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I have had the privilege to serve as the chair of the Professional Horseman’s Council for the past three years. It has been a time consuming but exceptionally rewarding position. We, as a group, have worked on what we consider to be very important issues. Two years ago, we put forward a revision of how the warm-up should be changed for both cross-country and show jumping. The changes we requested were in fact not major. We as professionals in the sport simply wanted an extra show jump in the warm-up for both phases and a solid cross-country jump for that warm-up. At the time this rule was put forward there were some very concerned people. Many people wondered if this extra jump would be only for “pros” and their students. They also wondered if the requirement of a solid fence in the cross-country warm-up would be too much for smaller events to handle. While every concern brought forward was legitimate and deserved consideration, I must say that since the rule has been in place the warm-up for both jumping phases is in fact much improved. It allows for better, safer warm-ups for everyone.
Last year we asked for another revision of an existing rule. I state it this way because I think it is important to note that we did not add another rule to the already tedious rule book we all compete under. What we did was rewrite the existing competitor representative (rider rep) rule. There were two big problems we saw with the previous rider rep program. First, too often competitors would arrive at a competition ready to school their horse only to be asked to be rider rep at the last minute. Of course most people would say yes to the request, but were they really able to do a good job? If you show up to an event on Friday at three o’clock with a plan to ride your horse that evening and maybe even help out a student or two, how can you walk the courses and communicate with the officials properly? Not to mention giving the officials, organizers, and designers the time to consider your input. The second problem we saw with the program was accountability of the rider rep. Because there was a lack of structure to the program, and also because riders are generally no good at paper work, most reps would agree to the job and then not follow up on their end of the deal. We saw that an important part of the program was to create a form for the rep to fill out so that they could document their review of the event. This form will be added to the official paper work that is reviewed by the events committee. Believe me when I tell you that this is a very big step in the credibility of the program.
As we worked through the new proposal we consistently came back to one conclusion. The revised rule had to put more pressure on the rider reps. At the same time, it had to be a program that put little or no additional strain on organizers or officials. The paper work involved is 100 percent the representative’s responsibility to find and fill out. We hope that organizers will be willing to help out reminding reps to fill out the required paper work, but in the end it is the rider’s responsibility. After all, the form can be found on the USEA website and takes literally ten minutes to fill out. Even I can manage that! The officials do legitimately have one additional task which is to walk around with the reps. This sounds tough, but I have participated as a rider and an organizer with the new format this year. It really takes about thirty to forty five minutes to drive around the appropriate tracks with the officials.
There are those who have just realized that this rule has been rewritten. They have raised some very legitimate, but very late questions. The concerned parties are members of our association who know and understand the rules process. They were all given ample opportunity to review and comment on the proposal. The basic message the PHC wants to put out is this: We worked exceptionally hard on this program with as many different groups as we could. The rule was revised no less than 12 times. It truly was a collaborative effort. Add to the above due diligence the rule change process that was followed and it is hard to believe anyone can be surprised this rule will be coming into effect next year. Those who claim that they had no idea this rule was changed have simply not been paying attention. We must never forget that we are all in this sport because of our love of horses. It is this common passion that brings us all together. The riders have shown that they are willing to step up and take on more responsibility at the competitions. Now we are asking for our officials to respect our request and allow us the opportunity to make this rule work. We all have so much to gain by increasing our communication with each other.