At the YRC, we are always keen for people to help with stewarding for both varieties and pets, and also provide stewarding opportunities for those on the NFRS judge training scheme. Stewarding is the first step on the road to becoming a judge, so it’s important to get it right. Remember though, it’s not just trainee judges or those with aspirations to judge who can steward. Many people find that they enjoy stewarding but never want to make the move across to the judge’s table. Often those who have qualified as judges also still enjoy stewarding at shows too. The YRC has introduced a buddy scheme for those interested in stewarding to work alongside an experienced steward and learn the ropes before being thrown in at the deep end to steward alone.
So what makes a good steward? Basically, if you are organised, like putting things in order and can move the show tanks then you have the main requirements. Without a good steward it is impossible to have a smooth-running show. It is a responsible job and one that you must be able to commit to for the entirity of the judging. It can be fun, and some judges are quite chatty, but the main focus is to ensure the show runs smoothly, make sure the judge and show sec have everything they need at the time they need it and ensure that the judging is finished in time for the show to end before the hall hire expires!
You need to arrive at the show in good time so you can sort out any entries of your own, and then be ready to organise all the other exhibits so that they are ready for the start of judging.
You will need the stewarding list from the show secretary. For varieties this will tell you the pen numbers of the rats entered in each class, the juvenile exhibitors and novice breeders and stud buck entries. For pets, the principles are the same, but you have fewer classes to sort out (though you are likely to have more rats in each class). You will also have a list for rats entered in best rescue.
Once exhibitors start putting their tanks on the bench it is time to start organising them. The tables will be labelled with each group e.g. self, marked etc. At the YRC, New Varieties is the first class and generally goes on the table to the left of the judge. From here you need to work round putting all the tanks in numerical order. If kittens are doubled up, put the lower number in place first and once that rat has been judged move the tank to the correct place for the higher number.
It is a good idea to tick off the tank numbers on your stewarding list as you go along. If any are missing, check with the show secretary to see if they have been withdrawn. This will save you searching for missing rats during the judging and keeps your stress levels down!
Ask your judge whether they like the tanks to go left to right or right to left on the table. Pet judges may only have one rat brought forward at a time, or up to 4, whereas varieties judges tend to have the whole class brought forward together.
It is also good to ask the varieties judge whether they mind you asking questions as they judge. This is particularly relevant to trainee judges. If you do ask questions try to keep them relevant and don’t be chattering all the time, as the judge is trying to concentrate. Also be polite and pick your moment carefully so you don’t interrupt the flow of the judging. Make sure that you don’t give your opinion unless it is asked for, as it may be seen to be trying to influence the judge. Also practice a ‘poker face’ if you have rats entered, so the judge doesn’t get any hints as to which rat is yours.
The first class is New Varieties. This is the only class not eligible to go forward for any challenges or Stud Buck, so once you’ve finished this you can leave these rats to have a sleep for the rest of the show. For the other sections there is a bit more work involved. Once a group class has been judged, place all the first placed adults together and all the first placed kittens together. They will then need to come back for the section challenges. At the end of each section (eg self, marked) there is an Adult, Kitten and All Age Challenge. Once these are complete place the 1st adult and 1st kitten together in one area as they will be needed later. The judge may also ask for 2nd place rats back so try to keep the other rats in some sort of order too. If kittens are doubled up they will need to move to the 2nd kitten’s class. Remember the first kitten may need to go back in the challenge area after the 2nd kitten is judged, or indeed both kittens may be placed for the challenges. Once all the sections have been judged the Supreme Challenges take place. First of all the winners from the Adult Section Challenge are judged against each other, then the kittens. Finally the top four adults are judged against the top four kittens. If this sounds daunting remember you’ll already have these winners in one place and the judge will also help you if you get confused.
After the final challenges you will also need to bring back the stud bucks and juvenile exhibitor entries and novice exhibitors. The judge may have a list of Stud Bucks that they made as they went along. This saves bringing back all the bucks. Also they may be able to work out juvenile and novice awards from the results and not need the rats brought back. The judge will tell you what they want.
In pets, place the top four in each class together to bring back for the challenges – Adult Owned Challenge, Junior Owned Challenge and Supreme Pet Challenge. The judge may then already know who has won best rescue from the placings but if not they may ask to have these rats back again.
After the challenges, tell the show manager that you have finished. He will then place the winning rats on the ‘Winners Podium’ for everyone to admire.
As well as ordering the rats on the bench and taking them to be judged you also need to make sure the paperwork is passed to the show secretary as soon as possible so that cards can be written. This helps to minimise any delay between the end of judging and the presentations.
You will also be asked to query things with the show secretary e.g. if there is a discrepancy with the entry. If a rat is disqualified you will need to tell the show secretary and remove the rat from the bench to a quarantined area.
It is also up to you to keep an eye on the time and nudge the judge along as necessary. This requires some tact and diplomacy!
Stewarding is a great way to learn about the varieties. It also gives an insight into what the judges are looking for and how they reach their decisions, in both pets and varieties.
If you want to see what it is all about, but don’t want the all responsibility straight away, why not ask if you can assist an experienced steward as part of the buddy scheme, or arrange to sit in the judges area (perhaps as a scribe) and see what goes on.
Stewarding means that you get to see all the rats at close quarters and it gives a real feeling of satisfaction knowing that you have played an integral role in making the show a success.
If you’d like to have a go, contact the show secretary.