Officiating is a great way to be involved in equestrian sport
The following might give you an insight into what is involved in becoming an ESNZ Official and where you can find out more information
What kind of official roles are available?
While each discipline may have a different way of classifying the various roles, there is also quite a bit of crossover between them.
Ground Jury (Judges) – have overall control of the event. There is usually a President who the rest of the GJ sit under. The GJ have the ability to accept a horse into the competition, eliminate a horse (or rider) from the competition and may be involved in judging a horse’s movements.
Technical Delegates (TDs) – look after the technical aspect of the competition. This may include checking the surface of a dressage arena, checking the Cross-Country course in eventing, checking the Show Jumping course, or checking an endurance track.
Course Designers (CDs) – as the name suggests, they are in overall charge of designing and building (or marking) a course – either Cross-Country, Show Jumping or an endurance track.
Stewards – are in place to prevent dangers and irregularities through proper measures and supervision. There should be a Chief Steward and however many assistant stewards are required. If a Technical Delegate is appointed, they must work together closely prior to and during the event.
What kind of people make great officials?
Ideally you will enjoy working as part of a team as officials will rarely ever have to make decisions on their own. You should have natural empathy and be able to also see things from a rider’s point of view. A sense of humour is also a useful trait to have and you need to be prepared to work long hours at times, with very little time for breaks, but you will find the positives far outweigh the negatives.
Good knowledge of the sport, desire to educate and inform others so they can enjoy the sport. People who are keen to contribute as a volunteer.
What are some good skills to have?
Some key areas for competence of roles include – leadership, rules knowledge, good communication, good team player, event administration and management knowledge, health and safety knowledge, horse welfare knowledge, integrity, pragmatism, fairness, consistency and patience.
You also need to be able to back the sport and the rules and be confident in applying them.
How do you get started in any of the disciplines?
Most roles will require you to attend one of the National Officials’ courses that the disciplines run – here you will learn more about the rules, how they apply, and what role officials have in the sport. However, it’s also good to first volunteer in a non-official role (writing for a judge or vet, picking up poles in the ring, XC jump judging) to gain a valuable insight into what part officials play, as well as learning more about how the sport operates overall.
The National Official’s courses, or seminars, are not run every year in each area, so it would pay to find out when your next local one may be. Some disciplines require you to be nominated by your area group and be approved by the discipline board.
It’s a good idea to start building a CV now of their involvement in the sport and the roles they have held.
What kind of opportunities exist for officials?
Depending how apt and motivated you are, the opportunities for good officials are endless. You may prefer not to travel so just officiate at your local events, but if you do a good job, and become sought after, then you have the opportunity to move through the grades and possibly travel abroad where officiating at International level can take you all over the world.
Officials make lifelong friends and get a sense of achievement from contributing.
The pathway to being an FEI official usually requires some experience at a National level in the country of origin. But NZ officials have been and continue to be selected to officiate overseas at major events including the World Equestrian Games and the Olympics.
How will you be supported/mentored?
You will initially begin your officiating journey as a Trainee (also called Candidate National), and you will only work alongside more experienced officials.
The disciplines all run seminars for officials every year so these are also available to existing officials as well as new officials.
The FEI offer a great online learning platform through their Campus pages, for anyone wanting to study in this way, which covers off many of the basics for all disciplines. It is free and anyone can enrol (you don’t have to be a current FEI Official or Competitor). https://campus.fei.org/
Who to contact for more information?
Contacting the sport managers or technical committee members for each discipline is a good place to start as they will know who they should talk to in their area or when a course, local to them, is next being run. Alternatively, if you are already involved in your local discipline area group, they should also be able to supply information.