Current U.S. Hunter Jumper Association President Bill Moroney will run for a third term as president of that association. This announcement, made on Nov. 12, came a few weeks after Moroney had endorsed Mary Babick for the position. Babick was the sole candidate put forth by the USHJA Nominating Committee. Moroney was nominated from the floor shortly before the Nov. 10 deadline for those nominations.
The USHJA Board of Directors will elect the president on Dec. 4 at the Annual Meeting in Miami.
“Having served as USHJA President since the organization’s inception in July of 2003 and having guided it to its present prominence in our sport, I feel it is exactly the right time for me to step aside as President,” said Moroney in a press release on Oct. 19. “Mary is capable and willing to perform the duties of the office of President, and she both exemplifies the qualities and possesses the skills the Board of Directors deems important for the position.”
But Moroney, who offered as early as last December that he would be willing to step aside were an appropriate leader identified, reconsidered after some members expressed their hesitation about a change of leadership at the same time the organization will be implementing a new governance model. That model, among other things, creates hunter and jumper working groups that oversee their respective disciplines.
“I had initially determined that I would not run for the office of President of the United States Hunter Jumper Association for another term and subsequently advised the Nominating Committee and Board of Directors of my decision,” explained Moroney in a statement issued to the Chronicle. “In addition, I expressed my support for Mary Babick as a candidate for President. Following my decision not to run, I have heard from a number of individuals on the subject of the USHJA Presidency. This has led me to a difficult period of reflection and analysis, culminating with my acceptance of the nomination from the floor for the office of the USHJA President.
“In part, my decision was the result of concerns expressed by a myriad of people that I respect, suggesting that my decision to leave was premature and that remaining through the comprehensive governance transition would most benefit USHJA in the long term. Additionally, it is my opinion that I misjudged the benefit of continuity in leadership to enact a comprehensive change in our governance structure.
“The decision to reconsider and accept the nomination is also based on my realization that my commitment to the USHJA will not allow me to walk away at this critical time. We are at a vital juncture with regard to reworking our governance model and the future direction of our sport. I have concluded that my seeking to continue as President, while completing the transition to the new governance model, is integral to the future of the USHJA.”
After his term ends this December, Moroney is eligible to serve one more four-year term.
Shoulder To Shoulder
When Babick was deciding whether or not to seek election, she consulted with Moroney and USHJA CEO Shelby French, who encouraged her. She was vetted and approved by the USHJA Nominating Committee. In addition to Moroney, USEF President Elect Chrystine Tauber and chair of the Hunter Restructure Committee Geoff Teall endorsed Babick. She travelled to Lexington, Ky., in late October during the Alltech National Horse Show and met with USHJA staff, Tauber and outgoing U.S. Show Jumping Chef d’Equipe George Morris.
“On Saturday as I was driving home Bill called me and said there was a lot of unhappiness and nervousness—not about me, but about the shift in governance and having a new leader at the same time. He asked if I would be willing to step down,” said Babick, who underwent leadership training to better prepare herself for her position.
Moroney also told Babick he was seriously considering running for another term as president because of this pressure.
“I thought for the last 3½ hours of the drive,” said Babick. “When I got home I sent him an email and said, ‘I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I cannot step down, and I don’t think you should run. I think you should draw a line in the sand—I’m representing the ideals of your vision. If I step down it demonstrates lack of character.’
“I’m fine with either outcome,” Babick continued. “I will stand shoulder to shoulder with Bill no matter what happens. But at this very moment, there are no outcomes without breaking eggs.”
Babick believes any nervousness about her candidacy could come from those who participate in the upper echelons of the sport who fear she’s not as intimately familiar with that segment of the industry, in particular with the jumpers.
“A lot of people are afraid I don’t know that much about jumpers,” she said. “Compared to some, they’re right. But I certainly know more than your average person. I’m smart enough to sit down with George [Morris] and to sit down with [the North American Riders Group] and discuss what they want. I want to sit down with the amateur rider segment to understand those dynamics.”
Babick and Moroney stressed that despite the confusion, they respect one another and understand that each is trying to do right by the organization.
About The Candidates
Moroney, Keedysville, Md., has been president of the USHJA since its inception in 2003. He’s a member of the USEF Board of Directors and the vice president of national affiliates of the USEF, as well as a Between Rounds columnist for the Chronicle. He’s also a frequent clinician and experienced USEF R-rated judge, most recently presiding over the Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals. Moroney is praised by many—including Babick—as a forward-thinking visionary who led the USHJA from a vague concept trying to marry disparate interests into a major force in today’s sport.
Babick serves on the USHJA Board of Directors, the Planning Committee and the Emerging Athletes Committee. She chairs the Youth Committee, and, beginning in 2013, she’ll head the revamped Hunter Working Group. She also chairs the USEF National Hunter Committee. She was a key figure in shepherding the EAP through a major transition in 2011 and spearheading this year’s new Horsemanship Quiz Challenge.
At her Knightsbridge Farm in Atlantic Highlands, N.J., Babick runs a riding program that teaches students from the foundation level to amateur jumpers competing on the A-circuit, and she coaches students at all levels in between. She got her start in the eventing and dressage worlds and has achieved her British Horse Society Assistant Instructor qualification. She lives with her husband, Alex Babick, and her three dogs in Freehold, N.J.
Among other issues, Babick feels strongly about continuing to improve communication between the USHJA and its members, specifically improving transparency and avoiding unnecessary secrecy.
“I believe in shining a light on things, even if it has a terrible impact on me,” said Babick. “That’s how problems get fixed.”
Look for news of the election online on chronofhorse.com and full coverage of the convention in the Dec. 24 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse.