Ever thought about becoming a TPR? (temperature pulse and respiration steward)

Sticking a thermometer into the horse's anus, placing a stethoscope under his 'arm pit' and listening, and counting the horse's breath? You've gotta be kidding.

Nope. Not kidding. It's a weird intro to endurance riding. But for newcomers to the sport, that is the first requirement – submitting your horse to scrutiny by a temperature, pulse and respiration steward.

It's just like what happens to humans, in accident and emergency, when medical staff requires a quick assessment of a patient. Mostly your horse would be in tip-top condition, a paramedic so to speak in the endurance world.

The procedure is a pre-requisite to presenting your horse to the vet – who needs to check him out before you are allowed to even start in a social, 40, or 80 or 160 km event. The TPR (as they are known) will record the vital signs of your steed in his/her logbook (or on a training card, if the horse does not yet have a logbook). Then – and only then – may the horse be presented for inspection to the vet.

All TPR Stewards must be accredited under Australian Endurance Riders' Association (AERA) Inc rules. They are volunteers who assist the ride vets, and who play a vital role in the sport.

Australian endurance riding has amongst the toughest horse welfare rules in the world. And this strict code – which places the wellbeing of the horse as the overriding consideration in an event – has its origins in the way endurance riding, has evolved in Australia. TPRs are central to the management of equine welfare.

The practice began back in the sixties when vet students, ambulance officers and the occasional nurse were used as veterinary assistants. Dr John Parbery, one of the original endurance vets says the system worked so well that it was logical to write it into the rules as the sport developed.

Barbara Timms recalls The very first TPR school was held at St. Albans in the park in front of the Settlers Arms in May, 1978. I know some of those present were R.M. Williams, Patsy Sinfield, Lyn Bailey, June Peterson there were others cant recall. Chris Walker gave the course with the help of Col Adams and myself."

The system was immediately embraced by some of the most famous names in endurance – Barbara Timms (AERA TPR No. 1), June Peterson (No.2), Sue Crockett (No.3) Terry May, Bob Sample, and Merle Hill – completed their training and started putting back into the sport by officiating as TPRs. In the past 30 years more than 700 people around Australia have successfully completed their TPR training and are qualified to work in that capacity at endurance rides.

TPRs must be a member of their state division, have a thorough knowledge and understanding of the AERA Member's Handbook and complete a short one-day training course. Such courses are advertised through the various state endurance newsletters and on the Aussie Endurance chat page. Following application, potential TPRs are sent a 'Study Guide for Prospective TPR Stewards'. The next step is to attend the course, followed by an examination, comprising practical, oral and written components. Those who pass are then granted provisional TPR status.

Known as yellow card TPRs, or probationary TPR stewards, the final leg of their training is to work at three rides under the watchful eye of the Chief Steward. On their third and final provisional ride, the Chief Steward has the job of giving them the nod and formalising it by forwarding their yellow card to the AERA to record the completion of training. Qualified or accredited TPRs are then issued with an engraved and numbered badge.

To maintain the currency of their TPR status, graduates are required to work at a minimum of one ride a year, and also be a paid up full or associate member of their own state division.

Many riders are also TPRs. When not competing in an event, they volunteer their services. Then there is Lyndsay Knight who has worked as a TPR for the week-long stretch at every Shahzada 400km marathon, since 1981. Thats 26 years or six months solid of TPRing at the one event! He volunteers at other rides as well. He would have TPRd at the very first Shahzada back in 1981. But he was riding in that event! And was successful.

Its a social thing. I like to catch up with the friends I've made over the years and if I'm a TPR they all come to me in the vet ring! So I get to see people and renew acquaintances, even though I'm not riding. Lyndsay says. Also, its a way I can give back to the sport which has given me so much. Very dedicated is Gordon Smith of Murrumburrah, he is a serial TPR, he was given an award at a NSWERA AGM. Lyndsay travels all over the state and shows up at almost every ride, including the week long Shahzada.

But it is not only the old hands who reap the benefits from volunteering as TPRs. Increasingly its being recognized as a great way to get a start in the sport. Riders from other disciplines, looking to learn about the exercise physiology of endurance, or strapping techniques, or just learn to recognise basic metabolic indicators, can see that those in the vet ring get the best seats in the house. It's a win win situation. TPRs get to learn, socialise and ride organizers get their events staffed.

Think about it and check your state division calendar to see when and where the next TPR school is being held or ask to pencil for a vet or TPR, you'll be amazed at what you'll learn.

Jennifer Gilbertson Proudly TPR No.186

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