Comments from Angie McGee, Karen Chaton, and Sandy: From Angie McGhee:
Since I have all this stuff fresh on my mind, I'm gonna comment on this. Sponsoring juniors can be great...but there's a few things you need to consider.
First, when you agree to ride with another adult, then get out on the trail and find out your horses just can't seem to pace together you can seperate. Not with a junior. The chances that 4 horses will match very well are not great so I wouldn't be thrilled about sponsoring 3 juniors from the start. It worries me that if just one horse is slower he'll probably overdo trying to keep up with the others and the kid doesn't want to drag the others down. If you as a sponsor have a faster horse it makes it too tempting to just expect them to keep up. However, if the horses are near each other at the first vet check chances are they'll travel well together. That's why I didn't mind picking up additional juniors at the first vet check as much as making a deal before the ride.
There are minuses to having 4 horses who cannot seperate on the trail. That's a big group to get watered when the water holes are small and the trail is one lane. We lost time every time there was water simply taking turns making sure everyone got a chance to drink. 4 horses in a group can be bad if the bees are bad. The last one in a group that size is gonna get hit. When you cross tricky footing that you need to walk over...a large group means the leader has to wait until the fourth horse gets past it before picking up the trot again. With lots of tricky footing like at the NC that adds up.
What if one horse goes lame? The sponsor can be in a fix. I've read the rules more than once on whether the sponsor has to pull if the junior switches sponsors on trail, etc. but I still can't say I'm sure what my options are once I'm out there. For your peace of mind, memorize the rules on juniors before the ride.
What if you've got 2 juniors who are doing a great job, and one is really getting tired and lagging...costing you all time at the waterholes...then the lagger shows "body language" signs of planning to go for the win at the finish...should you have an agreement that the sponsor will dictate the finish? If so, before the ride is a good time to discuss it. Having one good junior for a partner can actually speed you up. If you've got two horses who travel well together it gives you an automatic partner who is helping optimize your strategy. Any extras probably slow you somewhat...but not always. As a mom who has had to ask people to sponsor my child at two rides this year I am happy to return the favor for others when they're in a tight, but I'm not sure that I'm their best choice. Breaking them up might be best for their horses and their placements.
From Karen Chaton:
You can sponsor as many as you want. The kids are great. My advice would be to team up with either experienced juniors or experienced sponsors (but not inexperienced both). Make sure you know what to do if something happens to you, your horse, or one of the juniors or one of the juniors horses. I wouldn't want to sponsor more than one junior if they were very young or were inexperienced. It's not pretty out on the trail when things go wrong. Good luck, have fun and remember to follow the trail. :+D (it's easy to get sidetracked with lots of kids, it's good to pick at least one that is a good co-pilot).
Sponsoring juniors is great. You can give them back when you are done, they don't have to go home with you. Plus, they have to do what you say. I love it. Be sure and tell them that you have rules, and make them up as you go. Start with: NO WHINING ALOWED. :+) My next rule after that is: "you have to do what I say". Remember to remind them about their manners on the trail, the other riders will appreciate that!
Sponsoring a junior - or two - is fun, fulfilling and a great way to start these kids out right. The caveat is - MAKE SURE TO START THEM OUT RIGHT! It is incumbent on anyone sponsoring or even mentoring a junior rider (or a beginning adult for that matter) that the BEST of manners, methods and ideas be taught - not just "Haul you-know-what down the trail and WIN!"
In addition, it is paramount that each rider be capable and WILLING to take care of his or her own horse as is they were never to have crew. When I see a junior rider (actually, any rider) Throw their reins to a crew member and just sit, I get irritated. While a 100 miler absolutely necessitates a rider taking a breather as well - and even 50s for most riders coming up, I bristle when I see young riders, chatting and just hanging out while mom or dad is vetting a horse through or otherwise doing the rider's job. Our daughter, now 14, rode her first LD at 9 years old - and no one has veer vetted her horse through nor has anyone else been required to feed, water or otherwise care for her horse at a ride. These are important things to teach as well - the least of the things to teach is how to win. Tschuss! San