Stewarding – Why should you do it?
This is an article I wrote in 2000 about stewarding. I think it still holds true. I know that stewarding prior to actually entering a show ring helped me tremendously. I honestly love stewarding and have learned so much from the job. Although I no longer live in the Southwest and as of last year no longer belong to the NMSA I know the NMSA members continue to bring a high quality experience to stewarding through the southwest.
I wrote this such a long time ago, I bet most of the people quoted don’t remember this article.
Stewarding…… What is it and Why should I do it?
The Dog, we can all agree is the most important component of a dog show but one of the most undervalued components of a dog show is the Ring Steward. Aside from being undervalued for their actual work on the day of the show, the job of a Ring Steward is an undervalued teaching tool.
Ring Stewarding give the Owner Handler an opportunity to observe dogs from the judge’s point of view, often a different one than ringside. It also gives the O/H an opportunity to see different breeds and compare movement and structure, something Professional Handlers get the opportunity to do by handling multiple breeds. “Another benefit is to help de-mystify ‘The Judge'”states Lucretia Coonrod, a breeder/owner/handler of German Shorthaired Pointers. She goes on to say that “it is also very beneficial to be an inside ring steward and get a chance to see exactly what the judge sees…you find out that the judge can only judge what they can see! Presentation is so important.”
Owner handlers normally handle one or two breeds, they are their passion but ring stewarding gives the O/H a chance to see breeds up close and personal. You also get to talk to the judges and some of them will tell you why and how they make their choices. That proximity to the judge often gives people the mistaken idea that judges will remember them and put them up later. Most judges remember that you were a great steward. AKC Judge Janet Robinson says “My advise would be to anyone interested in stewarding is to go to the club and be trained to do the job correctly as it can be very rewarding and a well run ring by a good steward is, for a judge a GREAT DAY”.
There are different ways to learn stewarding; the AKC has instructional material available and many show giving Kennel Clubs run classes for stewarding. Mary Jacobs of Wildrose Irish Wolfhounds recommends “A professional group is a great way to learn the craft and get paid also. It paid my show expenses for years. It is also required for prospective judges as you learn how a ring runs, etc., so folks who do steward need to document everything down to whom they stewarded for and what breeds.”
A job at a dog show that pays money? How is that? Stewarding clubs such as the New Mexico Stewards Association and the Stewards Club of New England contract with Kennel Clubs to provide stewards for their shows. The Association then is paid and the proceeds are split with the members who worked the show. Stewarding associations or clubs provides the training and the work up the schedule around members show schedule allowing exhibitors to exhibit and steward. Most associations are quite strict about allowing members to steward for the judge they will be showing to at a cluster. These professional groups work very hard to make dog shows run smoothly. Helen Turin of the Stewards Club of New England says, “I would like it if stewards were accorded the respect that they deserve, you couldn’t run a show with them.”
With all the advantages to stewarding Owner Handlers are missing a great chance to increase their knowledge about dogs and dog shows and if that isn’t enough you could as exhibitor Andi Owens puts it (with her tongue firmly planted in her cheek) ” have a good excuse for not showing and you get to drive the other exhibitors crazy worrying about whether you’re schmoozing up to the judges”!
Jinnie Strickland, Owner handler
Member, New Mexico Stewards Association
This article first appeared in the Spring 2000 issue of the American Canine Exhibitor.