My Life

A rider gets her of­fi­cial’s li­cense and learns a new side of event­ing.

Practical Horseman - - Contents - By Saman­tha Al­lan with So­nia Tay­lor

A com­peti­tor works to get her event­ing tech­ni­cal del­e­gate li­cense and in the process, learns a whole new side of the sport.

My men­tor and coach, Su­san Gra­ham White, en­cour­aged me to get my event­ing tech­ni­cal del­e­gate li­cense sev­eral years ago to serve in the role of an of­fi­cial who helps with the tech­ni­cal and stew­ard­ing as­pects of a horse trial. How­ever, I wanted to wait un­til I felt as if I had enough ex­pe­ri­ence and con­fi­dence to per­form the du­ties to the level I ex­pected of my­self.

Fast for­ward 10 years. In that time, I com­pleted sev­eral two-stars, a hand­ful of Ad­vanced-level horse tri­als and had more years of coach­ing other rid­ers un­der my belt. But it wasn’t un­til a nasty fall left me un­con­scious that I de­cided to work on a backup plan that would al­low me to stay in­volved in the sport to which I ded­i­cated my life.

While I was con­sid­er­ing a new path, sev­eral top rid­ers sus­tained se­ri­ous in­juries. The sport was chang­ing and so were the de­mands on rid­ers and horses. Safety con­cerns were para­mount. Amid the chaos, I thought if I could help one com­peti­tor or make one fence safer, then earn­ing the li­cense would be worth it. I wanted to do my part to make the sport safer. I also knew get­ting the li­cense would give me a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the sport. I set out to earn my tech­ni­cal del­e­gate and event­ing judg­ing li­censes si­mul­ta­ne­ously. When I started my course­work, my re­spect for or­ga­niz­ers and of­fi­cials sky­rock­eted. There’s much more that goes into or­ga­niz­ing an event than your av­er­age com­peti­tor re­al­izes. Proper per­mits are needed to hold the event. Course de­sign and prepa­ra­tion at a new venue can take one to two years be­fore the course is ready. Or­ga­niz­ers need a plan for traf­fic flow lead­ing into the event, on-site park­ing and sta­bling. They have to con­sider the near­est hos­pi­tals and ve­teri­nary re­sources, and com­peti­tor flow from one phase to the next in ad­di­tion to far­rier ser­vices, on-site paramedics and vol­un­teer co­or­di­na­tion.

The most mem­o­rable part of my train­ing was see­ing how much of­fi­cials and or­ga­niz­ers pitch in to make sure ev­ery­thing is just right for the com­peti­tors and their horses. They of­ten work well into the night and re­cruit fam­ily and friends to help.

As a re­quire­ment of my TD li­cense, I went to sem­i­nars, ob­served show-jump judg­ing and was a mem­ber of an or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee. I par­tic­i­pated in course in­spec­tions and event brief­ings. Dur­ing the ed­u­ca­tional ses­sions, I learned about the biome­chan­ics be­hind the dres­sage move­ments and the fun­da­men­tals for cor­rect move­ments. While un­der­stand­ing dres­sage is es­sen­tial for an event­ing judge, it’s im­por­tant for a TD as well: If a horse is re­sis­tant in dres­sage, it’s pos­si­ble he will con­tinue to be in the jump­ing phases, cre­at­ing a safety is­sue.

In the jump­ing phases, if the per­for­mance is de­te­ri­o­rat­ing, we as of­fi­cials may step in. Rid­ers should know that of­fi­cials aren’t there to po­lice. We want to see rid­ers be suc­cess­ful and fin­ish the course. But there are times when it’s nec­es­sary to put on the brakes if a com­peti­tor is rid­ing dan­ger­ously. When I have these dif­fi­cult dis­cus­sions with rid­ers, more times than not, they are ap­pre­cia­tive. Of­ten­times, they know they are not hav­ing the best of rides but they con­tinue be­cause friends and fam­ily are watch­ing. They’re thank­ful for the con­sid­er­a­tion made for their safety.

In gen­eral, a TD’s job is to keep the horses and rid­ers safe. I re­mem­ber one time a rider thought a jump on cross coun­try was too dif­fi­cult a ques­tion for a Pre­lim­i­nary course. The fence was a very up­right skinny into the wa­ter that rid­ers had to ap­proach off a turn and com­ing up the hill. Horses couldn’t see the wa­ter un­til they were close to the fence. As the TD, it was my re­spon­si­bil­ity to fol­low up on the con­cern. Turns out, sev­eral rid­ers ques­tioned the level of dif­fi­culty of that jump, too. We con­sulted with the course de­signer, who sug­gested the fence be re­moved, and af­ter con­fer­ring with the pres­i­dent of the ground jury, it was.

As an of­fi­cial, I’m an ad­vo­cate for the horse, the rider and the sport. I want rid­ers to have a fab­u­lous ride and en­joy the com­pe­ti­tion. But if the day is not go­ing the way a rider hopes, it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that there is al­ways an­other day to com­pete.

Saman­tha Al­lan earned her USEF Event­ing “r” Tech­ni­cal Del­e­gate li­cense and USEF Event­ing “r” Judg­ing Li­cense in 2013. She has suc­cess­fully com­peted at the Ad­vanced level and was long-listed for the Pan Am Games in 2011. Saman­tha and her part­ner, Jennifer Clover, run Al­lan & Clover Sport Horses in Cler­mont, Florida.

Saman­tha Al­lan with her horse Scim­i­tar

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