Reiner May 2016 : Page 54
TRAINER TALK Show Stewards, warm-up Arena Safety, and Animal Welfare NRHA Professional Karen McCuistion discusses this trifecta of NRHA Policies. s chair of the NRHA Show Stewards Committee, as well as NRHA’s Responsible Animal Care Task Force, Karen McCuistion has spent a lot of time on these two important forefronts. In addition to running a training business in Wilson, Oklahoma with her husband and fellow NRHA Pro-fessional, Carl McCuistion, Karen has been a carded NRHA Judge since 1989. “I love NRHA, I love reining horses; I think this is such a great event,” she said. “I’ve been willing to volunteer a lot of my time—as has the great committee members that work with me—because we are absolutely passionate about Reining and because we want NRHA to keep the positive image that it has.” Above all else, the safety of horses and riders is priority number one, and that’s where Karen’s responsibilities start. She strongly recommended that riders visit the “Members Only” section of NRHA.com and read NRHA’s Animal Welfare Policy, NRHA’s Warm-Up Arena Policy, and NRHA’s Show Steward Policy. All three are integral to NRHA’s continued success. A BY WENDY LIND HELPFUL LINKS ACCESSED THROUGH NRHA.COM (MEMBERS ONLY SECTION) Animal Welfare & Medications Policy: https://secure.nrha2.com/recordbook/ pol110727.pdf Warm-up Arena Policy: https://secure.nrha2.com/recordbook/pol 120828.pdf NRHA Show Stewards Policy: https://secure.nrha2.com/recordbook/pol 140238.pdf KAREN MCCUISTION 580-220-7755 KAREN.MCCUISTION@GMAIL.COM Show Steward Overview Similar to NRHA’s judging program, NRHA Show Stewards are required to meet eligibility requirements and sub-sequently attend NRHA Steward School and pass testing requirements. They then must be approved by NRHA’s Board of Directors, and re-test every two years. NRHA AA rated shows are re-quired to have a show steward in addi-tion to the show manager and show sec-retary. However, many non AA rated shows also have show stewards. “We want exhibitors to understand that we’re there to make the best show possible for everyone there. Stewards are the liaison between competitors, judges, and show management,” Karen ex-plained. “We’ll help out wherever we can and we’re charged with both safety and animal welfare.” At shows, stewards are a constant presence in both the show office and around the show facilities. McCuistion said a lot of that time is spent simply rectifying unsafe conditions, such as when she has to ask people to move a baby carriage or small children out of an arena. Stewards also monitor warm-up arena riding, looking for animal welfare issues. “We want riders to have every oppor-tunity to prepare their horse to the best of its ability, and we certainly understand that training is a process and everyone has their own techniques. We are there to simply make sure there are no abusive riding practices going on and everything is within NRHA Standards.” Karen said unacceptable training practices can vary from a single correc-tion that is too severe, to a situation in which corrections are not severe in small 54 NRHA REINER MAY 2016 www.nrha.com
Show Stewards, warm-up Arena Safety, and Animal Welfare
NRHA Professional Karen McCuistion discusses this trifecta of NRHA Policies.
As chair of the NRHA Show Stewards Committee, as well as NRHA's Responsible Animal Care Task Force, Karen McCuistion has spent a lot of time on these two important forefronts. In addition to running a training business in Wilson, Oklahoma with her husband and fellow NRHA Professional, Carl McCuistion, Karen has been a carded NRHA Judge since 1989.
"I love NRHA, I love reining horses; I think this is such a great event," she said. "I've been willing to volunteer a lot of my time–as has the great committee members that work with me–because we are absolutely passionate about Reining and because we want NRHA to keep the positive image that it has."
Above all else, the safety of horses and riders is priority number one, and that's where Karen's responsibilities start. She strongly recommended that riders visit the "Members Only" section of NRHA.com and read NRHA's Animal Welfare Policy, NRHA's Warm-Up Arena Policy, and NRHA's Show Steward Policy. All three are integral to NRHA's continued success.
Show Steward Overview
Similar to NRHA's judging program, NRHA Show Stewards are required to meet eligibility requirements and subsequently attend NRHA Steward School and pass testing requirements. They then must be approved by NRHA's Board of Directors, and re-test every two years. NRHA AA rated shows are required to have a show steward in addition to the show manager and show secretary. However, many non AA rated shows also have show stewards.
"We want exhibitors to understand that we're there to make the best show possible for everyone there. Stewards are the liaison between competitors, judges, and show management," Karen explained. "We'll help out wherever we can and we're charged with both safety and animal welfare."
