include a mule. See DC Annex 9, EN102.1.” There is an added note that indicates that mules are permitted to compete in dressage with several exceptions. (To view the entire rule, visit: https://www.usef.org/_IFrames/RuleBook/2016.aspx).
The new proposed rule amends the current language and, if passed, would allow mules to compete in non-breed related divisions. The proposed rule is such: “GR126 Horse 1. The term ‘horse’ as used in these rules denotes either a horse or pony. 2. In all levels of all Federation licensed non-breed specific divisions, which include Carriage Pleasure Driving, Driving, Combined Driving, Endurance, English Pleasure, Equitation, Eventing, Hunter, Jumper, Parade Horse and Saddle Horse or Pony, Western Equipment, Reining, Vaulting, Western, and Western Dressage, Driving and Endurance Competitions and in the case of any other Federation Rule as it relates to the Driving or Endurance disciplines as the context permits it, the term ‘horse’ shall also include a mule. See DC Annex 9, EN102.1. (To view the rule change proposal and see its intent, visit: https://www.usef.org/_IFrames/RuleBook/RuleProposals/PRCChater.aspx?chapter=GR01).
All of the proposed rules that were submitted to USEF were distributed among the affiliate organizations for discussion and a vote. For example, because eventing is named in this GR126 mule rule, the United States Eventing Association will have an opportunity to review and vote on the rule. All the committees on each affiliate organization will also review pertinent rules and submit a recommendation to the USEF Board of Directors. The USEF BOD will vote at their Annual Meeting during the week of January 11-14, 2017, in Lexington, Ky. Between now and then, the membership has an opportunity to comment on any rule, including this one.
Sadly, there is a small catch. Although USEF does seek comments on all their proposed rules, they are really only interested in comments from USEF members or their affiliates. For most of us mule people, we do not have USEF numbers because so many of us cannot compete at USEF’s competitions. There is a chance, however, that if enough mule owners, trainers, riders, and competitors share their support for this rule despite not having a USEF membership, USEF might be willing to accept our comments because the rule does directly affect us. Additionally, it would show USEF how many potential new memberships they may have if the rule is passed and all these people could be paying members.
There are a couple ways someone can comment and show their support for this rule: If they are a USEF member or a member of an affiliate organization (even if the membership is inactive), mule supporters can log in to their account at usef.org and comment on the rule GR126.2. If someone does not have a membership but knows someone with a membership, the mule supporter can ask his pro-mule friend to comment on the rule on his behalf.
Mule supporters without numbers are also encouraged to reach out to USEF or their affiliates by emailing or calling them directly. USEF Customer Care can be emailed at customerCare@usef.org or contacted by calling 859-258-2472 and showing support for rule GR126.2. I might remind USEF that mule supporters don’t always have a membership because they currently cannot compete but this rule directly affects them and their voices should be heard.
When contacting USEF and commenting about the rule, it would be very important for supporters to state why the rule is a good idea. Many people make uneducated excuses about why mules should not be included in sanctioned competition so educating people and sharing how wonderful mules are is important. For example, mules are raised, trained, ridden, fed, and treated no differently than horses; accepting mules would provide access to educational opportunities and programs for mule owner/riders; USEF would see an increase in membership. Other reasons might be that divisions that already allow mules (dressage, combined driving, endurance) are having success with competing mules without any issues, or that the intrigue of mules can bring new interest and excitement for many divisions and competition. As for the “your mule will scare my horse!” excuse, mules can be as well behaved or ill-behaved as any horse (stallions, green horses, green riders)…the argument that mules are unpredictable is not valid.
Feel free to share this information with the mule community and encourage them to support and comment while we have the opportunity!