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Thoughts from Convention discussions: Rider Licenses and Refusing Entries

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  • 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???

    "Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all." ~2001 The Princess Diaries

  • #2
    <<people may pay more attention to their level of competence>>

    Certainly, that's the issue in a nutshell, but...

    While Eric Smiley provided really useful perspectives on how this dilemma is being encountered throughout the eventing world, things ARE a bit different on this side of the pond for at least one major reason--and, unfortunately, IMO this reason torpedos all of the good intent behind your own reasoning, Xctrygirl: litigation.

    David's proposal is based on a heck of a lot of subjectivity all the way down the line. Unlike the great examples you provided from the racing industry, there would be no vets, secretaries or impartial yet professional witnesses (like the outriders) to provide the evidence needed to curtail someone's freedom to pursue happiness as they see fit.

    Now, I can see how the case can be made that membership status should confer agreement to abide by the rulings of duly qualified and licensed officials, but it's just like liability laws: a law can't stop a lawsuit from being filed. So any kind of subjectively-based restriction is going to open the organization up to a slew of complaints that could lead to litigation.

    That's why I think an objective process (rather than a subjective set of criteria) will be the only way to get "people [to] pay more attention to their level of competence."
    Sportponies Unlimited
    Athletic Thoroughbred crosses for the highly motivated, smaller rider.


    • #3
      I hate to see more rules piled on top of existing rules.
      If the current rules, in general, do not govern the sport adequately, then hold an international conference, rewrite the rules and throw the old ones away.
      If they do govern the sport adequately, then tweak them every
      once in a while and leave the sport alone.

      If one honestly thinks that more and more rules and attempts to govern every single possible action that could possibly occur will benefit the sport, I think a good look at the tax code might change that perception.
      Nina's Story
      Epona Comm on FB


      • #4
        Why can't we just enforce the rules we currently have on the books??
        Experience is what you get, when you didn't get what you wanted.


        • #5
          Yeah, like gun control? I suppose like with that issue it depends on who is "in charge" and makes sure that the rules are enforced.
          Grab mane and kick on!


          • #6
            I haven't had a chance to attempt to hear the proposal yet, and I have a hearing loss, so I'm afraid I'll miss some of the details. Can you clarify what the recommendation is? From what you've written, it sounds a bit like the Pony Club tests - a combination of horsemanship and riding. I like it a lot better than the proposed changes to the Dressage rules, at least! I don't know how they would go about implementing it, though, especially for horse/rider pairs who want to move up mid-year. If someone is riding badly or dangerously, I thought they can already be stopped on course?
            Stay me with coffee, comfort me with chocolate, for I am sick of love.


            • #7
              I wonder who will end up paying for all these changes, as they seem like they will require alot of manpower. In an ever increasingly expensive sport, this may put it out of the financial reach of many. Though I have alot of concern for the riders and horses safety, I wonder if this will really help. And I wonder who will be the judges of safety, as many of the scariest riders I have seen were students of some of the top names in eventing. Not to be all negative, as I have no idea how to correct the current situation. I'm glad someone out there is brainstorning this!
              Sir Chancelot- 8 yr TB/ App


              • #8
                Originally posted by Xctrygirl View Post

                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.
                Ok I'm having an issue with this. There is a tone of indignation in your post that is not appealing.

                For example, I absolutely "know" what the correct pace is around N by feel. I don't wear a watch. I don't need to. This year I competed at Millbrook in the pouring rain. For those of you who have never been there it is all about the terrain. The footing was a disaster. After the 3rd jump a big section of the course is on a downhill grade, there were a bunch of combinations and several jumps at the bases of steep mini-hills including a skinny & a ditch.

                I ride an older horse and I was not trying to make time - on purpose. I was unwilling to risk her soundness by going faster than I needed to and having her slip and tweak something. Had a slow canter during the generic sloping section of the course, trotted the steep downward parts and did not "push it" to make up time.
                So under the new system would I be penalized?
                How will you regulate this?
                Will someone interview me after the course to see that I was not "choking" my horse but rather making an educated decision for her safety?

                Also, BN/N basically is the drawing board. There is NO SUBSTITUTE for competition no matter how much you school. There has to be leeway for the lower level riders to get out there and compete with out complete fear that if they have a bad ride/show that they will be punished.

                As far as I can tell, most of the serious injuries have not been happening at the lower levels.

                A lot of lower level riders I know, treat their horses like they are precious jewels. I'm not saying that their knowledge and horsemanship couldn't be increased ten-fold but I don't think they are the only problem.

                What about the upper level riders who compete their horses every weekend (or 3 out of 4) for months on end? Who have very young horses competing at the higher levels? Where is the horsemanship there? What will the regulations be?
                (Yes, I know that some horses are ready, etc)


                • Original Poster


                  There are of course going to be cross sections of any sport and generalizations thrown in with it that may or may not be accurate depending on the day, event, weekend, course etc.

