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The Art of Ring Stewarding – Obedience Ring

Ring Steward plays a vital role in the successful conduct of a Dog Show whether it is the Breed ring or the Obedience Ring. Here I am going to give some valuable tips for the aspiring stewards for the Obedience Ring.I have been in the Obedience Ring from the early 70s in the capacity of a competitor then as a Ring Steward and then a Judge.It has been a fascinating experience and I have enjoyed my work thoroughly. In the bargain I have also accumulated vast experience in ring management as a ring steward. Here are some of the duties and responsibilities of a good and efficient Ring Steward.

  • The Obedience Trials are conducted by clubs which are registered with The Kennel Club of India. There are rules and regulations for the Trails and the printed rules and regulations are available with the KCI and the aspiring ring steward should get a copy of it and read it thoroughly. The guidelines given there are to be strictly followed and so the aspiring steward may study them as he would study a text book and this knowledge will give him a great confidence when he enters the ring to assist the judge. He should also have two copies ready at the show – one for the Judge and one for himself.
  • Preferably the ring steward should set up a meeting with the Judge on the previous day to judging or earlier. At the meeting the steward should discuss with the judge all the equipments and articles to be used at the show and obtain his views on them. If the judge prefers any change of articles then the steward should do accordingly.
  • While choosing the articles care must be taken. In test B and test C the articles should be chosen in such a way that it is not injurious to the dogs while retrieving. For example glass items should be avoided. It is always better to keep extra pieces in each of the articles. Handkerchiefs are used for scent exercises in Test B and Test C. It is the ring steward’s responsibility to make sure that there are more than enough handkerchiefs available for this purpose. In Test A the handlers are allowed to use their own articles for the scent exercises. Kindly chek with the Judge what articles he may need while Judging. Usually the handlers in Test A use their own handkerchief for secnt exercise. I have also come across handlers using their wallet or the dog’s dumb bell. So you may need a few wallets or some dumb bells. This could be provided by the club or with the Judge’s permission these could be collected from the spectators near the ring.
  • An efficient ring steward will prepare a check list before the show and list out all the jobs he need to complete before the show. The check list includes many things viz: All the articlels to be purchased with the help from the club. Rule book copies. Mark sheets provided by KCI for all the classes. Award cards. Clip boards with some plain white papers for Judge to write his notes. Couple of ball point pens. Any other stationary required. To make sure that all the above said things are brought to the show grounds on the show day.
  • On the day of the show the ring steward must arrive at the grounds a couple of hours before the show is scheduled to begin. On arrival he should proceed straight to the ring and take charge of the ring. He should inspect the ring thoroughly and get all the cleaning jobs done if it is already not done. Arrange the Judge’s table and chair and arrange a table and chair for himrself which should be away from the Judge’s table. In many shows I have observed that some of the participants practice inside the ring before the show. Once the steward takes over the ring he should clear the ring and should not allow anyone inside the ring. He should get a marked catalogue from the club authorities and then may fill the dog’s numbers on the sheets if the Judge had instructed him. Some Judges prefer to write the numbers as they start Judging each class. Ring steward should make sure that there is soap,water and hand towel available at the ring for the Judge. Make sure the cleaning crew is available at the ring and any mishap inside the ring could be cleaned immediately and need be the place could be sprayed. Make sure a couple of bottles of drinking water is available for the Judge.
  • The ring steward should go according to the show catalogue. What I mean by this - In my experience sometimes you will find exibitors coming to you to change the class for their exhibits. This happens after they see the catalogue and after looking into their competition in the particular class. When I used to do the stewarding I never encouraged these exibitors and always politely refused them. The ring steward may approach the show secretary to resolve any such issues.
  • All the exhibits has to be passed by the veterinary doctors and so ask for the veterinary slip for all the exhibits and take a look at them. Now you are all set and please wait for the Judge.
  • When the Judge arrives receive him and bring him to the ring and make him comfortable. From this point onwards please remember that the Judge is the most important person in the ring and you take a back seat. You will talk to the Judge when you are spoken to. You do not go and engage him in long conversations. Please allow him to do his job. You should be available to him all the time and at the same time you will keep the distance. This is the hallmark of an efficient steward. In the ring at any point of time there will be only two people that is you and the Judge – I mean apart from the exibitors. It is your duty to make sure that no one enters the ring without your permission and that includes club officials too.
  • Get the dogs ready at the waiting ring for the first class to be Judged and when the Judge orders you to get them in , call them in and arrange them in the order in which the Judge wants them. Sometimes Judges requests the ring steward to give commands like ‘right turn ‘, ‘ left turn ‘, ‘ about turn ‘ for the heel walk exercise. So the steward should have done his home work and prepared charts for this purpose. He should have prepared different pattern charts for different classes and also better to have discussed it with the Judge. So if you are asked to do this job go ahead and do it. Don’t feel nervous. Just do it. Use a bit high tone of voice so that the handlers could hear you clearly in the ring. After completion of Judging of each class just consult with the Judge whether he is ready to start the next class. Also ask him whether he would like to have a coffee or tea and arrange accordingly. This is also part of steward’s job.
  • The steward should never leave the ring without Judge’s permission and he should be alert in the ring. When the Stay exercises are being Judged some Judges may instruct the steward to keep an eye on the exhibits and also report to him for any of the participating dogs excess movements or getting up and walking out of the ring and any other mistakes committed. I strongly recommend to the stewards to be ready with pen and paper and start marking the numbers of the dogs and then show it to the judge at the end of the exercise. This way the steward need not try to remember all the dogs that did mistakes and also it helps the Judge with the written numbers. This does not mean that the steward is also Judging. When there are many dogs in the ring the Judge may ask the steward for such help and probably Judge will tally with his remarks to make sure that he does not miss out on any exibit.
  • When the scent exercises are being Judged it is the steward’s responsibility to see that adequate small stones are available to be placed on the handkerchiefs especially in the open air show.
  • If the Judge gives the mark sheets of the completed classes then it is the steward’s responsibility to have them in his safe custody and he should hand them over to the club authorities. At some shows I have experienced that some of the participants used to approach the ring steward and ask him about their dog’s marks and Judge’s notes on their performance and the steward should politely handle them and tell them to contact the show secretary for obtaining such information.
  • At the end of the show if there is prize distribution then the steward should help the committee with the results and be part of the prize distribution.
  • When everything gets over then the steward should make sure that the judge is being taken care of by committee members and after the Judge leaves the Judging area he should pack up all his things and tally them with his chek list and finally leave the ring.
  • An efficient ring steward makes a big difference and it makes the Judge’s job much easier and the show will run smooth and also needless to say that the show will finish in time.

Obedience Judge
The Kenel Club of India

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