Hello all! Long-time lurker here who finally decided to make an account and start posting. I'm a college-age rider about to graduate (!!) and this spring/summer I'm going to be working the back gate at some rated shows to offset show costs. I'm newer to the A-circuit world since I've been living on a student budget for so long so I'm a little nervous about the responsibility, but I'll be shadowing an experienced back gate worker at a smaller show next month. However, being a type-A, researchy sort of person, I figured I'd ask you all for advice! In your opinion, what makes for a good back gate experience for you? What should I absolutely avoid doing in order to make competitors lives easier? Anybody with back gate experience have some tricks of the trade for me?
Learn which trainer's are quick an reliable and which ones aren't. ie figure out which ones will show up when they say and be able to quickly fit in a couple of students, and which ones will try and get you to fit them in and spend half an hour learning the course.
Another trick I learned from someone that works the back gate is to put a few fake names down on your order at the beginning of the day, that way you have spots to fit people in when they need to move around.
I find usually the hunter rings kind of create groups that rotate, ie three riders all showing in the low, eq, hunter class rotate around so that they have a break in between, seems to work well.
Overall, its important to be flexible but also intimidating enough that people don't take advantage.
Come to the show early and rested. Bring all your patience, and then some. Get used to the idea that every exhibitor in that ring will walk up to you multiple times each day and ask you how many horses left in such-and-such class, how long until class x, is there a water/drag before that class, when is the course walk for that class, etc, etc. Remember to smile.
Be aware that there may be trainer conflicts -- trainer has other riders in a different ring who are going while yet another rider(s) are waiting at your ring for the trainer to arrive. Be proactive, don't wait until these folks are the last ones left in the current class before you start paging the other ring to send the trainer over!
Remember to give timely announcements as to when classes will be beginning. 30-minute, 20-minute, 10-minute notices are always appreciated, especially if I've been back in the barns and not ringside. Realize that not all announcements can be heard everywhere, and you may have multiple speakers from different rings making announcements at the same time. If someone at the ring next to yours is making an announcement, wait for them to finish before you make yours. Otherwise, no one will understand either of you.
The good thing about A shows is that many of the trainers and riders have been-there-done-that, which means your life will go more smoothly. However, if your ring is the small Hunter ring or the small jumper ring, remember many of the competitors are new to showing, and/or may be close to a nervous breakdown from nerves. Don't take things too personally, likely if someone gives you a weird look or says something not so polite, it is their nerves talking and it wasn't really about you at all. As a competitor, a polite and organized back gate person is definitely appreciated!
It's not uncommon for me to be posting riders, figuring out a trainer's question, making a barn page, sending a rider in the ring & be looking around for the drag/water...all at the same time. Keep yourself organized. I bring a pad of paper plus pens (but I never give out MY pen!! it will grow legs & you'll be left without) & highlighters. Be very clear with your judge before you start what class cards are open so they can be orgnaized. If it's an announced scored round, make sure you give your judge enough time to give you/announcer a score before you send the next one in. It might take a couple trips for you guys to establish a good rhythm.
Remain patient at all times. People will be pulling you in 5 directions at once, but deal with each person/issue as they come up. Keep a smile...no reason to let 1 person ruin your day (believe me, some people try) for all the others. Plus nobody wants to be known as the cranky b---y frantic in-gate. If there is an issue, discreetly let managment know. Flexibility is key...especially if you are working a multi-ring show. Find out which ring is priority & check in with those gates when you are looking for trainers. Keep an eye on your schooling area so if you notice it's bare you can start looking.
You will quickly figure out which trainer's really will be ready in 3 trips, who tells you they will but you won't see them for at least 10 trips, who is always willing to go early & who you need to be looking for early so they won't stall your gate at the end of the class. I in-gate frequently in the area & have many of the trainer's I deal with cell numbers...texting is great! I can send a "you are 8 trips out in Ring 5" text when I really need to find somebody & they haven't checked in.
Also, I try to be as self sufficient as possible. I bring a cooler with my drinks & snacks. I bring a variety of clothes so if it's hot, cold, rain I am ready plus sunscreen & sunglasses. I also bring with a comfortable chair in case the one at the gate isn't.
You will come up with your own system. And it doesn't matter what it is as long as you understand it, the gate is organized & it keeps the horses going in the ring.
Post the scores/class results where people can look at them themselves and don't have to ask you. Many times it's really hard to hear scores/results from the announcer so it'll help people out and help you from being asked results 8 million times. I really liked doing groups and trying to get people in groups before the class started. Made life better. I would max out at 5 in a group unless they're all with one trainer. Agree about being flexible. Also make sure you communicate any waits or issues with the judge. That way they can take advantage and go to the bathroom, make a call, etc. But always make sure they're back and ready before you send somebody in the ring.
Make sure you know the walkie-talkie channels for the stewards, secretary, jump/ground crew, EMT, other rings, manager, etc... Makes it much easier to get drags organized and know where trainers are, riders in multiple rings, get stewards there, etc if you have problems.
I liked having a white board to write groups on and the number of people in each class but that can get to be a hassle to update if you're extremely busy and don't have anybody helping you.
Thanks everybody! That gives me a really good picture of what I can be doing. I'm really excited to give it a shot, actually - I think it'll be a great way to get myself further involved in the h/j world.