The steward is the official representative of British Eventing at our events. They are often the voice behind the microphone at the prize-giving and conversely the ones who oversee any discipline matters. Unlike technical advisers, who are paid BE staff, the steward's role is purely voluntary and there is a panel of about 50 individuals that BE can call upon.

What the role of a steward involves

The steward ensures that the competition is run in accordance with the rules, and acts as the disciplinary steward on event to give what help and guidance may be required. The steward and the TA work very closely together, but the steward is ultimately responsible for approving the cross country and show jumping courses. The steward will inspect both courses with the TA, who is the professional on the technical aspects of the course and whose responsibility it is to measure heights, distances and approve the design of the fences, ensuring they are of the right standard for the relevant class. The BE steward must be satisfied by the TA's assessment before passing the course. 

They are able to insist on alterations being made if, in their opinion, the courses are unsuitable for the classes of horses expected to take part. On the day the BE steward will deal with general queries and the TA will adjudicate on technical matters. It is vital that the steward is happy that the arrangements made for judging, time keeping and scoring are satisfactory, and he/she will adjudicate on any unforeseen eventualities, settling any protests or objections.

Specific tasks of the steward

  • Carrying out visits prior to the event to ensure that all planning and preparations are satisfactory
  • Cancel the event if necessary or abandon it after it has started in consultation with the organiser
  • Carry out all the tasks set out in the rules and guidelines with particular regard to safety matters
  • Adjudicate on objections and discipline matters
  • Monitor the medical and veterinary services.
  • Attend the fence judges briefing
  • Attend the start of the dressage and show jumping
  • Handle press and media enquiries if necessary
  • Be responsible, with the organiser, for the prize-givings
  • As the BE Board's representative at the event, be prepared to take charge in any unexpected or unforeseen situation
  • Liaise closely with the organiser during the event and ensure they are adequately thanked

The steward before the event

Having been appointed by the regional coordinator, the steward normally becomes involved when the TA makes his or her final pre-event visit about three weeks before the event. There is still time to make significant changes if required and it is also about the last occasion that the event can be cancelled, if, in the opinion of the BE steward, the event is not going to be up to the standard required. A general administration check with the organiser takes place at this stage, including entries, medical and veterinary arrangements, health & safety issues and organisation of each phase. A course walk with the TA to approve fences, flagging, ground conditions and logistics is also vital.

The steward will be on-site the day before the event to carry out a final approval of the event site.  The first port of call would normally be the cross country course so that any changes can be made before it has to be open to competitors by 2:00pm.  However, if there is a day before dressage, the dressage arenas may need approval first.  Then the show jumping arena must be checked; the technical side will have been covered by the TA but the Steward must also be happy with the warm-up facilities and that a course plan is on display.

The steward's job on the day of the event 

On event day, the steward and the TA are on-site one hour before the dressage starts to make their final checks. It is very important that the TA and the BE steward work as a team; on the day of the event, many of the tasks can be carried out by either party depending on who is available to do so. A final cross country course drive to check the course, fences, numbering, flagging and ground conditions takes place and any changes made and then communicated. There is then a last check on the dressage and show jumping arena. The steward will then meet the cross country controller for a briefing, followed by the medical and veterinary team to talk through procedures for serious human and equine casualties and how any situations will be handled. While the TA is giving the fence judge briefing, the steward visits the show jumping to check that the judges are familiar with any slight differences between BE rules and British Show Jumping Association (BSJA) rules and to see the first few rounds. The steward will then go up into control to check all the fence judges are in the best position for judging their fence. If there are any problems with fence judge radios, they drive down to check them out. The TA will go to the start to ensure they are ready and then, with the BE steward's permission, the cross country gets the green light.

Once everything is up and running, the steward will circulate and check that everything is running smoothly. Issues such as the show jumping collecting ring being slow at sending competitors into the ring can make the whole event run late. The steward will visit the dressage to try and see the dressage judges, either in their breaks or after they finish, and will visit the BE scorer to make sure the scores from all phases are coming in on a regular basis and are being put on the scoreboard. He or she will also call in at control to look at the log and to see if there are any fences causing a lot of falls that needs to be addressed. The organiser will inform the BE steward of the time of a prize-giving. The steward will have a few trips around the cross country course to see the fence judges and also to watch the courses being ridden, so they can see if there are any distances that are riding short or long or fences that may be riding badly and discuss them with the TA. The steward will also oversee any course changes.

Stewards and scoring, queries, objections and discipline

As the cross country nears its finish, the steward will get the score collectors to follow the last horse round to collect the last sheet from the fence judges.  When the cross country has finished, the steward will meet up with the fence judges and greet them, thank them and ask them to stay around for a while until it is known that there are no objections. The steward then checks with the BE scorer that they have all the score sheets in from the fence judge. If there are any missing, the BE steward can look at the copy in the fence judges' score book and radio them to the scorers. After the final prize- giving has taken place, the BE steward thanks the organiser, discusses the report with the TA and makes sure they have all the information needed for the paperwork. Stewards have a report form to complete on all aspects of the event, which is returned to the Regional Director – this includes any discipline matters.

Queries, objections and discipline are obviously an integral part of the steward's role and BE have worked hard to produce easy-to-understand guidelines to help handle situations and make everything as transparent as possible. A query is an informal request for clarification. Any query, for example about a competitor's score, should only be made at the secretary's office for investigation by the BE steward. An objection is a written statement lodged by the owner or rider of a horse, accompanied by a deposit of £10.00. BE stewards are advised to try to resolve queries quickly while the matter is still fresh in people's minds and before they become objections.