TPEO participants review the cross-country course. Nancy Covert Photo.
Having spent a long weekend at a USEA Training Program for Eventing Officials, I'd thought I'd share the experience. The setting was the Indiana Eventing Association Horse Trials in Edinburgh, Indiana (south of Indianapolis), which offered Beginner Novice through Preliminary divisions, including a Training and Novice Three-Day. The Officials Course covered classroom and fieldwork for cross-country and show jumping. Two of the participants had been working for their dressage judges license (this course would prepare them for their role as President of the Ground Jury) , two were auditors, and the rest were in training to become technical delegates.
It was a good experience to see eventing in a different area than ours. The standard of courses is expected to be the same from area to area, but while we'd been at it for a couple of months here, it was quite early in the season for Indiana. This came to light as the cross-country course designer/builder described his vision and goals for the course. The venue was the Hoosier Horse Park. This was initially part of the military installation Camp Attenbury, but a downsizing move transferred the property to the county. In 1987 the facility played host to the Pan Am Games and has been used for equestrian activities ever since. While there were fewer big-name riders in evidence, the horses I saw seemed a similar cross-section of breeds and types, all nicely turned out. The cross-country jumps were well-constructed and the galloping tracks went through some beautiful, wide turf lanes with dense, brushy trees on either side and large, mature trees in the more open areas. The course took advantage of what terrain there was, but it was generally pretty flat.
The instructors for the weekend were USEF Officials Janis Linnan and Cindy DePorter. They worked hard to cover all the many responsibilities of the Technical Delegate such as course and facilities evaluations, measuring of jumps and lengths of courses, connecting with other officials and the organizing commitee, the jump judge briefing, helping sort out rider inquiries and various problems that always seem to crop up. Frangible pins and safety cups, crisis management plans, rider representatives, warning cards, dangerous riding, return to play rule, medication report forms, accident reports, conflict resolution... Whew!!! My head is spinning just writing this. Of course, the TD doesn't do everything, but must keep track to see that it is done. Then when they're dead on their feet at the end of the event, they have a pile of paperwork to turn in to the USEF! Our instructors had many years of experience to illustrate what they were teaching, which made our sessions interesting and entertaining. Clearly a good sense of humor is a great asset in our officials.
One thing the course emphasized was how the officials are part of the team at every event. Paid by the Organizer, the TD and PoGJ are ultimately responsible to the USEF. Their job is to work with all involved parties to make sure the competitors have a safe and fair experience with their horses. The USEF rules are in place for this purpose and the officials do their best to make sure these rules are applied in the spirit in which they were intended, not just the letter of the law.
After seeing how much work these officials do, you might wonder who would be crazy enough to do such a job? But eventing is such a fun sport with great people, and being a TD is as much of an adventure as competing. It's fascinating to see behind the scenes of competitions; new and interesting situations are always presenting themselves. Many officials feel that it's a way to give back to the sport that's given so much to them. If nothing else, you end up with some good stories to remember.
The officials courses are not limited to those pursuing a license. They're a great way to learn more about the sport, and I would definitely say that any rider who audits one of these courses will come away a better competitor. For information on pursuing an officials license, or auditing, contact Nancy Knight at the USEA. She's very helpful and happy to answer any questions.