As the 2003 eventing season kicks off, the search is on for volunteers to help at British Eventing competitions around the country.

“A novice horse trials running cross-country across two days will need around 80 volunteers to man the cross-country fences,” explains Sue Clayton, who has been responsible for finding jump judges for a numerous affiliated events in the Midlands and south of England during the past 10 years.

“More fence judges are desperately needed for novice level events throughout the UK, especially those held during the week. No experience of eventing, or even horses, is necessary as all stewards are fully briefed before the day begins. Common sense and plenty of enthusiasm are most important.”

The role of the fence judge

Fence judges usually work in pairs and are responsible for one fence, which may have one or more elements to it. They watch each rider attempt the fence and mark if they jump clear or pick up penalties. They are also responsible for the safety of riders and spectators on their area of the course.

“Jump judging is a responsible job, but first-timers are usually paired with a more experienced person and given an easy fence to start with,” explains Sue. “Once they have judged a few times, they are likely to be allocated more interesting and complicated fences.

“On a nice day fence judging can be an extremely pleasant pastime and is a simply way for people who love horses or eventing to give something back.”

The benefits

As a long-standing active supporter of British Eventing, Sue believes all BE members, whether competitors or owners, should help at one event per year.

“British Eventing has more than 8,000 members and if they all spent one day fence judging it would be a great help.

“For competitors, a day spent fence judging can be a great learning experience. Watching riders of varying abilities can give an important insight into the right and wrong ways of tackling that type of fence.”

Volunteering as a fence judgehas helped riders avoid the ballot in the past, while this year one event organiser has announced that competitors helping at one event will get a guaranteed run at other events organised by the same team.

Sue believes that organisers have an important role to play in ensuring fence judges return, and says that this can be achieved by making volunteers feel welcome and valued.

“A decent lunch, plus regular refreshments should be provided for all volunteers, as well as a personal’thank you’ letter after the event,” she explains. “In some cases jump judges will get extras, such as a free baseball cap, sweatshirt or bottle of wine, but this varies from event to event.”

To find out more about fence judging visit www.fencejudging.co.uk or attend one of British Eventing’s fence judging training days. For details contact BE (tel: 02476 698856) or visit www.britisheventing.co.uk