WCHS 2024 FAQs

Published: March 18, 2024 Updated: March 18, 2024
Many questions have been asked after the change of the governing body to the Equine Sports Council. Here, with the help of the Equine Sports Council, we compile many of those questions with answers. This page may be updated as more questions come in.

General Questions:

Q: Why was the Equine Sports Council chosen as the governing body of the WCHS over USEF?

A: The KSFB applied for licensure from ESC for the 2024 WCHS as the KSF believes the ESC will serve as a strong working partner focused on Saddlebred horse competitions. 

Q: How many shows does ESC govern?

A: As of March, ESC has close to 20 shows registered at this time. The deadline to register a show is 30 days prior to the show.

Q: Who will manage the WCHS in 2024?

A: Scarlett Matson will continue as the Horse Show Manager. Additionally, R. H. Bennett has agreed to come on as the Assistant Horse Show Manager.

Q: What was the process involved in selecting ESC?

A: ESC rules were reviewed and the ESC Board members were interviewed on January 22, 2024.  Multiple KSFB staff members participated in the interview with ESC, including the KSFB member Saddlebred representative. Based on this information, the decision was made by staff collectively to recommend to the KSF Committee and the In-House Events Committee to consider ESC as the governing body of the 2024 WCHS. ESC focuses on the Saddlebred competitions. 

Q: Would the Kentucky State Fair consider bringing back the WCHS advisory committee?

A: The KSFB is considering ways to bring back the advisory committee.

Q: How can new classes be added to the WCHS?

A: Several factors come into play with submitting a request for a new class including, but not limited to: the request must be submitted on letterhead between January 1 and February 1 of the year of the show and will require a one-time fee of $100,000 that shall accompany the request; the class shall have been held at other Saddlebred horse shows; the class requested will have the intent to be held for five consecutive years; if the class requested is added, it shall maintain a minimum of eight entries per year for the five-year period.  

Q: If ASHBA pulls the futurity class for 2024, it will be past the February deadline to submit new classes. Will there be an opportunity to fill that void?

A: If that scenario happens, the KSFB has every intention to honor the investment the owners have made in these mares and futurity classes, so they will continue.

Q: Was the decision to change governing bodies for the WCHS done with input from other industry organizations or customers of the show?

A: The WCHS is an independent Horse Show owned and produced by the Kentucky State Fair Board.  See KRS 247.140(1)(f). The decision to seek licensure from an alternative governing body for the 2024 WCHS was made by KSFB members who did have input from Saddlebred industry organizations and WCHS exhibitors.

Q: This was a large decision which affects hundreds of exhibitors. Was that considered? What affects do you believe it will have on the Saddlebred industry as a whole?

A: The WCHS has been the gold standard of Saddlebred competitions for 121 years. No decision is made without considering our industry and the equine world as a whole. The decision to change licensure to a different governing body, Equine Sports Council, for the 2024 WCHS should not affect the broader Saddlebred industry in Kentucky or anywhere else. The WCHS will remain a premiere world’s championship horse show held to high standards of operation and management, as it always has been.

Q: In regards to ASHBA’s role in the WCHS, was the Kentucky State Fair Board told that ASHBA was aware of the decision?

A: The KSFB has a representative of the Saddlebred industry who was recommended by ASHBA. That board member fully supported the decision.

Q: Did USEF find issues with the show last year?

A: Yes -- the 2023 USEF compliance letter addressed to the WCHS/KSFB presented issues. The KSFB staff expressed to USEF on January 17, 2024, the issues either already were, or would be addressed for the 2024 WCHS.

Q: Many of the ESC governed shows are also run by people who are on the board of ESC or officers of ESC. Does this bring up any concerns?

A: No, our focus is the WCHS. 

Q: Were there references for ESC?

A: Yes, references came from several individuals such as the Horse Show Manager, Vicky Holston and other Horse Show Managers from Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Q: Does the Horse Show believe that its class winners' names in the ASHBA Registry records will be annotated with the prefixes WC, WCG, WCC, etc.?

A: This is a decision for ASHBA to make.

Q: Does the Horse Show intend to include ASHBA prize program classes (Futurity, Sweepstakes, Breeders Challenge) in the prize list?

A: This is a decision for ASHBA to make.

Q: Does the Horse Show intend that class winners will accumulate ASHBA points towards a horse's status a CH (Saddlebred Record Champion)?

A: This is a decision for ASHBA to make. 

Q: How will qualifying points for ASB pleasure and park divisions be handled?

A: This is a decision for ASHBA to make.

