If you have spent any time at horse shows on the west coast you are sure to know Janet Fall. She is a heroine of the Show Jumping World whose compassion, patience, and great sense of humor make long days, bad rounds, falls, and overall grumpiness a whole lot easier to handle.
Janet comes prepared with everything whether it’s sun screen, water, tissue, or a shoulder. Her personal traditions are sure to amuse or potentially frighten: for example, when you finish your first Grand Prix round and she applies her permanent black marker to your $150.00 shirt. (Trust me, it’s worth it!) Having traveled extensively, Janet can entertain you for hours with her knowledge and information. It was a great pleasure to interview her.
Tammy Chipko: What is your title?
Janet Fall: This depends on what country you’re in. Titles have changed but most common are Whipper-in, Paddock Steward or Starter.
TC: How long have you been doing this?
JF: Over a quarter century!
TC: What was the reason you chose this job?
JF: I think this industry chooses you. I was shoeing horses at local shows and when work was slow I would help out with announcing. I also love the opportunity this job gives me to travel–my aunt said that I was born with roller skates on my feet! Eventually, I found myself shoeing horses at two in the morning so I could announce at horse shows. So I made my choice and I’ve been announcing ever since.
TC: What are your favorite things about the job?
JF: I love people and I get to watch the greatest horses in the world do their job. I don’t have to pay to watch; in fact I get paid! Beats working for a living. I get paid to do what I love!
TC: What is your least favorite thing about the job?
JF: People who DO NOT PAY ATTENTION. You make announcements and they don’t listen. No sooner do I make an announcement when somebody is asking me a question about what I’ve just clearly announced.
TC: What would you like everyone to know about you?
JF: If you are late it is a sign of rudeness. That’s how I was raised. The only reason for being late is that you did not start early enough.
TC: Favorite thing to do, besides your job?
TC: Favorite Horse?
JF: I have so many that I don’t think I could pick one. Would you ask a mother to pick her favorite child? Fairness is BIG. I want every horse to be a champion.
TC: Something not everyone knows about you?
JF: I am a Recreation Major. I’ve worked on a Race Track as a groom as well as grooming Hunter/Jumpers.
TC: Do you ride?
JF: I have, but to be honest I’ve found more pride in grooming. It is a whole different relationship. You don’t necessarily have to ride in order to find the beauty in a horse.
TC: Do you have a favorite memory?
JF: Even back 26+ years when I was handling the pony ring I would watch the kids try to learn their course. It was wonderful to watch the first course they completed (still mounted!) Now, it might be a rider’s first Grand Prix or first Grand Prix win. The riders’ milestones have become my milestones. I feel like a part of the team. Kids I knew in the pony ring are now making the Olympic Team. That’s a big thing for me!