“Distracted Riders” Beware: USEF To Crack Down on Hunter & Jumper Schooling Rings

ph: Erin Gilmore for NF.

We cannot live without our cell phones, some of us, not even for a moment. But “talking while riding” comes with its own set of hazards, and as near-misses and unsafe situations run rampant in schooling arenas at sanctioned-competitions, the United States Equestrian Federation is integrating cell phone limitations into its rulebook for the first time.

With the release of its newest rules update, USEF has designated “distracted riding” a hazard and moved to ban the use of earbuds while riding. That’s earbuds only—not phones in hands, and not phones ingeniously tucked into a helmet strap so that riders can talk and ride.

Effective December 1, 2017, USEF rule HU154 will prohibit use of earbuds in the schooling ring for mounted hunter/jumper riders only. Other USEF sanctioned disciplines are not yet required to follow this rule.

However, HU154 is a strong step in the right direction, and as masterminded by FEI/USEF Steward Glena Wertanen, intends to cut back on distracted riding and the dangers that go along with it. Below, Wertanen explains the reasoning behind HU154, the possibility of the rule’s expansion in the future, and who exactly it applies to:

Noelle Floyd: What prompted you to write the rule?
Glena Wertanen: I saw this happening and I thought that it wasn’t very smart. Many schooling arenas aren’t that large, and if you’re riding, you’re supposed to be paying attention. It’s really a safety issue.

Any USEF member can write a rule change, and I’ve written a few. Sometimes they are then adopted [and pitched] by a committee.

NF: Why is distracted riding limited to headphone usage if the source of distraction is the electronic device?
GW: It was originally written for cell phones. [USEF] came back to me and said that the only way it would pass is if it were [tailored] towards earbuds. I felt that that was a start, and they put it forward and it passed.

In May, I’m going to try again and write another rule that includes both cell phones and earbuds.

NF: Why is the rule limited to hunters and jumpers?
GW: I started out writing the rule two years ago, and it applied to all disciplines. [USEF] suggested that I write it again, applying it solely to the hunters and jumpers. They didn’t explain why they wanted the I didn’t include equitation in this rule because I don’t see the abuse in the equitation rings.

NF: How will the rule be enforced?
GW: It’s going to have to be enforced by the stewards or schooling supervisors. They’re already asking riders to leave or put their phones away if they’re talking on the phone and the schooling areas are crowded.

NF: What will be the consequences for riders who disoblige?
GW: I hope that if stewards have to give repeated warnings, they’ll write up a yellow card.


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