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The American Quarter Horse Journal, March 18, 2010 - The inaugural class of AQHA's Stewards went through a comprehensive training program today in Dallas, Texas. Beginning in April, the 39 people attending the training session will begin stewarding some of AQHA's more than 3,200 annual shows and special events.

"This is truly an historical and important launch for AQHA," said Ward Stutz, senior director of breed integrity and animal welfare. "We are dedicated to making this program successful, and this first round of stewards is key to that success. We know we have the right people and will look forward to welcoming more stewards later this year."

Funds for the stewards program were made possible through an increase in show processing fees that became effective in 2010. To help level the playing field for exhibitors and ensure the welfare of horses in competition, a portion of those funds have been designated for breed integrity initiatives like the stewards program.

"The time had come to implement the stewards program to help exhibitors, show managers and our horses," said Stutz. "AQHA cannot be everywhere, but with these ambassadors now attending shows and special events, we can be in more places than we ever could have imagined. Today, we are able to provide more service to exhibitors through this program.

Stewards will be assigned to specific shows selected by AQHA with geography in mind to minimize travel costs. The most critical and urgent need for stewards is to monitor and patrol show grounds and warm-up areas at events to carry out AQHA's pledge to humane training practices. Additional responsibilities will be added to help show management, judges and exhibitors in order to increase their usefulness at the various events.

The purpose of the stewards program is to ensure the health and welfare of the American Quarter Horse, whether competing or preparing on the show grounds, is paramount. The safety of participants, both human and equine, must not be compromised nor should the fairness of competition.

Stewards must have a comprehensive knowledge of AQHA's show rules, which were reviewed during the training session. Stewards were told to expect questions on and to be able to address such areas as (but not limited to) illegal equipment, prohibited conduct, eligibility issues, safety, show management concerns and overall class operations. Stewards' feedback on situations they encounter will be key to helping the overall program as it evolves.

Above all, stewards are asked to be ambassadors for the American Quarter Horse, AQHA and AQHA shows so that as AQHA expands its show menu, horse owners will feel more comfortable participating in AQHA events.

Some Specific Responsibilities

Monitor warm-up pens and barn area to ensure the health and welfare of the horses in the competition by making routine inspections of these areas
Fulfill AQHA's pledge to humane training practices
Answer exhibitors' questions about bits and other equipment
Assist judges and ring crew with proper set up of jumps and courses
File a steward's report and evaluation with AQHA
Evaluate any unsafe circumstances related to the show, e.g. poor footing in the warm-up area, and correct if necessary
Be prepared, if necessary, to recommend removal of an exhibitor from the show grounds after informing show management and AQHA headquarters
Ensure that warm-up jumps are set properly
Issue warning or removal cards as warranted according to AQHA rules
Investigate complaints of class filling
Be courteous toward management, exhibitors and spectators

The above is not a complete or comprehensive list of stewards' responsibilities; rather, it is intended to help understand the general scope of stewards' duties.

Graduating from the inaugural stewards training session were:

Sandy Arledge, California
Margo Ball, Colorado
Orin Barnes, Texas
Don Bell, Texas
Mario Boisjoli, Washington
Marvin "Butch" Carse, Florida
Heidi Cecil, Florida
Pauline Cook, Texas
Casey Devitt, Kentucky
Kevin Dukes, Texas
Dianne Eppers, Ohio
Leo Fourre, Minnesota
Lori Gordon, Pennsylvania
Jay Grubb, Oklahoma
Jim Heird, Texas
Doug Householder, Texas
Lyle Jackson, Alberta, Canada
Suzy Jeane, Texas
Pete Kyle, Texas
Larry Little, North Carolina
Tom McBeath, Mississippi
Karen McCuistion, Oklahoma
Steve Meadows, Virginia
Scott Mitchell, Missouri
Lynn Palm, Florida
Clark Parker, Utah
John Pipkin, Texas
Kenda Pipkin, Texas
Trigg Rentfro, Texas
Bennie Sargent, Kentucky
Clark Scoggin, Mississippi
Don Topliff, Texas
Sherry Trafton, Maine
Lance Treptow, Wisconsin
Gary Trubee, Kentucky
Sandy Vaughn, Florida
Karen Watters, Ohio
Tracy Willis, Missouri
Debra Jones-Wright, Georgia
AQHA news and information is a service of AQHA publications. For more information on The American Quarter Horse Journal, The American Quarter Horse Racing Journal or America's Horse, visit www.aqha.com/magazines.