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So You Want to be a Warm-Up Ring Steward!

The Central Ontario Region of Canadian Pony Club hosted a warm-up ring stewarding clinic at the York Equestrian Centre near Newmarket on Saturday, March 25, for aspiring Stewards and also for riders who want to know what Stewards are looking for.

The clinic was led by Sandra Sillcox and Bob Smith, two of Canada's most experienced and respected Stewards. Both are accredited at the FEI level, both officiated at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the 1999 Winnipeg Pan-American Games (Ms Sillcox as Chief Steward of all equestrian competition in both cases), both are Life Members of Canadian Pony Club and both previously served as Chair of the Central Ontario Region of Pony Club (Ms. Sillcox was actually Chair of Ontario Pony Club before it divided into regions).

The clinicians reminded the audience, which was split between pony clubbers and their parents, that the role of the Steward is to help the riders, keep the activity as safe as possible, and ensure a level playing field. It is not an excuse for power trips, but at the same time the Steward must not be intimidated by competitors or trainers, no matter how "big name" they may be, or by parents.

Under the heading of "helping the riders," for example, some Stewards know that certain dressage judges have "pet hates" such as shiny head-bands, and will ask riders if they really want to go into the ring with the equipment in question, though they generally will not say straight out that the judge dislikes it. Lesson for riders: listen carefully to any question the Steward asks you. Smith even brings a spare pair gloves to dressage shows, for riders who forget theirs. Both clinicians advised their listeners that Stewards have to draw the line on helpfulness or they turn into unpaid free-lance grooms. Holding the horse while a rider fixes something is fine, actually doing the fixing is too much.

Other tips included where the Steward should be positioned in the ring for maximum effectiveness and safety, why the Steward does not need to spend time looking for "wowed" poles in a show jumping warm-up ring that might be turned up to create an "offset" (the riders and trainers have a 100% effective radar for this—the Steward can let them find such poles and then use them as ground rails), how to use a clipboard to have the rules, the entry numbers, and a record of the comments made to each entry handy if needed.

Leave-behind material with advice in detail may be downloaded from the Canadian Pony Club website in PDF or zipped MS Word 6.0 format by clicking on Stewarding Clinic.  It is well worth a look by anybody aspiring to be a Steward at any level, or as a review of the basics for active Stewards.  

This clinic was financed by a $5,000 grant from the Ontario Equestrian Federation, to help the Central Ontario Region of Canadian Pony Club educate its members and volunteers. Other activities financed in whole or in part by this grant include upgrading clinics for new and existing officials, the Canadian Pony Club National Rally hosted by Central Ontario, several regional competitions, and working rallies in both the north and south portions of our Region. (Working rallies are not competitive events, but comprise two or three days of intensive, fully participatory clinics on both competitive disciplines and stable management/horse care, often combined with a testing session.) Central Ontario Region wishes to express its gratitude to the Ontario Equestrian Federation for its generous support, and its thanks to Ms Sillcox and Mr. Smith for their help on this occasion.

For more details call Liz or Bob Inglis, Central Ontario Regional Communications Co-Chairs, at 416-493-1223 (office), 416-491-4230 (home) or via E-mail at or