On Nov. 1, Joanie Morris became the new U.S. Equestrian Federation Managing Director of Eventing. She’ll work closely with new U.S. eventing Chef d’Equipe David O’Connor to oversee the U.S. eventing programs and support the athletes. The position was previously held by Sara Ike, who is no longer working for USEF.
“I’m really excited about it, and I hope I can be part of some positive changes that David and the eventing committees are already working on,” said Morris. “It’s a big job, and it will be as big as I want to make it in a lot of ways. I have a lot to learn.”
Morris has an extensive eventing background. She rode on the Area I CCI* team at the 1998 North American Young Rider Championships and worked for Phillip Dutton while she attended the University of Delaware and after she graduated. She went to the 2004 Athens Olympic Games to groom for Will Faudree, who was the team’s traveling reserve with Antigua.
She also spent time as a journalist, writing for Steeplechase Times, Eventing Times and The Saratoga Special in 2005-2006.
In 2007, she joined the USEF in a communications role and became the High Performance Communications Director. She took on the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships as the event director in 2009 and ran that for four years in addition to her communications duties.
Morris took a brief hiatus from her full-time job at the USEF this year. While she was still contracted for NAJYRC and as the press officer for the Olympic Games, she also found time to do some consulting and PR for riders and events. “I was never very far away from [the USEF],” said Morris. “But I got to spend more time at events, which was great.”
But she felt pulled back to the federation after the London Olympics. “The Olympic movement is incredible. Win, lose or draw you feel inspired by some part of it,” said Morris. “The competition in London was second to none. The event they put on was incredible. I came away from that, and I was feeling really inspired again, even in the face of not winning medals. When we talked about [the job] here, I thought I could get back into it. I thought it might be an interesting opportunity.”
Morris praised the USEF staff and said she’d learned an immense amount by working closely with Jim Wolf, the executive director of sport programs, and Sally Ike, the managing director of show jumping, as well as the other high performance staff. “There is so much knowledge in this place. Some of those guys, Sally and Jim, this is their life’s work. It’s been awesome to work with them,” she said.
In her new role, Morris will serve as the liaison to the High Performance Eventing Committee, Eligible Athletes Eventing Committee and Event Owners Task Force. She’ll work closely with Shealagh Costello, who is the director of the eventing national programs, and she’ll administer programs implemented by the eventing committees. She’ll also support the athletes and help develop riders for senior teams.
“At championships, the goals are to win medals, and we have to give athletes every chance to put in their personal best performance,” said Morris. “It’s a good year for a transition because next year there’s no international championship. There’s not the added pressure. We’ll have a chance to get a new system in place and hopefully have it prove really successful. I’ll be very, very busy.”