Thoughts from Convention discussions: Rider Licenses and Refusing Entries
I just had this all typed out and for some reason my mouse hit something and took me away so I lost my original post. So bear in mind this is version 2 and I may have lost some of the points I had before!!!
Anyway the reason I am posting this thread is that I don’t know how many of us were able or unable to hear the G10 summit from the convention yesterday. And we should be talking about the ideas presented to the various committees and association that will affect our future. The topic I chose for this thread was the first thing I heard David talking about yesterday, Rider Licenses.
Rider licenses would, in their intended form, give us a standard of each rider knowing what they need to be at each level. And if enacted in a careful way, would allow for riders who have not proven their competency at the right levels, would not be allowed to compete above the level they are licensed for. Now of course the key to making this work is how to determine what level each individual rider is capable of. It won’t work if it becomes, “Oh John Doe works for Bruce and Bruce says he is competent at Prelim, even though he hasn’t done an event since last fall and that was novice.” In this instance it’s very possible that John Doe is competent at prelim after that much time working for Bruce, but it can’t be an automatic assignation of level. There has to be a testing or some form of observation standard that will be done with all riders equally. And that won’t be easy.
The key with this proposed rule will be how it’s enacted. You have to cross all the levels of knowledge so that we weight the level licensed with horsemanship before scores. It won’t matter if you can get a 28 in dressage if you don’t know what to do if your horse goes lame or ties up beneath you. Additionally you should have a clue what each speed feels like and (IMHO) you should have to sign something that says that you agree to put your horse’s welfare above your score.
I expect that this idea, like many new ideas, will be met initially with resistance. But we have come to a point in our sport that we have to figure out what to do to reduce the number of injuries and unsafe riders. And it’s not just us here in North America. As Eric Smiley said, this conversation is going on all over the world, in Germany, England, and Australia and so on. Eventing has hit a big participation boom, while at the same time fewer and fewer riders are familiar with what it’s like to be a horseman. Many have very rarely ridden out of the arena, and fewer still have done extensive riding on hills, in fields and such, and feeling what a horse and rider need to balance out across the country. But yet they feel like they are capable enough to run an event!!
So as a result we have riders who can barely control a horse in the wide open gallivanting around BN and N while in a state of semi control. They are either going too fast because they don’t know what a gallop is, or what their ‘official’ speed feels like. Or worse, they choke the horse back to be too slow because they’re afraid of speed. Both of these types of riders are running close to having an accident. And the rider’s responsibility that we heard so much about over the convention broadcast, is all but missing if there is a $2 ribbon waiting at the finish line for these riders.
This has to stop. We have to have a way to send these riders, and others like them, back to the drawing board.
On the racetracks all exercise riders must be licensed. And sure with everything there are some jurisdictions that take it more seriously than others, but by and large the riders on the track are overall of a higher competence because they had to be approved before they could get the job. And everyday the outriders who approved them stand guard and watch everyone everyday and can pull a license if a rider then becomes unsafe. I know to get my exercise rider’s license I had to answer questions about track rules, track courtesies and then I had to be observed galloping 2 different horses. Only then would they sign off on my form and allow me to gallop.
It seems to me that if we not only have license standards, but also make a way to suspend or revoke licenses, that people may pay more attention to their level of competence. And if they do get benched, maybe it will dawn on them that it’s not enough to just survive.
Another thing that was mentioned that I am surprised hasn’t been done more to this point, refusal of entry. That is to say that each of us would have a record. And as a part of this record we would have it noted if we were unsafe at any of our events. And obviously if a trend develops of a consistent lack of judgment event secretaries could refuse our entries.
I love this idea. It’s long overdue and yes it’s going to be a bear to get right and enforce, but unsafe riders should be prevented from continuing.
I don’t know how many of you know this, but in the racing world we have all sorts of “lists” that if your horse or you are on it, you’re benched until you rectify what got you there. For Example:
• Bleeders List
• Starters List
• Stewards List
• Nerving List
Now most of these are self explanatory but let me give a small description.
The bleeders list is for horses that have been shown to have bled during a race. Either found by endoscope exam or by visible bleeding. A horse on this list can not run for anywhere between 30-180 days and must have performed so many workouts where the State Vet was allowed to scope the horse following and verify that it didn’t bleed. In Maryland after the 3rd time this happens, a horse is banned from racing in MD for life.
The starters list is for any horse that behaves badly at the gate, going in, going out, waiting to load etc. If the horse was unsafe it must be schooled and approved by the gate crew that it has come through its issues and is once again deemed safe to start.
The stewards list is more for the humans involved. Most of the people on this list have earned their place for money issues, positive drug tests and rule infractions. To get off the list you must show and be signed off on that you have given whatever type of restitution is necessary.
The nerving list is only active in certain states but its required that horses that have been nerved in the heel or foot must be registered with the racing office so that if they run in a claiming race that any potential claimer would have advance knowledge that the horse had been nerved.
Overall for an industry that often times gets painted as being careless and only interested in the gambling profit racing actually has more provisions in place to protect its horses than eventing does. I truly find that shocking.
So those are my thoughts. What do you all think???
I'm with JER and West5...
I think we have a qualifications system in place for rising up the levels and I don't think we really need "licenses" to compete for beginner novice and novice. I have been shocked to read, like everyone else, of the deaths of so many upper level riders this year. It is appalling and I am all for investigating ways to avoid these horrible accidents. However, I find myself getting a little disgruntled when every conversation segues into trying to link these deaths with the poor riding skills of those at begnniner novice and novice. I just don't see how this is related to these specific accidents.
Yes, I probably resent this a little because those are the levels I ride at, and I have certainly been guilty of going too slow, or too fast, hanging on my horses mouth, or jumping up her neck. The thing is, I'm still learning, I don't do this for a living, and I believe if your goal is to compete you have to go out and compete. I do schooling shows, I do clinics, I take lessons, but I like to compete at recognized shows too. Of course you see lots of mistakes at these levels - they are introductory levels for green horses and riders. I have seen cringe inducing rides. I may have had one of those rides at one time or another. :) I think we already have rules such as penalties or elimination for dangerous riding that protect those people who are out threatening their lives and/or their horses on course.