Q: What shows will be tabulated and by whom?

A: If ASHBA is giving notice that it intends to not support the WCHS, the WCHS will continue as is for now and research other mechanisms to report.

Q: Will points from 2023 USEF shows count for 2024 qualification as in past years?

A: Yes, the points from the 2023 WCHS, where the WCHS was licensed by USEF, will count for the 2024 WCHS.

Q: What is the plan if the USEF decides not to allow its licensed officials to govern a non-­‐USEF show? 

A: The 2024 WCHS will have qualified judges and officials. 

Q: Is there concern that the horse show will not have the support from major sponsors as it has in year’s past?

A: As WCHS management understands from speaking with sponsors, the majority of the sponsors desire to continue to sponsor the WCHS. The WCHS recognizes that sponsorship of the WCHS is voluntary, as it always has been.

Q: What is the WCHS management’s stance on the petition from frustrated WCHS participants about the change to ESC?

A: Signing petitions is voluntary and speaks for itself. KSFB and WCHS management appreciate the interest in the WCHS, and the petition will be part of our records along with the emails and statements from those supporting the change.

Q: What is the largest show that ESC has governed?

A: Some of ESC’s larger shows include the Monarch National Championships, FASH, Southern Saddlebred Spring Fling and the Wisconsin Futurity. Those shows range from 300-400 horses each year.  Aside from Lexington Jr League, the KSF WCHS and the UPHA/American Royal, few shows in our industry have more than 300-400 entries.   

Q: How does ESC plan to support the numerous questions that come up during the WCHS?

A: ESC’s leadership team will be available 24/7.

Q: Will ESC register the WCHS be registered as an ASHBA Star Show?

A: ESC would not register the horse show as a Star show, the Kentucky State Fair would. The KSF will be fulfilling all the obligations required by ASHBA as outlined in the most current horse show application form.

Q: If ASHBA decides not to allow the WCHS to be a Star Show under ESC governance, what is your intended path forward for matters that are owned by the association, including the recording and recognition of points and titles on record? The futurities? 

A: Decisions made by organizations to engage in anticompetitive practices would most likely have unintended damaging effects to ASHBA without ESC taking any actions. ASHBA holds the funds to the Futurity classes at WCHS, and for those to be withheld would have detrimental impacts to the American Saddlebred Breeders Association. 

Q: Will Advisory Council members be allowed to compete at the WCHS? 

A: It is common for members of an organization’s Board of Directors or Advisory Committees to participate in horse shows.  For example, USEF Board Members and Committee Members regularly compete at the WCHS and other USEF shows across the country in every breed and discipline. ESC’s Board of Directors and Advisory Council will, likewise, be allowed to compete.

Q: The USEF Rule Book is copyrighted in its entirety. How is ESC going to ensure that they’re not in violation of that copyright?  

A: The ESC General Rules are their own, derived by researching a wide variety of other governing organizations across the country. Breed and Class Specifications are Sports Concepts, which are rules and standards of how the sport is played, and USEF does not own that copyright.

Q: Is there a date when the ESC rule book is going to be complete and no more changes to rules can be made?

A: March 31, 2024

Q: Can changes to the rules be made during ESC governed shows? 

A: No rules will be changed while an event is in progress.

Q: Will the ESC Show Commission be published ahead of time?

A: Yes, the Show Commission is announced at least 30 days in advance.

Q: Are decisions only made if the ESC Show Commission is unanimous in its decision making? What are the tiebreakers if decisions are not unanimous?

A: If the Show Commission cannot make a unanimous decision, then no action is taken.  It is the equivalent of a hung jury. 

Q: Who decides who serves on the ESC Show Commission? 

A: The ESC Show Commission is designated by Show Management.  If a unanimous decision regarding a rule violation is made, and the “accused” does not accept the penalty, then the “accused” may escalate the grievance to our neutral, third-party dispute resolution process. If the accused refuses the Acceptance of Penalty, such refusal must be made in writing and provided to the Show Commission and to ESC via electronic mail and regular mail within five (5) days of the offer of Acceptance of Penalty. The Penalty shall then be implemented unless the accused proceeds with an Administrative Hearing under RE 1105.

Q: How will ESC ensure the proper manpower to govern one of the largest horse shows in the United States?

A: KSF has the responsibility of managing the show and providing adequate officials to enforce the rules. 

Q: Does ESC have requirements for the number of stewards at a horse show based on its size?

