Pro Tips for the Eventing Volunteer: Ring Stewarding

Photo by Sally Spickard. Photo by Sally Spickard.

As the eventing season gets into full swing, there are plenty of opportunities to help out at your local events. Volunteers are the backbone of the sport, as most events are virtually entirely reliant on the work of volunteers to keep things running smoothly.

In this new series, we’ll be providing some tips on what to expect for various volunteers roles. There are many shoes to fill as a volunteer, and the great thing is that each position allows you to gain insight and learn more about how the sport of eventing works.

If you have never volunteered before, I strongly encourage you to. Many times, volunteers get perks such as cross country schooling credit (I definitely used mine!), but most importantly there is always something to learn. Even if you have never volunteered in a specific position, someone is always willing to teach you.

I recently had the opportunity to volunteer at the Florida Horse Park as a ring steward. I worked under the watchful eyes of Beth Davidson and Kari Rankin, who are seasoned volunteers who know their jobs well.

This was my first time ring stewarding, so I am sure I am missing many aspects of the job. For that reason, please fill in my blanks in the comments with your tips and advice when it comes to ring stewarding.

1. Be prepared for a long day.

This can be said for any volunteer position! The hours are long and often in the hot sun or other uncomfortable elements. Check the weather forecast and be sure to dress appropriately. Most events provide drinks and sometimes lunches for volunteers, but it’s wise to pack your own snacks and drinks as well. Hydration is key!

2. Put a smile on your face.

At the in gate, riders are often nervous about their tests or dealing with fractious horses. The volunteers checking the riders in are a symbol of organization, not stress. No matter how many warm-ups you’re running or how many rings are going at once, it is your job to communicate calmness and politeness to all riders.

3. Get your loud voice ready.

Ring stewards are often tasked with the job of keeping riders informed of where they stand in the order of go. While it is also the rider’s responsibility to check in and know when their time is, they also need to focus on warming their horse up. This may mean that you have to chase down a rider who is on deck who is warming up far away, but that rider will thank you for not missing their time!

4. Brush up on the rule book.

Typically there will be a veteran assisting with bit checks and stewarding. However, a working knowledge of the rule book is necessary for this position as you need to know what bits are illegal and how long a rider’s spurs and whip can be. Having to constantly ask for verification can take more time than necessary when checking a rider in. That being said, of course, it is always appropriate to err on the side of caution and ask someone if you are not sure of the legality of a piece of equipment.

5. Keep an eye out.

At the event at which I volunteered, a rider was let into the ring with her boots still on her horse. Sadly, this resulted in elimination. Again, while it is the rider’s responsibility to ensure their horses are dressed to standard, the volunteers serve as another pair of eyes who can be on the lookout for something amiss. When you’re watching a horse head into the ring, make sure you do a cursory check of the legs to make sure the rider didn’t forget to take off their boots!

6. Always be courteous.

There will be instances where a rider or coach (or parent) is insistent and hovering around your station. This can be overwhelming, but remember you are dealing with a lot of nerves and, many times, riders who are on very tight schedules. While you cannot necessarily change a schedule to accommodate someone, always be polite and courteous when it comes to concerns. You want to leave a good impression while also maintaining order in the warm-ups.

Stay tuned for more tips on other volunteer positions, and feel free to send us your advice by commenting or emailing [email protected]. Go Eventing!