Competition rules state that at all times during Equestrian Canada events, stewards should be randomly patrolling the stables and observing the management of the horses. Their job is to help, prevent and intervene, ensuring that the rules are followed for the safety and welfare of all competitors, caretakers and their charges. Stewards are specifically monitoring the following;
- unauthorized administration of medication
- use of equipment such as shockwave therapy machines (must be administered by vet and the horse cannot compete for 96 hours)
- ensuring cards with emergency contacts are filled out
- looking for hazards in the stable areas
- ensuring fire extinguishers are in working order and accessible
- making sure grooms/riders are not smoking in aisles/tack rooms
- electrical cords are not hanging from fans that horses could easily chew on
- aisles/doors are not blocked by hay/tack trunks
- gas-powered scooters, etc., are not parked inside stables
They are also looking for anything that may negatively affect the welfare of the horse, including:
- horse’s head tied up/down too tightly for an extended period
- horses left without hay/water
- horses left tacked up for long periods of time, or those in distress, overheating, etc.
- horses that appear to be in pain
- stables not mucked out
- any indication that efforts have been made to sensitize or hypersensitize a horse’s leg(s)
Another thing that stewards also watch (or rather, listen) for is competitors or grooms playing music at full volume at their stalls. Some, unfortunately, forget that the stable area is supposed to be an area of rest and relaxation for the horse.
As the grooms are found in the stables the majority of the time, the stewards will often stop and chat with them about their horses. Most are proud of the care and love that they give them and are happy to talk about them. When grooms find the stewards approachable, they are usually the first ones to tell them about something suspicious that might be going in the stables.
Stewards must gather evidence correctly to ensure a thorough and, more importantly, fair investigation and fair outcome. The guidelines they follow also ensure that all the information or evidence is well-documented and of value not only throughout an investigation, but also within any formal proceedings. Stewards will note the date and time of the incident, the person’s role at the event, their contact details, exact location of the incident (i.e. stall), horse name/number, and a thorough description of what happened. Any physical or digital evidence (items seized, photos, videos) must also be collected and submitted. Competitors or witnesses should be prepared to supply names and detailed information about what they witnessed.
A competitor should feel free to approach the assigned EC Steward at any time during the competition for clarification on a rule. If further clarification is required, the steward can always discuss the question with the ground jury, course designer, etc.
While most minor infractions can be easily corrected, serious incidents at an event should be treated as such, as they have the potential to result in a yellow card, fine, or disqualification from that event, or possible suspension from Equestrian Canada, not to mention impact the welfare of the horses.
Susan Adey of Stonewall, MB, is an Equestrian Canada Senior National Steward, Senior Dressage Steward and an FEI Level 2 Jumping Steward, as well as an avid hunter/jumper competitor. Her website “The Stewards Hub‘ provides innovative tools, helpful links and features to assist horse show stewards (www.stewardshub.com).