Red tape has led to quite a conversation at the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Derby in Oklahoma City. This isn’t the kind of “red tape” that involves mounds of paperwork or proverbial hoops to jump through. No, this red tape is the literal, sticky-on-one-side kind. And it’s got a lot of folks asking questions.
At this year’s Derby, show officials elected to mark the center region of each show arena with red tape down the walls and/or gates. According to Chairman of the NRHA Judges Committee Jody Brainard, the tape marks an area 10 feet either side of the center of pen. It serves as an aid to demonstrate to riders and judges the area considered the “center” of the arena.
“The whole issue is pattern placement – the geographic location in the arena where patterns are run,” explained Brainard. “People interpret the pattern as it’s written literally, where it says run down the side of the arena and stop your horse. They consider any half of the arena as the side. But that is not the intent of the pattern.”
Brainard said that as a rider gets closer to the wall on a rundown, the more apt a horse is to lean. “The horse may change leads and try to take you to the wall. So some of our riders were, since nothing was being done about it, were running down the center of the arena and taking all of the element of risk out of that portion of the pattern.”
So what constitutes the “side” of the arena? Is it 6 inches off the center or more like 30 feet? That question led to the idea of marking the center area with red tape, similarly to how reined cow horse fencing penalties are marked on the wall.
“I thought that was a great idea [to mark the area],” Brainard said. “This is our first show to do that. It’s not in the rule book, and it’s never been done before, but it gives both the rider and the judges a target.”
Brainard said every member of the Judges Committee knows what it’s like to train and show horses, and the committee as a whole decided that riders who run a horse down the center of the pen – within 10 feet of either side the center line – will receive a half-point maneuver deduction. He said it was discussed with riders at the NRHA Futurity last year, and again at major events this year, including the NRHA Derby.
Brainard said the half-point maneuver deduction is nothing new. It has been discussed in judges meetings the last three years and information has been included in The Reiner, but the area has never been marked until now.
NRHA professional trainer Casey Deary is in favor of the red tape lines.
“Pattern placement is an important part of our business. There’s guys who go down the middle in order to keep their horse from leaning on the wall. The tape refreshes the exhibitors’ and judges’ minds to exactly where the middle is and to follow the pattern correctly,” Deary said. “It doesn’t say run down the center, but to run down the sides. This is a good reminder of what is in the rulebook.”
However, some professionals in the industry feel the NRHA is getting ahead of itself by marking the 10-feet-of-center at the Derby. With the measure up for a vote to be added as a penalty in next year’s rulebook, some riders believe the NRHA should wait and see if it passes before asking judges to make a call with the aid of the red tape.
Brainard said even if it is not implemented as a penalty in the future, judges will continue to make a judgment call in their maneuver scores.
“It’s a deduction,” he said, noting other deductions are not included in the rulebook but are understood. “It’s not in the rulebook if a rider misses the center marker on their circles to take off, but everyone knows it is a deduction from the maneuver.”