A: No, but the KSF will employ knowledgeable Stewards of their own choosing, in the same volume as they have previously. In addition to the Stewards, the ESC Show Commission will rule on violations and impose penalties. ESC Directors will be available 24/7 should show management have any questions regarding the decision-making process, but ESC Directors will not be involved in rulings.

Q: How is ESC prepared to ensure trotting breeds are protected from accusations of abuse by animal rights groups?

A: ESC is a horse show governing organization. We provide standards, rules and guidelines that create a safe environment for both human and equine athletes.  ESC directors stay well apprised of USDA proposed rules and the PAST Act, neither of which specify any “trotting breeds” in their current language. As breed affiliates, ASHBA, AHHS and ARHPA should continue to expect USEF to lobby for and defend them.  ESC does not affiliate breeds – we simply govern horse shows.

Q: Has ESC ever been challenged or had to defend themselves in court?  If so, what was the outcome?

A: ESC Director and General Counsel, Tamara Tucker, focuses on appellate law, insurance defense and equestrian sports law. The ESC drug testing process follows ISO certified standards, and the ESC Hearing Officers are independent neutrals.  No, ESC has not been challenged in court.

Q: Will you require breed membership and registration papers?

A: Yes.

Q: Does ESC have any ability to intercede with USDA and APHIS?

A: The Horse Protection Act of 1970 applies to all breeds and the USDA has the authority under that act to inspect any horse at any horse show.

Q: Can ESC explain their giveback program?

A: 25% of the show fees that are collected at ESC shows are given back to that show in the following year as a marketing grant. ESC also provides grants to lesson programs to fuel the industry from the ground up. ESC knows there won’t be any horses at the WCHS if they don’t learn to ride in the first place. ESC also sourced lesson horses from our breed rescue organizations and paid their adoption fees and transport fees for lesson programs who demonstrated a need for additional lesson horses.

Regarding Safe Sport:

Q: Will the WCHS enforce the U.S. Center for SafeSport banned and suspended list?

A: Yes. The WCHS will enforce the U.S. Center for SafeSport banned and suspended list. There are seven persons currently on that list who are prohibited from participating in Saddlebred competitions. Those seven (7) persons will not be allowed to participate at the 2024 WCHS. As noted in an earlier response, neither ASHBA nor USEF provided the Affiliate Agreement to the KSFB.

Q: What will ESC’s policy be for entries and presence of people currently on the US Center for Safe Sport banned list?

A: ESC is not a National Governing Body of an Olympic Sport, therefore they have no jurisdiction with regard to the USCSS.  However, ESC rules support a horse show’s decision to enforce any banned and suspended list. The WCHS has announced that they will enforce the USCSS banned and suspended list.

Q: As set forth by the safe sport act of 2017, organizations in charge of youth sports are required to provide oversight and education for youth. Who will be required to educate and oversee the Federal requirements? 

A: The federal requirements apply only to those youth sports that fall under the USOPC.  There are thousands of youth sport organizations that do not require Safe Sport training.  ESC has a zero-tolerance policy with regard to putting humans at risk.  See Ch. 7 – Welfare

Regarding Safety:

Q: Are there additional security monitoring inside the barns, tents and other areas?

A: In the last year, the KSFB has added 650 cameras to the fairgrounds. Many areas involved in the WCHS are completely covered including approximately 45 cameras inside North Wing where many horses are kept. Docks along East Wing Drive is covered, as well as Stopher Walk. Additionally, every light pole in our parking lots, including the lot where many horse tents are set up, has cameras on them. Along with the cameras, we have an in-depth Command Center that is staffed and monitored.

Q: In the instance that there are concurring safety emergencies / incidents that require ambulances and EMTs, what is the safety plan?

A: The KSF has safety plans and protocols in place. New for 2024, there will be an ambulance on site 24/7 beginning 24 hours before the WCHS begins. The ambulance will be moved from its typical location to the makeup ring area directly behind Freedom Hall. During the weekend, two ambulances will be on site.

Q: Do you require a dedicated Safety Coordinator like USEF?

A: The KSFB employs a Director of Safety and Security.

Q: What is ESC’s biosecurity protocols?

A: Animal health protocols at the WCHS fall under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s Department of Agriculture Division of Animal Health. In addition, see ESC’s rules -- WL707 Equine Biosecurity Guidelines.

Q: What are your protocols if there is a horse or a human fatality?