                  As you describe yourself, I'd be thinking from watching you ride as you describe that you are competent at your level and thinking for you and your horse. Congrats. But the problems that exist now do exist. Even though plenty of riders are smart for their level. There is an equal or sometimes greater number of yahoo's without a clue.

                  If you don't believe it's as prevalent as I say, or as the others concerned say, do this... volunteer as a jump judge throughout the season. Watch what goes on weekly, monthly etc.

                  Its a real eye opener believe me. Especially at training level. I am not proclaiming to know all the answers, but I thought it best to discuss some of the ones that are out there being put on the table. We grouse and grouse about how we hate this new rule, that new requirement but are you actively involved with the organization BEFORE the rule hits??

                  Ok as to the whole can't compare racing to eventing, I never said it was apples to apples exactly. But it is a horse sport, with governing bodies, and they do have ways of slowing down repetition of negative events. As such it is worth noting and investigating those tangently related points. Many of the higher ups in this organization have looked to the worlds of car racing, motorcycle racing and other motor sports for ideas for eventing. So I don't think I was that far off to mention something in horse racing.

                  Not enforcing the rules on the books. Ok well David also said that the whole Yellow flag and Red flag would be a lot more prevalent this year. (For those unfamiliar with this the president of the ground jury will be out on xc with both a yellow and a red flag. The yellow flag is a caution flag that if waved at a competitor means that they're being "reviewed" as they're riding and that their actions to that point have put them under review. If the President then waves the red flag, you're out, Done, eliminated. But I don't know probably with its own term like "Disqualified by Jury" Don't know what they'll call it.)
                  This is the next step within the current dangerous riding rules. I am not making these things up, this is what's coming this season.

                  As for other rules.... Does anyone see any kind of qualification out there for first time eventers to have to start at BN or N???????????? Horses that have to start below Prelim???? Nope. Our rules don't include any rules about where and how a combination comes from and where they must start off at. As we saw a number of years back there was a hunter rider on their childrens hunter horse(3'6" division) that decided to try an event. First event for horse and rider and they went Prelim. And that girl died. No breaking of rules but every fence judge reported that she had no business being out there. And so that rule was changed. Now only a rider with training level or higher experience can take a green horse out to a prelim for its first event.

                  But I am telling you, the training level first timers with green horses can be frightening. I wish we would require at least some N or BN time.

                  And over and over we talk about common sense, but it just isn't a God given personality trait for everyone. There are bad decisions made in life every day by the millions that come down to not using common sense. And not just in the horse world, in every part of life.

                  And do I like "Big Brother" watching over all of us? Ummm yes if it stops riders and horses from being hurt unnecessarily. For that I will happily follow the rules put out there. The rules I haven't liked historically were when they lessened a disobedience to the same score as a rail. Thats the type of rule that I don't see the sense behind. If a horse stops it should be way more than a rail. But I accept I can't change it until I do something. And at this point I would rather accept it while disagreeing and event my horse.


                  PS: The rider license idea wasn't mine. It's being discussed at the convention. I support it, but I have no affiliation with it. (Just wanted to state that clearly)
                  "Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all." ~2001 The Princess Diaries


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Xctrygirl View Post
                    PS: The rider license idea wasn't mine. It's being discussed at the convention. I support it, but I have no affiliation with it. (Just wanted to state that clearly)
                    I hope you don't feel like anyone is jumping on you. We are just commenting on the info that you are passing along.
                    I appreciate that you are taking the time to pass along this info from the convention......I don't like the message, I am not trying to shoot the messenger.
                    Nina's Story
                    Epona Comm on FB


                    • #11
                      Why does anyone want to make our sport more subjective?

                      If I wanted to ride to subjective criteria, I'd do straight dressage and show hunters and equitation. When I hear these proposals, foxhunting and endurance become much more appealing to me (I enjoy both very much).

                      If anyone recalls my numerous posts on the safety/death threads, I'm a big proponent of safety. I'm an EMT, I spend classroom and field hours on trauma/injury/safety, and the death/serious injury stats in our sport have me deeply worried. Real safety, however, is not the appearance of safety. Look at airport 'security' -- does anyone really think that taking a water bottle away from a 72 year-old woman makes air travel safer?

                      Riders in France (as well as in other European countries) are required to have a licence to compete in horse competitions. France has various Pro and Amateur levels, you usually have to work your way up the levels, and a doctor's health certificate is required along the way. Licences have to be renewed annually. In France in 2007, three event riders were killed in competition. I don't think that licences are inherently a bad idea, it's just that a licence isn't going to protect you when your horse flips over a table and crushes you.

                      For the last decade or so, the USEA has been beating the growth drum ad nauseum -- we need to promote our sport, we need big sponsors, we need to market eventing to the masses. The people outside the tent became more important than the people inside the tent. And now eventers are wondering what to do about the people who've showed up to participate. "They're out of control!" "They need good instruction!" "Their bits are too harsh!" "They don't have a clue!"

