Keeper of the gate
LAKE PLACID — A horse show is a complicated thing, often with two or more competitions going on at the same time. Additionally, there are horses and riders warming up in adjacent rings and some riders may take more than one horse into a competition.
So while scheduling may not seem like a big deal, keeping all the horses and riders moving smoothly during and between competitions is actually pretty important.
Enter the keeper of the in-gate, where riders and horses enter the ring for their round. Mike Fletcher started working at the horse shows in Lake Placid four years ago, but as the owner of a horse farm, Fletcher’s students and family had been coming to Lake Placid for the better part of two decades. He owns Grazing Fields Farm in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts and said at any given time he has 45 to 65 horses at his stable.
Fletcher’s job at the horse show is to sit in a little booth near the entrance of the ring and call out the names and order of the next riders. Many of the riders are in an adjacent ring and can hear their names called over the loud speaker. Fletcher ensures that riders with multiple horses or competitions aren’t required to be in two different places at the same time.
“Basically, there is a group of four of us that work together to keep the show moving,” Fletcher said as another announcer called out the final time of a rider. “There’s multiple rides in every ring, so I’ll communicate with these guys if I have somebody I need (to take their turn).
“That way we help avoid conflicts from going on in the show, because people can’t be in two places at the same time.”
Fletcher said he looks at the riders’ schedule and tries to make a go-list that will avoid any conflicts.
“I look at who has the longest day, and we adjust our schedule of riders according to that,” he said. “What I’m doing, I just keep them informed. I pass on information. Like today, because of the weather today, they (the riders) don’t have to wear riding coats if they don’t want to because of the heat.”
As the official closest to the jumping ring, Fletcher also serves as a guide of sorts, as fans, trainers, riders and owners come to see when certain horses or riders are set to take their turn. In more than an hour in the booth, it seemed that horses were the only beings at the show that didn’t have a question for him.