A: WCHS’s official veterinarian will oversee the procedures for any horse fatality. The KSFB’s Director of Safety and Security and Kentucky State Police will oversee protocol for any human fatality. Additionally, see ESC’s rules -- SC615 Accidents, Injuries or Fatalities

Regarding Rules:

Q: As ESC has been updating and writing rules to be used in oversight of the 2024 WCHS, why were the breed associations who participate at this show not consulted as their breed standards and regulations are already in place?  

A: Breed affiliates are bound by their USEF Affiliate Agreements and are not permitted to work with any other governing body. ESC has engaged with other industry professionals to assist with updating ESC rules.

Q: How are ESC rules being written?

A: The industry professionals we have engaged make suggestions to the ESC BOD and Advisory Council, and all updates and changes are approved by the ESC BOD.

Q: Was there a reason the ESC rules draft pertaining to the start of the competition year was changed?

A: In the ESC rules, the Juvenile Exhibitor Age as well as the Horse Age were both originally set at January 1st .  It was brought to ESC’s attention that date would cause problems for Juveniles at the WCHS in their final year of competition, so ESC changed it to December 1st.

Q: The Youth division has changed from the current age to now being 18-­‐21. Will this have the same specs as the youth division with the ages of 16-­‐21 that the Morgans and Saddlebreds already have in the USEF rule book?

A: ESC General Rule states Youth are 18-21.  Breed rules supersede General Rules, and ESC will ensure the proper specifications for Morgans and Saddlebreds.

Q: The ESC rule defining amateurs is quite different than the USEF rule -­‐ how will WCHS be determining amateur status for this year's Horse Show?

A: Amateurs attest to their status when they sign the entry form with the following statement: 


Any violation of this rule will follow our Rule Enforcement process.

Q: Will breed rules address Saddlebred ponies going up in height to 14.3?

A: Breed rules supersede ESC General Rules, and Saddlebred-type ponies may be 14.3 hands.

Q: Will ESC have conformation rules?

A:  ESC breed rules will include conformation specifications.

Regarding Drug Testing:

Q: What is the role of the KY Department of Agriculture during the WCHS?

A: The KDA’s responsibility is for the health and wellbeing of the animals coming in. The KDA will continue to conduct check-ins as they have in the past where they check health papers and have inspectors view animals for any signs of communicable diseases. With regard to drug testing, the KDA has no actual responsibility for that but will work with the KSFB and ESC to secure appropriate licensed vets to carry out drug testing.

Q: Under the published draft of ESC guidelines, Horse shows with over 250 entries may elect to have drug testing. Why is this not mandatory? 

A: Drug testing is optional for any ESC network show. However, any horse on the grounds may be drug tested if there is an animal welfare concern.

Q: Has ESC ever conducted drug testing at another show and if so what show(s)?

A: No, but the KSF has been drug testing other livestock events for years, and ESC will be working with the KSF and KY state veterinarian to provide drug testing for the WCHS.

Q: What is the process for ensuring the integrity of samples drawn for testing? Who draws samples, what is the chain of custody?

A: ESC will follow an ISO certified lab’s procedures.

Q: What lab will ESC use for drug testing? 

A: It is an ISO certified lab that the KSF has approved.

Q: What is ESC testing for? What are the allowed thresholds?

A: Performance Enhancing Drugs - see ESC Rules Ch 8 – Drug and Medication Policy.

Q: What is ESC’s process for a failed drug test?

A: ESC’s rule enforcement and penalty standards are published in their General Rules. 

Q: Who will be selected for drug testing? 

A: Entries will be randomly selected for drug testing. ESC will contract with a local, licensed veterinarian who does not have a conflict of interest with any participants. 

Q: Is the ESC “Show Commission” designating who will be drug tested?

A: No

Q: Which drugs will automatically result in disqualification for 2024 and suspension for 2025?

A: That information is provided in ESC Rules Ch 8 Drug and Medical Policy and Ch 9 – Rule Enforcement, which includes the Table of Penalties.

Q: Is there a support number for veterinarians who have questions about applicable drug rules like USEF?

A: 1-855 EQUINE1 – Option 1 if an event is in progress.

Q: How can we be assured of the education and experience of the drug tester?

A: Drug testers will be licensed veterinarians referred to us by the State Vet office.

Q: How will we know it is an ESC drug tester? 

A: They will have a badge.

Q: What experience does ESC have in contracting with drug testers and labs?

A: ESC board members have experience with equine drug cases, as well as FDA and ISO certified consulting experience. ESC and the KSF are contracted with one of the top livestock drug testing laboratories in the country. 

Regarding Hearing Processes:

Q: Has ESC ever had any hearings? Is there anyone on the ESC banned or suspended list?

