Have you ever volunteered to fence judge at an event? Don’t worry if you have never done it before… if they accept me, they’ll accept anyone! It’s much easier than you think and full instruction is always given.
British Eventing don’t require riders to volunteer at events unlike Riding Clubs, which often stipulate that riders must be willing to volunteer at one event per year for the rider to be granted membership.
Maybe it’s the way I’ve been brought up, thanks to my father being our Pony Clubs DC for a number of years with the attitude of “you can’t expect to find gold without a big of digging”, plus the fact you often were too afraid that the club secretary would track you down if you didn’t (Think the Trunchbull from Matilda!), that leads us to volunteering at a few events per year.
But in all honesty, we do enjoy it.
Yes, we’ve had days where we’ve been placed in the furthest corner on the course with a view of our jump alone, to man a step that can’t have been bigger than 80 cm, with most horses galloping over it without even realising it was there. Days like this make you question your sanity, especially as it normally rains so hard that you require the use of your windscreen wipers, which of course, leaves you with a dead battery and the need to call for help.We often get given Red, Blue and White flags to call for the cavalry so to speak, but maybe we should have one to request Aid for the Fence judge – with our track record, I’m sure it would become the most used!
And as much as you don’t want to admit it, if it’s a long day, you become a sadist. Now, don’t get me wrong, I NEVER want to see a horse or rider injured or do badly, but after 150 riders clearing your obstacle perfectly, some injury-free action has been known to be requested…. Yes, sad and slightly cruel, but if you can’t tell the truth to fellow Horse Junkies, who can you tell?
On the other hand, we’ve had a day when we asked the score collector if there was a possibility of swapping fences when the classes changed. Being the lovely organisers that they were, they obliged. We found ourselves at the water fence, only to end up fishing for red-faced inflated riders covered in algae all afternoon. So after that experience, all complaints about our fence are now contained within our car and not shared!
Personally, I do take my fence judging duties seriously and many tiffs have arisen from snoozing male associates ***cough-cough father****cough-cough boyfriend****. However, the last laugh is always on them as their slacking often results in them missing the highlight of any fence judge’s day……the mobile cake and tea car!!!!
Another added bonus to fence judging, is that they always provide you with an effective weapon to tackle the above situation! Of course, a whistle should only ever be used to instruct people of horses approaching, but when there aren’t any horses on the course, you must forgive a fence judge for teaching another an important lesson!
But when you get a fence with a view like the one pictured below (from Burgham this year), how can you sleep? With the added bonus of some sunshine, who needs the Mediterranean?! Although next time, I should remember the sun lotion as the cooked lobster look is not as attractive as you may think – plus a red face clashes with my own cross country colours, which of course is a big no-no in the attempt to achieve ultimate matchy-matchy success!
You also get a great opportunity to watch the pros – see who’s got the most rides in one day, who’s got a future Badder’s winner and even spot some familiar partnerships who’ve been reunited this year, even if they forgot their glasses that day… Sorry Mr Stark, it had to be mentioned but it does give us mere mortals encouragement knowing that missing a fence can happen to anyone.
And to top it off after a day of enjoyment is the goodie bag! We’ve had everything from hampers and bottles of wine to silver cups and facility vouchers. And the knowledge that your entry is guaranteed for the next time you enter is always a nice way to remember your day, that and the realisation that you need to book a meeting with a psychologist to discuss your latest discoveries!