EN Says Thanks to Volunteers

Here is Leslie Threlkeld’s latest post for Eventing Nation.  In it, Leslie writes about volunteers and delivers a message that cannot possibly be said enough to voulunteers in our sport: thank you, eventing would not exist without your help.  As I expected and hoped, Leslie and Visionaire have already produced some incredible original content, and have really outperformed me since their arrival to the site, in terms of producing strong and intelligent posts.  I am calling myself out right here, right now, to step my game up to match the new bar of quality that they have set here at EN.  It is both scary and exciting to see where a team of highly dedicated, competitive, and motivated people will take Eventing Nation.  Now, from Leslie:


EN Says Thanks to Volunteers
Leslie Threlkeld
area3YRvolunteers.jpg
(Area III Young Riders volunteer at Poplar Place Farm in Hamilton, GA picking up rocks (thats right, rocks) before the new dressage rings are built.  13-year-old yours truly is sitting second from the right.)
3-Day Events, Horse Trials, and schooling shows would never happen without the hard-working dressage stewards, jump judges, score runners and pole picker-uppers.  While we might not always remember to say thank you as we fly by on course, I speak for the whole of Eventing Nation when I say THANK YOU.  We really do appreciate the long hours our volunteers put in at competitions.  Recent changes to the sport also require volunteers to carry more responsibility in terms of decision-making and controlling spectators.  Here are a few tips and links that our beloved volunteers may find useful in the collective effort to improve the quality of our great sport. 
Forget Me Not
Competition organizers deeply appreciate the volunteers who make the show possible and make an effort to provide what they can for them including breakfast, lunch, and maybe a coupon.  Some things they will not provide, so remember to pack a few things.
  • A foldable chair: Some venues allow you to take your car on course, depending on the weather and footing conditions, but some prefer not to risk damage to the course.  Mum uses an Ariat chair I acquired at the AEC one year; she calls it her $10,000 chair.
  • Sunscreen: I left Foxhall one year with very badly burned legs, and then got sent home from school the next day because the shorts I wore were “too short.”  Moral?  Bring sunscreen or you’ll get to stay home from school.
  • A book: There can be significant downtime between levels while judges reposition.  Reading material is fine, but an iPod may cause you to miss important information over the radio.
  • Water and snacks: Many venues provide these sporadically throughout the day.  Bring some of your own just in case.
  • Trash bag: Because you don’t want to be a litterbug
  • Toilet Paper: Breaks and bathrooms can be few and far between on course.  You get it…
  • A Watch: You may need to time any odd occurrences like holds on course
  • Foul-weather gear: The weatherman never gets it right on horse show weekends.  Be prepared for changes in temperatures or sudden rainstorms.  And remember to dress in layers! 
  • Muck boots or Wellies: Helpful for wet weather or assisting soaked riders out of the water jump
  • Cell Phone on Vibrate: Don’t be that guy who’s cell phone goes off mid approach to a maxed-out combination.
  • Bug Spray: It only takes one bad day in the bushes, and you’ll never forget bug spray again.
Geometry is my least favorite subject
You think dressage is boring now?  What might you think after watching 50 or 60 Training Test A’s or Beginner Novice B’s.  Scribing a dressage test is one of the most educational experiences a volunteer can have.  It’s like getting 100 free audits with a top dressage rider.  Just think, someone in the barn will be cursing your chicken scratch shouting, “Lacks suppleness?  What does that even mean?!”  Help us all out; brush up on your shorthand and get to know the newest dressage tests.  Scribing Abbreviations and 2010 Dressage Tests
How to get the “good jumps”