                      Regulation is not education. You can legislate all you like and the dangerous idiots are always going to be dangerous idiots. People who truly want to learn will find a way to learn. As for me, I'd rather just go to a HT, have a good time with my horse and be happy that our sport is only 1/3 subjective.


                      • #12
                        First, thanks for taking the time to report what is being discussed.

                        I didn't mean to jump down your throat. I just think that there are plenty of lower level riders who are basically safe, competent (not great) riders, who don't need to be regulated out of the sport.

                        I actually don't have a problem with qualifications and move-up requirements.

                        For example the requirements that are in place to do a training level 3-day seem fair to me. On the horse I currently compete, I can't perform a decent dressage test at a show to save my life. Never been safer over fences. I figured I'd just have to complete the required number of events clear xcountry because I know I'll never have a qualifying placing.

                        I have a bigger problem with more subjectivity entering the sport.

                        There are some jump judges that really know what they are doing. The other reality is there are some jump judges that are a lovely kind volunteers who know absolutely nothing about horses & riding.

                        I do jump judge. Sometimes I see some things that make me cringe but I'd say I see a lot of so-so riding at all the levels.

                        I'm not sure what you are supposed to do about the people like the girl who started at Prelim and died. How do you regulate stupidity? I am serious not being snarky or making light of a tragedy. I don't have a problem with requiring people to "start" at a certain level. I am not sure what that level would be.


                        • #13
                          Licenses in racing are more to do with the regulating the gambling industry and less to do with safety. If there were no betting on racing, there would likely be no licenses. Also, people that exercise horses off the track don't have to be licensed. The licensing is also imposed by a government appointed body, the State Racing Commission, not a self-regulating organization like the USEA.


                          • #14
                            I like JER's post too!


                            • #15
                              How about a compromise between licensing and the "qualifications" debate we had --
                              For the lower levels, no licensing but qualifications to move up from BN to N to T. To move up past T, licensing.
                              Seems like most of the serious accidents happen beyond T but much of the "scary riding" we see is at the lower levels.
                              Also many fewer riders once you get past T, and therefore less onerous to administer a licensing system.
                              Dunno. Seems like lots of downsides to every idea that has been floated, even though we have general agreement that improvements could be made.
                              The big man -- my lost prince

                              The little brother, now my main man


                              • #16
                                As we saw a number of years back there was a hunter rider on their childrens hunter horse(3'6" division) that decided to try an event.
                                The children's division is 3'. Junior hunters are 3'6". It would seem to me that a novice to eventing entering an prelim to 'try an event' is a problem with parents and coaches, not the governing body.


                                • #17
                                  Just checked the Eventing Canada rules but, while they have age limits for riders on the equivalent to BN & N (must be 12 yo), they don't have any experience requirements. I vaguely recall such a requirement of must have gone clean at the next lower level when Mrs. KS was riding in Quebec about 10 years ago but that may have been a local rule at the club level.

                                  The suggestion of only applying any rule to Training & above would seem to have merit from both the numbers & perceived difficulty/safety aspects but I would agree that a history of dangerous riding at any level should lead to a move back.

                                  One way for riders to get experience might be to designate some schooling events as qualifying at the Area level and. say, succesful completion of two such would allow entry to a USEA-recognized show. The Dressage GMOs seem to enjoy their unrecognized shows & even championships - why not apply this to our sport.
                                  Brock n. (Anglo-Saxon) badger as in Brockenhurst, Brocklebank etc www.area35.us


                                  • #18
                                    Correction: your BN is roughly equivalent to Canada's Entry (which is open to all ages). The rule is:

                                    Eventing Canada rules Annex 1, Rule 1.4: The Entry division is open to riders of all ages.

                                    Your N is roughly equivalent to Canada's Pre-Training (open to all ages). Annex 1, Rule 2.4

                                    Training is restricted to riders 12 and above (Annex 1, rule 3.3).
                                    Last edited by Blugal; Dec. 9, 2007, 05:43 PM. Reason: fixed

                                    You never know what kind of obsessive compulsive crazy person you are until another person imitates your behaviour at a three-day. --Gry2Yng


                                    • #19
                                      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.
                                      Last edited by TuxWink; Dec. 9, 2007, 07:16 PM.


                                      • #20
                                        I don't think licenses etc. will solve anything. It assumes that the deaths and injuries are solely a result of bad riding. That doesn't seem to fit the facts. While the injuries and deaths may in part be a result from one bad decision or a lapse in judgment by a horse and/or rider....the reality is that could happen to any one at any time no matter how well prepared.

                                        We have qualifications....stiffen them a bit if needed but I don't think one more layer of red tape will do anything but increase the costs and headaches of competing.

                                        As for scary riding at the lower levels...sure I've seen it. I have also not yet seen a DR penalty assessed. In addition, the lower levels are lower levels for a reason...that is where people should learn and mistakes and poor riding are to be expected. Another reason why I don't think the lower levels should be beefed up or made more technical. They exist for people to learn how to run and jump and should be kept simple so that the average horse can recover from mistakes.
                                        ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **