Thursday, May 11, 2017

Girl Scouts and Ring Stewards

Last week was rather a blur, but I got to do two new things.

Thing One: My daughter is in Girls Scouts (Technically, she's a Brownie, but whatever), and there is a "Horse Badge" for her Troop. Evidently, my daughter is the only one in the Troop with easy access to horses and so I was chosen as Tribute to host the Horse Badge. Technically, my daughter was the one to lead the Troop in earning this badge, but she's nine, so I helped. A lot.

I took a picture of the requirements, because I'm scatterbrained professional like that.

Every once in awhile I get a bug up my butt to try going pro again. I was a pro years and years ago, training horses and running big farms, and I enjoyed it. But, eventually the people burned me out. Between the unrealistic expectations ("No, your 3 year old will not be doing PSG next year.") over-the top-demands ("No, I will not feed Princess 8 times a day and and change her sheets 5 times a day.") and just general insanity ("Are they having a fist fight over polo wraps?"), it was just tiring. Isolated as I am now on my own little farm, I occasionally forget how tedious I found dealing with the horsey set every day. Sometimes, I even miss it a little. Luckily, a group of giggling, shrieking nine year olds was just the cure for that.

They were actually fairly well behaved (particularly after they were shown my large and varied collection of whips). My daughter did a wonderful job explaining what the horses eat, their equipment and grooming items, etc..... and then it was time for me to bring out the sacrifice horse for the grooming demonstration.

I chose Beau, because he was really the only rational choice. Spots is the the perfect height, but I'm not sure how well he would tolerate the molestation that is a Girl Scout Troop learning to groom a horse. Jack would have absolutely loved it, but he's way too tall. They would only be able to groom his hocks and shoulders. So, Beau it was. This did not go over well with Jack.

"I volunteer as Tribute...."

At first Beau was a little... surprised. I don't think he'd ever been surrounded by that many children before. He took it in stride, though, and even enjoyed it once he realized he was just getting groomed. Afterwards, he gleamed like a model horse.

Honestly, I'm a little surprised he still had hair left afterwards.

Thing Two: I got to be a Ring Steward at a recognized show. This was fun! I'd never done it before, but I knew what the job entails and knew the USEF equipment rules already, so I was fairly prepared.  I met with the Technical Delegate before the show and got the final rundown on what I needed to do.

At a recognized show, the Ring Steward's main job is to make sure that the rider's equipment meet the USEF guidelines and that there is no blood on the horse. The Steward must examine 1/3 of the horses in each class. Since it was a smaller show, 1/3 of the class meant inspecting basically everyone and I was happy to do that since I wanted the experience!

As a competitor left the arena, I asked to check them. I put two fingers in the noseband, to be sure it wasn't too tight, then opened the horse's mouth and slid my fingers in to check the bit. Since I was wearing white latex gloves, this also checks for blood: any blood in the horse's mouth would end up on my glove. Then I looked at the rider's spurs to make sure they met the regulations and ran my hands down the horse's flank to check for blood. Finally, if the rider was carrying a whip, I measured it to make sure it was 120 cm (It's 100cm for ponies, but there weren't any ponies this day so it didn't come up).

Everybody passed my check, so I didn't get to find out what happens if you find something out of sorts. I suppose I can't really be disappointed at that, but it would have been interesting to know what the process is. I also learned a handy trick for telling the difference between a Dr. Bristol and a French Link: "A French woman has curves". I had asked the TD about it, because it can be hard to tell the difference between a French Link (legal) and a Dr. Bristol (illegal) even when you can see them, let alone when you're just shoving a gloved hand into the horse's mouth. So, you feel for curves and if you don't feel any you signal the TD who takes the rider and horse back to the trailer or stall and visually inspects it.

French Link on the top, Dr. Bristol on the bottom. Shamelessly borrowed from the University of Kentucky's 4H website.

I also learned that Spots should probably have a Pony Card, and that there isn't really a set way for the Ring Steward to determine whether a rider is on a pony or not without it. I was curious, because Spots will show at USEF recognized shows at some point, so I asked the TD what the procedure was for determining what was a pony and what wasn't for the whip rule. Her response: "Ponies have a Pony Card."  My response: "Uhhh... my pony doesn't have a Pony Card and he's a large pony, does that mean I can carry a 120cm whip?"  Her response: "Oh! You need to get him a Pony Card!" Point taken. Luckily, we can get him a Pony Card with the TD at the first recognized show he goes to, as long as it's before his class.

And now we're both caught up on last week. Seriously, it took this long for me to process all that.


  1. He looks so shiny. I bet that the girls had a lot of fun.

  2. Hordes of shrieking 9 year olds. Oh my.

  3. I love being ring steward! But you couldn't pay me enough to pilot that many non-horse savvy girls around a pony. Haha!

    I had to trim the lash on my whip at my last show. It had started to come unraveled a bit, and I was worried it might be too long. Pretty sure I have a 100cm pony whip (my horse has the world's shortest back), but no matter. Didn't want to get caught out with a silly mistake like that!


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