The late Eric Ratledge of Calgary, AB was awarded the title of 2018 JC Official of the Year in honour of the many decades over which he worked tirelessly as a show jumping steward and judge, advancing the state of officials in Canada in the process.
Ratledge was certified as an FEI Level 2 Jumping Steward, an EC Senior National Steward for all disciplines, and as an EC Senior Jumping Judge. A familiar face at his hometown’s Spruce Meadows, Ratledge acted as Chief Steward at the famous show ground from its inception in the 1970s to 2000. He returned to work as a steward from 2002 until his retirement in 2010 at age 90, ensuring safe competition at over 70 events in those eight years alone. Ratledge’s incredible wealth of knowledge, coupled with his palpable love of and commitment to the sport, made him the go-to resource for prestigious show jumping events such as Spruce Meadow’s CSI 5* tournaments and the 2006 FEI Children’s International Final.
Ratledge dedicated his time as a member of EC’s Steward’s Committee for many years and inspired countless individuals to use their talents as an EC Official. In addition to leading by example, he shared his expertise through numerous seminars and provided many of western Canada’s up-and-coming national stewards with one-on-one mentorship. He was recognized as a leader and expert in his field internationally, and traveled to Mexico on several occasions to lend his skills developing their national training program for stewards.
Ratledge’s son, Neil Ratledge, inherited his passion for officiating and is a certified FEI Level 3 Jumping Steward, EC Senior Steward for all disciplines, and EC Judge for seven disciplines. Speaking of his father, Neil said, “Eric had a great sense of right and wrong, and a passion for the health and welfare of horses. He worked long hours behind the scenes, often cold, wet, or sunburned, to achieve this end. He also spent hours reading and interpreting the many rule books required for the job.
Right to the end, Dad wanted to know about the show that I had just attended: who was there, who won, and what happened. He would still want to be in the field and be a part of the horse show and jumping scene. His quiet approach, knowledge, and professional manner will always be missed.”
With officials such as Ratledge at the helm, Canadian show jumping competitions have continued to evolve and significantly improve for thousands of athletes, officials, and fans alike.
Fellow FEI Level 2 and EC Senior Judge and Steward, Fran McAvity, added, “My favorite quote from Eric has stayed with me judging, stewarding, and organizing: ‘You can always take away a score, but you can never give back a ride.’ If there was a legacy to live by as an official, this quote says it all.”
First introduced in 2004, the JC Official of the Year Award was created to shed light on the talented and knowledgeable officials who help ensure EC sanctioned competitions are safe, fair, and fun for all participants. Ratledge joins a list of distinguished award recipients, which includes John “JT” Taylor (2017), Michel Vaillancourt (2016), and Chris Brandt (2015). For a full list of recipients, click here.