Helping at a horse show

Cross country jumpEven if you cannot compete yourself, you can still get a lot of enjoyment from helping at shows. You need no experience and it is a great opportunity to expand your circle of horsy friends. Most local shows (including BHS, BS, BE and BD) rely heavily on volunteers, and welcome offers of help. Even at the Olympics volunteers are required. Riding clubs have particular difficulties because their members usually want to compete.

Volunteers needed

A show needs some experts (course designers, dressage judges etc.) but to run efficiently and safely, a variety of additional helpers is essential. A one day event, for example, will require some or all of the following:

  • secretary (taking entries), ring stewards
  • arena party (building the showjumping course)
  • cross country fence judges scorers
  • score collectors (usually the local pony club or motorcycle club) messengers
  • car park attendants
  • programme and ticket sellers.

The day starts with a briefing for officials (that's you!). Do ask questions if you are uncertain about anything -it may be difficult to speak to an organiser later on. Safety is important, as an accident can mar the day. As an official, in any capacity, you should take appropriate action if you see any dangerous (usually unintentional) behaviour of competitors or spectators - loose dogs are a particular hazard.


If you like children as well as horses, gymkhana organisers need help to layout and retrieve equipment for the races and to keep order amongst excited children and ponies. But be warned: many children -and even more parents -take these events extremely seriously; tears and tantrums are common - and not just from the children!

Ring steward

Ring steward at cross country event As a ring steward at showing, jumping or dressage shows, you will be kept busy ensuring a constant flow of competitors into and out of the ring, but you will also see lots of the action. You maybe asked to watch the collecting ring, checking that riders behave responsibly. For instance, anyone having problems controlling their horse should be asked to move well away from other people and horses. And if the practice jump is flagged, it should be jumped in one direction only, to avoid horses colliding.


You will see fewer jumps as a cross country fence judge, but you are normally given a Cross country fence judge  raking the landing radio to report problems, so you will be able to hear what is happening around the course. Some fences can be jumped in several ways: make sure you know the alternative routes to check it is ridden correctly, and so that you can keep spectators at a safe distance. Most spectators like getting close to the jumps, but they should not distract the horse or be in the way if it runs out.

At many events fence judges can drive to their fences, which is a great advantage in cold or wet weather, as you can sit inside. Events are usually cancelled in very bad weather, but one does hear of fence judges standing out in the freezing cold because their windscreen wipers could not keep up with the falling snow! At the other extreme you could suffer from sunburn - so do dress appropriately for the time of year.


If your interest is dressage, writing for a dressage judge is a great way to get involved. You need to be able to write the judges comments quickly and legibly on the score sheet as the test is performed. At first you may find yourself scribbling frantically without a chance to look up and see the test but you will soon get used to writing standard comments and abbreviations and will be able to watch the test too. It gives a wonderful insight into what the judges are looking for.

What next?

Shows are advertised in horse magazines and tack shops, so why wait? Phone a local show secretary to see what help they need - and add a new dimension to your horsy activities.

More information

Posted on 7 July, 2011

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