My mother is an avid volunteer, and sometimes I’ll sit on course with her for part of the day, the inevitable question being, “Did we get a good jump?”  Mum almost always gets a good jump, but that’s because she’s been doing this a while.  Unless paired with another experienced volunteer, freshman volunteers will likely (and ought to be) positioned at a straight-forward, uncomplicated fence with height.  Do a good job and keep coming back, and you might just be sitting at the Big Water Jump pretty soon!
Leave your frightening hats and neon umbrellas at home, please
What is it with volunteers and looking scary?  If almost every horse gives you the googly eye and then takes a bad jump, maybe you should re-asses your wardrobe and position in the field.  Judges should be inconspicuous and quiet for optimal safety and good decision making.  That’s right, I’m holding you accountable for unnecessary spookage.  Fort Rucker volunteers are well hidden in the trees because the boys suckered into judging are all wearing camouflage.  It’s hard not to look for that eye candy while you’re on course.
Using good judgement 
Cross-country judges are no longer simply responsible for reciting “horse 23 clear jump 4” into the radio.  There are more things to mind than that.  Dangerous riding is awarded spectator criticism and 25 penalty points in the “DR” section of a score sheet.  The definition of dangerous riding may vary depending on who you ask.  Sometimes using a whip is necessary for a safe ride, but there is a fine line between appropriate whip use and abuse.  Technical Eliminations are also common occurrences, so take good notes in case the rider has questions later.  Refusals aren’t always black and white.  Watch to see if the horse steps back, even with one foot, and be mindful of whether the horse maintains forward movement.  Just stay focused and stop texting–you’ll be fine.
Review the Eventing Rulebook for clarification on penalties and rules, particularly sections EV-3 Rules for Horse Trials, EV-111 Abuse, and EV-112 Dangerous Riding.  
Some rules are easy to follow, like whip and spur length. EV-114 Dress describes all current regulations on competitor attire.
**current whip/spur length restrictions….one whip no longer than 110 cm (43.3 in) including lash on the flat; whip may not exceed 75 cm (30 in) in length for jumping tests…spurs with shank must not be longer than 3.5 cm (1 3/8 in)
Injuries and fatalities on course
Accidents happen, and it is important to know how to handle difficult situations.  The Horse Trials Crisis Plan outlines how to handle  unfortunate incidents on course.  Your actions may help show officials react and control the situation in the best way possible.  The most important thing you, as a volunteer, can do is hold on to your walkie-talkie.  In the scramble to see if a fallen horse and rider are OK, some people shout something about a fall over the radio and then leave it in the chair while they run over to assist the competitor.  Tell the office the number of the fallen rider, the fence number, and whether or not they need medical attention.
Putting on the parental hat
Mum used to say, “It’s not a matter of if you will fall, but when.”  Often times, spry young eventers pop right up, eager to continue.  Unfortunately, a single fall is now cause for elimination, so the decision whether or not to continue on course is moot.  We should hold ourselves and others accountable, however, to possible injuries.  
My horse ran off in the dressage warm-up once, and to avoid a collision in the congested arena, I pulled him out at the gate.  He zigged, I zagged, and I wound up whacking my head on the hard Georgia clay.  I rode my test with a torn jacket, clay-stained helmet and screaming bruised hips.  While removing my horse’s braids later, I suddenly felt lost.  Meandering over to the ambulance, the paramedic recognized me and asked, “How are you?”  “A little confused,” I said.  I know we all think we are indestructible English cowboys, but it’s important to not underestimate our falls.  This Concussion Brochure is useful for riders, show officials, and volunteers.  Watch out for one another, K?
What’s in it for you?
A valuable learning opportunity and the chance to support the continuation of your favorite sport, that’s what!  And sometimes a coupon for merchandise or a cross-country schooling session.  Woohoo!
Again, I say thanks to the horse enthusiasts, riders, and family members who spend long hours watching horse after horse go by.  I hope you take full advantage of the educational experience volunteering provides, and don’t ever be afraid to ask questions.  As for the competitors, treat the volunteers with respect.  Sometimes we get caught up in the moment when things go wrong, or right, and we forget our manners.  Without the volunteers…well…we would be without events.
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