Whether you’re helping out at the winter championships in -7° temperatures in order to gain experience for a judging panel, or have been roped in to 12 hours of jump marking at your yard best friend’s local working hunter show, we salute you stewards and your patience and dedication to ensuring that show day doesn’t crash and burn. We really couldn’t do it without you.
Here are a few reasons why show stewards really are angels in disguise:
1. They are usually unpaid
Yes, while many (but not all) judges are given the luxury of pre-paid accommodation and perhaps a nice little cash-in-hand payment at the end of show day, the majority of stewards are unpaid for their time.
2. They deal with stressy competitors…
“WATCH OUT HE’S A STALLION”, barks Clementine, as the lady on the out of control Fell proceeds to poke her mare’s rear end just a bit too close to the equally boisterous Welsh cob.
They see competitors at their worst — when nerves and adrenalin are at a high. While most jockeys and handlers would classify themselves as cool, calm and collected in everyday situations, on show day, the three Cs are often cast aside and replaced with irrational behaviour and mass shrieking, usually aimed at the poor steward, who is a prime target for stress-prompted swearing.
3. And stressy horses
Shout out to those stewards who are usually assigned to the novice or starter rings because the show organiser really rates their experience and ‘caring’ personality. They can see the judge hopelessly staring at the line-up, wondering who the hell he can possibly present the red rosette to without risking the possibility of being struck off all his judging panels. The class has seen an exuberant mixture of buckers, rearers, nappers and even a few dismounters, but one thing’s for sure, not a single horse would stand still for the judge. That’s where their horse whispering skills come into their own. After holding each combination as they come out for the judge, the steward’s left arm feels like it’s going to drop off and they are absolutely shattered after the ninja-like dodging of feet and back end double barrels. They would be within their rights to wonder whether this can possibly be legal…
4. They handle coffee runs
Let’s admit it, the judging process would be unbearable without that hourly dose of watered down caffeine supplied straight from the burger van, which is helpfully located at the opposite side of the show field. Another one of the stewards ‘goes without saying’ jobs is the brew run, which needs to be done in-between classes or championships and also before competitors start kicking off at the length of time they’ve had to wait between classes. Pro-stewards realise that black trainers are the apt footwear choice at many shows, as you really don’t want to be sprinting across a muddy collecting ring with coffee spilling all over your new Fairfax and Favour boots. That would be tragic. And let’s not talk about some of the beverage requests from judges. But if you’re going, mine’s a decaf oat milk infused organic mocha with a chocolate orange Kit Kat please.
5. They have to add up marks
SO. MUCH. PRESSURE.
6. They look after your children
Evening performance with 10 very small children on 10 very well-fed Welsh ponies? No problemo for this super-steward. In ratio speak, 2/10 of these kids will be fine (usually the top two), about 5/10 will be 50 to 75 per cent safe, which leaves three highly vulnerable little sprogs and their unsuitable ponies which have been discarded into the main arena by oblivious parents, who are outside cooing over their little ‘superstars’. Experienced stewards can spot the explosives a mile off, and are usually on hand as soon as child and pony come bobbling through the main doors in a springy canter. Round and round they run, one hand on the pony’s bridle one hand on the child until they head back into line. These very un-first ridden first riddens are usually placed at the bottom of the class, so after a very fast lap of honour and an Olympic speed handover to the parents, it’s time for the next bunch. Only nine more mini classes to go!
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7. They’re all-round great people
From the time the first horse steps into the ring, right until the very last rosette is presented, our show stewards just keep on going, making us all smile and laugh throughout the day.
Thank you stewards for making show day that little bit sweeter. Who’s your favourite steward on the circuit? Let us know below…
For all the latest showing news and reports, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday