Despite Registered Participants being included in the 2019 Equestrian Canada Rulebook, EC has confirmed that they have cancelled this $15 non-competitive level of membership effective April 1, 2019. The change, which was not communicated to the public, means that there is no longer a direct membership option with the national federation. EC advises that the product is still valid through 2019 for those who already purchased a direct Registered Participant license prior to its discontinuation but wouldn’t answer why the change was immediately necessary.

History of Registered Participant

Registered Participants used to be called Individual Members, but when the new bylaws came into effect in 2015, removing the voting rights of thousands of members and transferring them to 27 individuals, it was renamed “Registered Participant” to allow the use of the word “Member” to refer to the newly created three voting Membership Categories. The direct membership was created to capture those people who wanted to be affiliated with EC, but did not have a need for the additional services attached to a Sport License, which also requires a PTSO membership. This last part is particularly meaningful, as even though a Bronze Sport License is just $30, once the required PTSO membership fee is added, the expense can easily triple.

As per the current EC Bylaws, a Registered Participant includes Sport License Holders, Provincial/Territorial Sport Organization (PTSO) members, and those who pay a direct membership to EC.

Registered Participant vs. Person Responsible

The first reference to these changes appeared in the February minutes of the EC board meeting, roughly three months after the 2019 membership drive had begun. The minutes include a note from the Competition Structural Alignment Committee (CSAC) looking into whether there is a need for the direct Registered Participant License. However, given that the Registered Participant License serves those people who are NOT actively engaged in competition, it’s unclear why the CSAC were the ones reviewing the matter.

Further, the CSAC discussion centered around the “Person Responsible” and whether as a “Registered Participant” these people are covered by liability insurance in the event there is an incident at a competition.

This raises the question of whether the committee was actually confusing the different individuals:
1) Registered Participant = those who have no direct involvement with competition.
2) Person Responsible = those who do. Owners, trainers, handlers, riders, etc. that are ultimately responsible for the management of the horse, following the rules, and understand the risks of competition.

The next reference to Registered Participants was in March, where EC CEO Richard Mongeau announced that “it has been actioned that the Registered Participant product would no longer be made available; the ECE website has been corrected.”

The minutes further read that if the Board was in agreement “it would require a review of Bylaws, rule books, website information and day-to-day communications, to ensure that the information is disseminated correctly within the membership, stakeholders, network, etc.” although no such work has been done.

Liability Coverage

While the CSAC did raise a valid concern regarding liability coverage of the Person Responsible at competitions, that could have been easily achieved by requiring a Person Responsible to hold a current PTSO membership.

If liability was the sole driving force in this decision, that in itself raises questions as to what determines a PTSO membership’s insurance coverage would satisfy EC. While the General Regulations speak to the minimum insurance levels required for a competition seeking EC sanctioning, it remains silent on insurance required by EC license holders.

The EC Bylaws are similarly silent on PTSO insurance requirements. While all PTSOs are currently covered by the same contract with CapriCMW, EC rules currently don’t require that PTSOs offer a minimum level of insurance.

It is also not clear how membership in one organization can be dependent on membership in another private and autonomous organization. EC has no control over the membership fees charged by PTSOs across the country, which means there is no equality in base membership costs and a member can financially benefit or be penalized based strictly on geography:

Ontario: $69.95
BC: $57.75
Alberta: $50
Quebec: $64
New Brunswick: $50-$75
Nova Scotia: $50
Saskatchewan: $55.30
Manitoba: $63
PEI: $40
NL: $40
Yukon: $35

While the 2019 EC Rules were not amended to remove references to the Registered Participant product because, according to a spokesperson, “the product is being honoured for those who purchased it in 2019 prior to the discontinuation,” a likely more valid explanation is that the rule amendment process is strictly enforced and currently in the “extraordinary rule amendment” territory which states that rule changes are only permitted for “FEI rule changes, safety, monetary, clarification, ethical and equine welfare reasons.” The change regarding the EC Registered Participant product has been incorporated into the rule revision process for 2020 which have recently been published.