There is usually a big team involved in putting together an equestrian event, and when it is about a high-calibre international sporting event like the Thunderbird Summer Fort Series, there are hundreds behind the scenes.
Those unfamiliar with the sport might feel surprised to learn about some roles that usually don’t come to the limelight very often. Kim McDougall is responsible for one such position.
Her current job title isn’t very different from the one she had before retirement. A flight-attended for more than 40 years, McDougall now works as a steward – not for airlines but Equestrian Canada, a national governing body for equestrian sport.
For three weeks, she is working at the Thunderbird Show Park, ensuring literally ‘a fair playing field’ for all the athletes.
Making sure the field conditions are always the same for each athlete, McDougall said her job often involves keeping a sharp eye on anything that can alter the playing conditions. In addition, ensuring the safety of horses and the public is one of her top priorities.
When a dog is running around without a leash or kids make too much noise near the horses – risking the chance of the giant creature acting aggressively – McDougall steps in and fixes the issue.
“A steward has to deal with anything on the ground that may constitute as a safety hazard,” said the former equestrian.
People working at the Thunderbird often see her with a rule book and an iPad, which contained an e-version of the rule book.
Her job is also to ensure the dimensions of each hurdle bar meet the standards and that whatever a horse is wearing doesn’t breach the set rules.
“I have downloaded the rule book on my i-Pad so I am able to access information fairly quickly rather than flipping through the pages,” she commented.
“This is a job where you have to wear multiple hats,” she added.
As McDougall explained her roles and responsibilities to Langley Advance Times, a rider approached her.
“Are those elastics near my horse’s ankles of right measurement?” asked the riders.
McDougall quickly reaches out to her bag, grabs the measuring tape and gives the rider a green flag.
“Yeah! its better to confirm in advance. They do not want to break the rules,” said McDougall.
Equestrian Canada requires that higher levels of horse shows like Thunderbird have stewards on the ground.
In addition to two national stewards (including McDougall), the show also has an American steward. It is because Thunderbird also has some American rule classes, explained McDougall.
In addition, there is also a team of five international stewards working on the ground.
In charge of the Canadian regulations, McDougall said the international rules differ from the national ones. Equestrian Canada has changed some of the rules, and McDougall said many times, riders are unaware of the updates.
Having experience competing at Thunderbird shows, McDougall said she is familiar with the facility.
“I feel very comfortable here and find this job very interesting,” she concluded.
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