At shows, stewards are a constant presence in both the show office and around the show facilities. McCuistion said a lot of that time is spent simply rectifying unsafe conditions, such as when she has to ask people to move a baby carriage or small children out of an arena. Stewards also monitor warmup arena riding, looking for animal welfare issues.
"We want riders to have every opportunity to prepare their horse to the best of its ability, and we certainly understand that training is a process and everyone has their own techniques. We are there to simply make sure there are no abusive riding practices going on and everything is within NRHA Standards."
Karen said unacceptable training practices can vary from a single correction that is too severe, to a situation in which corrections are not severe in small doses, but become severe after a long and continuous period of time. In either case, it's the steward's job to discretely intervene. McCuistion used fencing as an example.
"Obviously we all fence and all school, but there comes a point where that horse may be tired or out of air," she explained. "So we might ask the rider to give the horse a break, let him catch his air, walk him around, and then go try it again."
An important factor to remember, McCuistion said, is that unlike some disciplines where the stewards give violation cards in more of a punitive nature, NRHA Stewards are there to keep things running safe and smooth.
"When necessary, stewards will file a report, or even a protest against a rider, but we try not to let situations escalate. Our goal is to defuse problems before reports or grievances become necessary, and to date the level of cooperation has been remarkable. If the rider says 'Ok,' and complies, then it's all over–nobody is written up, we don't keep a list of riders that have been talked to," McCuistion noted. "Everybody is there to have a good show, and sometimes riders get caught up in the momentwe've all been there. As stewards, we're there to remind people that they're taking things too far and need to step back and give their horse a break."
In the six years of intense involvement with the NRHA Stewards Program, Karen has been impressed and grateful for the support of the Stewards Program. "People believe that we're there to help–not interfere–and the level of cooperation has been wonderful," she noted. With the ease of taking and uploading videos these days, McCuistion also pointed out that things can be taken out of context and put in a slanted context on the internet.
"As stewards, we're there to protect the industry's reputation, the rider's reputation, and NRHA's reputation," Karen said. "What's great is that the trainers and riders are so educated and they really see the big picture. Even though they are very focused on preparing their horse and winning, they also know that they need to do what's best for NRHA. And we try to be very discreet as stewards; if we have to speak with a rider about an issue; our goal is that no one else even knows we spoke with them."
Education Versus Enforcement
McCuistion also mentioned that while stewardsonly spend some of their time at major events dealing with animal welfare issues, the remaining majority of their time is spent on issues such as a botched draw, requested video reviews, or unexpected occurrences, such as at the NRHA Futurity last year when the lights went out during a class in the Adequan arena.
"At smaller weekend shows, where competitors might not have dealt with a steward before, a steward's responsibilities can start to lean more towards education," she said. "It's important to remember that there are always new people coming into the sport, and they might not understand warm-up pen safety and etiquette. I've had to explain to people which direction they are supposed to be circling on each end. As riders we need to set a good example, and we also have to help people new to the sport. If you see someone doing something that they shouldn't, and there isn't a steward, go ask the show representative or show management to review the situation."
Warm-Up Arena Safety
As mentioned earlier, a large part of a show steward's responsibility is monitoring riding in the warm-up pen for both safety and welfare issues, and NRHA's Warm-Up Arena Policy, 12- 08-28, outlines procedures including the requirement for an Arena Plan at each show, the length of time a horse can be ridden (not more than two hours at a time), the prohibition of dogs in the arena, and tractor etiquette.
"Whether it's a small show or a large show with a very structured warm-up, the main thing to remember is to always pay attention to what you are doing and what is going on around you," McCuistion said. "It sounds obvious, and yet it's so easy to get distracted or overly focused on only what you're doing. People are nervous, and it's an exciting and sometimes pressure-filled situation."
Typically, there are two different types of warm-up arena situations. The first is at larger shows where the warm-up is structured, with the Arena Plan and show schedule outlining circle and fencing times (such as circling starts on the hour and switches to fencing on the half hour). On the other end of the spectrum, smaller shows often don't have a structured warm-up but often riders will work together to switch back and forth from fencing to circling.
"The toughest situation is when the general riding arena is the same as the arena that riders warm-up in before showing. You can't really regulate that situation because riders have to circle, or fence, or spin at varying times before showing," Mc- Cuistion pointed out. "That's when you've got to absolutely be both courteous and aware of what's going on. If you're not working on something, move out of the way, either to the middle of the circle or out of the way on the end."
There is such a thing as tractor etiquette, and it's pretty simple: Stay away from the tractor.
