Monday 29th of May 2023
All in a day's work

BE Fence Judges: John and Pauline McKay

BE Volunteers John and Pauline McKay, from Dorset, were awarded the prestigious title of Fence Judges of the Year in 2015 by British Eventing. The Gaitpost caught up with the dedicated duo as they get set for a busy season on course.

John, who used to compete in Unaffiliated Events 15 years ago, joined his wife as a fence judge when he stopped competing and has been hooked ever since.

© Dave Murray

© Dave Murray



© Dave Murray


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Find out more about volunteering with British Eventing here

JOHN: “When at Events we are awake at about 6am every day. We have 4 dogs so no lie ins! On event days, we like to get there in good time ahead of the briefing.  If the event is quite local we will drive there and back each day, which is what we are doing this weekend for Moreton.

For Tweseldown, we will take the caravan up on Wednesday and make the next 4 days enjoyable. March is a busy month – after Tweseldown we head to Aldon for 3 days and then Gatcombe.  Looking at the calendar we will be at 29 events this season.


We pack lots of coffee to take into the field but that is all as lunch is provided. It is such a great way to meet so many people. We always have fun – whatever the weather! I always wear shorts – even in October and always get some comments from fellow Fence Judges!

Pauline takes care of the paperwork, during the competition and I stay outside reporting back to her as to how I have judged the Fence. Eventing is such a diverse sport – when you are competing, even as a beginner, you get to compete against the elite riders bringing on their young horses.

We get to meet the riders as they walk the course and they often stop and ask questions about how the fence is jumping, what the options are for a combination and we enjoy helping them – it is a big family.”

Ups and downs

PAULINE: “Since we started fence judging, we have had some incredible moments, the highlight so far is becoming Fence Judges of the Year. We were also Crossing Stewards at the London 2012 Olympic Games and it was very special seeing the British team walk the course together. When they rode the course, we could tell when  were coming by the huge roar of the crowd. It was fabulous wave of sound.

It is wonderful to see the riders coming through the ranks. I remember our very first event  which was at Stonar School, and one of the riders was a very young Georgie Spence. At West Wilts, over ten years ago we had to stop Kitty King  as there was a problem with another fence. Although Kitty was. not too happy to be stopped, like a dedicated rider she is, she accepted the situation. And it is great to see how far Kitty has progressed. She always stops and has a chat when she walks the course. It was also fantastic to watch her at the Europeans.

There are also scary moments when things don’t go to plan for horse and rider. We were at Tweseldown a few years ago at the fence where Bumble Thomas came to the combination and had a rotational fall. The horse landed on top of her and Bumble needed medical attention. She was in a great deal of pain and and on these occasion you can’t panic. The situation Had to be controlled . As fence judges, we get trained how to deal with accidents.  Sad to say, Bumble retired from Eventing shortly after that incident.

We have made great friends with other volunteers on the circuit, many of whom come from far and wide and we are really looking forward to catching up with them this weekend.”

Get involved

JOHN: “We never imagined we would get so much out of fence judging and would recommend it anyone. We see it as a way of putting something back to the sport we love.  We use up our holidays from work to go to the Events and we meet some great people who will remain your friends for life.

There are people who say you need a lot of money to event and the sport is elitist, but we really believe it is a sport that involves everyone. There is no other sport where you can compete, as a complete novice against the World and Olympic Champions at the same level. It is a great atmosphere to be a part of.

At the end of the day, we come straight home, have a quick sandwich, get an early night, set the alarm and do it all again the next day!”

If you are heading to Moreton, Isleham or Aston-Le-Walls this weekend, visit our 2016 Event Guide to find everything you need: maps, petrol stations, hotels, B&Bs, shops all with a Google Maps interface straight to your phone. And say hello to John and Pauline at Moreton!

Links: MoretonIslehamAston-Le-Walls (1)

We hope everyone has a fantastic first event of the season

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