A: ESC has been successful in governing over 13,000 exhibitors. ESC has not had to trigger its full hearing process, but the Rule Enforcement process via the “Show Commission” has been utilized with successful resolutions, along with ESC having recovered debt for multiple horse shows. A history of previously suspended exhibitors is not publicly available. See Ch 9 – Rule Enforcement. 

Q: Has ESC engaged with USEF to enforce ESC suspensions across more than just the ESC network of shows? For example, if a violation occurs at the WCHS and a suspension is imposed, how will ESC (and the horse world at large) be sure that individual isn't able to show at a USEF governed show during the suspension period?

A: ESC does not have a reciprocity agreement with USEF.

Q: What authority does the ESC have when someone is banned/suspended to keep them from participating? 

A: Just as with USEF, when a participant is suspended, they are not allowed to enter another ESC show for the duration of their suspension period.  Horse shows in the ESC network are required to enforce the ESC Suspension List.

Q: ESC has said they are going to uphold the current USEF banned/suspended list, yet it says on their website there is currently no one banned from participation in 2024. 

A: ESC does not have any jurisdiction with regard to the USCSS banned and suspended list because we are not under the USOPC, but our rules support a show’s decision to enforce that list.

Regarding Financial Ability:

Q: Is ESC a 501c3?

A: ESC has not sought IRS 501c status.

Q: Does ESC have any paid employees or officers?

A: ESC is a private Alabama corporation, and its Officers are not paid for their positions.

Q: Where does ESC funding come from?

A:  ESC is a private Alabama corporation, primarily funded through ESC Network Fees collected by the horse shows.

Q: Does ESC have the proper financial backing to govern a show the size of the WCHS?

A: ESC has a $2M D&O insurance policy and a $2M General Business Liability Policy.  ESC provides any private contractor workers with a liability insurance policy, as well as each KSF Judge with a complimentary $6M liability policy.  ESC is an additional insured on the KSF event policy.

Q: Has ESC ever been audited? What was the outcome?

A: ESC is an Alabama Corporation, in good standing with the State of Alabama. ESC state and federal taxes are prepared by a Certified Public Accounting firm.  We have never been audited.

Regarding Licensed Officials:

Q: How does ESC plan to select judges, stewards, veterinarians, etc.? Currently, USEF licenses judges and stewards go through testing and learner programs before individuals are allowed to judge at shows of any prestige. Is ESC using the licenses obtained through USEF to determine the eligibility of judges and stewards as the rules of each organization may vary. 

A: ESC does not license officials. ESC offers an Officials Registry whereby Judges (with official licenses from other organizations or those with industry experience) as well as other show officials (ringmasters, show managers, stewards, etc) may register with us. Their names and credentials/experience/references are provided to show managers who are part of network upon request.  It is up to the show management to check those credentials/references and choose Officials that are qualified for their show.

Q: What experience does ESC leadership have governing a horse show that has licensed stewards? For example at Madison in 2023, the prize list says the Show Secretary was also the Steward. Is that accurate?

A: ESC encourages the use of individuals who have been trained to be Stewards, however, the designation of a "Steward" can alternatively be a show manager or a Show Commission member with the ability to enforce guidelines.  Members of a show’s management team may serve more than one role.

Q: Does the ESC leadership have any experience educating or licensing officials?

A: ESC does not license officials.

Q: How will stewards be held accountable to remain unbiased during disputes?

A:  In addition to the Steward’s ruling, the Show Commission will review the decision and must reach a unanimous agreement, otherwise no penalty is passed down.

Q: How will the ESC Board ensure disputes are adjudicated fairly given their longstanding personal relationships with the American Saddlebred community?

A: ESC’s dispute resolution process does not involve the ESC Board. ESC uses independent neutral arbitration.

Q: Will judges and stewards be trained on the ESC new rules before the show?

A: Yes.

Regarding the Facility:

Q: What are the generator arrangements in place for the tents at the show?

A: For this year’s WCHS, we plan to have individual generators placed at each individual tent so in the case that we did lose a generator potentially from an equipment failure or otherwise we would only lose one potentially but we'd also have a backup generator there on site to switch out should that need arise.

Q: Can Saddlebred Café be open during lunch?

A: We'll work with our food and beverage vendor and ask them to really consider having that open during lunch hours.  

Q: Can the footing in all arenas be addressed to be better?

A: The WCHS will work closely with our operations staff to better monitor the footing in all arenas to improve the areas.

This page may be updated as further questions are asked.