Yes, you may have botched that last stop and feel the need to do one more, but if the tractor enters the arena for a drag, stop what you're doing and get out of the way. Riders should head towards the side of the arena the tractor isn't working and stand against the rail. The policy has been loosened up recently, and riders are allowed to walk and cool out their horses while maintaining a safe distance from the tractor. Bottom line said McCuistion: if the tractor driver has to slow down or stop that means a rider is too close and riding inappropriately.
"Two things scare me the most with tractors and the first is when people dart in front of the tractor while they're circling or trying to fit in one more stop. If it works right, everything is ok. But if that horse stumbles or spooks, things get really dangerous," she said. "The other situation is when the tractor driver is waiting for a horse to move, but the rider just hugs the wall and encourages the tractor driver to pass them. That's just crazy to have the tractor pass you with only three or four feet of space. If something happens in the bleachers and spooks your horse, you've got nowhere to go. That rarely happens, but it has happened, and in those situations the tractor is always going to win."
Keep an Eye Out for Each Other
At the end of the day, Karen said it was important for reiners to look out for each other, and not get hung up on who is right. "It's just like driving a car," she said. "Just because you have the right of way doesn't mean you can just pull out in front of the other car."
As we've all likely experienced, sometimes people are so focused on what they're doing that they're not focused on what's going on around them and subsequently create a hazard.
"If somebody is having that careless moment, we all need to look out for them," McCuistion said. "We've all been there. Sometimes you're just going to have to be the bigger person and watch out for them. Hopefully when you're in the wrong place and not aware of what's going on around you, somebody will watch out for you."
ACCESSED THROUGH NRHA.COM (MEMBERS ONLY SECTION)
Animal Welfare & Medications Policy:
Warm-up Arena Policy:
NRHA Show Stewards Policy:
When it comes to traffic patterns, safety and basic consideration for your fellow riders in the warm-up arena, follow these guidelines:
Circles on the lower end of the arena, or closest to in gate, are to the left.
Circles on the top end, or furthest from in gate, are to the right.
Do not stop, school, or spin, in the center of the arena as you will be in the traffic pattern of the circles.
Run large fast circles on the outer path. If trotting or exercise loping, ride slightly further in on a smaller circle to stay out of the path of those running large fast circles.
Spin or air your horse up in the center of either circle.
In unscheduled warm-up situations, riders circling have the right-of-way over those fencing. However, McCuistion said having the right-of-way doesn't mean a rider shouldn't yield to another rider that might be in an inappropriate place, such as if they are spinning in the middle or applying skid boots on the circle path.
Move out of the way and stop forward motion.
Do not ride or gather in groups as it further congests the arena and makes it hard for others to ride around you.
Do not continue to ride if your horse if is in an "unfit condition," such as out of air, overly tired, or lame.
Only put skid boots on in a safe location that is not in the flow of traffic, such as in the center of the arena, or ideally when the tractor is dragging the arena and others have stopped riding as well. At a minimum, always keep hold of your reins while applying skid boots, or as Mc- Cuistion suggested, ask a fellow rider to hold your horse while you put the boots on. "Sometimes people get way too casual down there by their horse's back feet, and you just want to be careful in case your horse spooks."
If the arena is simply too crowded with other riders, wait until it clears out to a safe number of riders. Similarly, if you are finished riding, leave the arena to make room for others.
When it comes to fencing, things can happen really fast, and McCuistion said there are some cardinal rules to follow:
Don't ride too close. Avoid departing for the opposite end of the arena too close in time or location as another rider going to that same wall. Should the first horse unexpectedly stop, swerve, or trip, the ensuing horse won't have time to get out of the way.
Do not run the horse into the fence- Stop your horse far enough away from the fence to ensure that he doesn't hit it with his face or body
Do not run in and stop at the fence unless there is enough room. If there is not enough room, stop with a safe amount of space before the horses standing at the fence, instead of trying to squeeze in between them.
Prioritize safety. You may want to stop in a certain spot, but if that's not a safe location or the situation changes from when you first departed the opposite wall, change your plan.
Yelling does not create right-of-way. "In unstructured warm-up situations when the majority of people are circling, I have often seen riders stand on one side of the arena, yell, "Heads up!" and then run full steam ahead while expecting everyone to get out of their way," McCuistion said. "Well, that's not acceptable, and just because you're yelling that doesn't mean the people on the other end of the arena heard you. And just because you yelled doesn't mean they have to get out of your way."
Done and gone. If you are done fencing, carefully ride to either side of the arena and get out of the way, or even better, out of the arena.
Read the full article at http://digitaleditions.sheridan.com/article/Trainer+Talk/2466724/299406/article.html.