A Return to Volunteering


I don’t know if you can tell or not, but that’s a social distancing shower curtain behind me in the judge’s box. Photo by Michelle Wadley.

When the powers that be first announced a return to showing, my emotions were all over the place. Part of me was thrilled. Before the virus hit, my horse and I were FINALLY on target to have a great show season. It was a huge blow to my ever fragile adult amateur self to have my plans dashed yet again. (And please don’t anyone misunderstand that statement. I am in no way making light of the pandemic or the need to contain it. I was just disappointed on a personal level.)

After months of waiting and wondering, I was excited to finally be able to get out there and do something. But then folks started talking about the requirements. The mask wearing. The social distancing. The limits to spectators and horse husbands, and suddenly I wasn’t so sure. I am an overworked, adult amateur mom on a serious budget. As much as I wanted to get back out there, I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend my hard earned duckets on an event without much social. Because let’s be real, I love to compete, but I love to hang out with my eventing peeps just as much, especially the ones I don’t get see EXCEPT at shows. I was torn. In the end, I decided to wait and see.

I am an Area V eventer. Summers here are HOT. And humid. And don’t even get me started on the mosquitoes. Even in a normal year, our area pretty much shuts down from the middle of June to the middle of August. By the time the restrictions for showing were eased, there were only two events left on our calendar: Feather Creek in Oklahoma and Texas Rose last weekend (Father’s Day).

It was hard NOT to go to Feather Creek. I love that show, but between my uncertainty and my job, I just couldn’t swing it. Only Texas Rose remained. For those of you who don’t follow me or read my blogs, I am a bit of a volunteer queen. I LOVE to volunteer, and feel VERY strongly about giving back to our eventing community. I also love the folks at Texas Rose Horse Park; I’ve been volunteering there for years, so when they contacted me wanting to know if I was coming … well, I was torn.

It was well past the closing date, so I knew I wasn’t riding, but volunteering??? Sigh. Now, I have been known to get up BEFORE the crack of dawn, drive to Texas (I live in Arkansas), volunteer all day and drive home. But did I want to do that this time? In a pandemic? I wasn’t sure. Then an opportunity came up to go visit some of my family who live in a nearby town, and since it was Father’s Day weekend … well, volunteering became part of a vacation, and I was in!

And I am SO GLAD I made the decision to go! Did we have to wear masks? Yes, but they did make exceptions for the Texas heat. Was it a little weird? Yes, but it was SO GOOD to be back out there! And yes, it was strange not having the large number of spectators and people milling around that we usually do … And yes, it was VERY strange to hear the announcer repeatedly remind everyone NOT to congregate in the barn aisles. (We eventers LOVE to congregate in barn aisles!) And it was a little unusual to be separated from your dressage judge in the judge’s booth by a shower curtain masquerading as Plexiglas (I scribed all day on Saturday).

But mostly it was just really great to be back at an event. And I don’t know how the other shows running last weekend went because I wasn’t there. But I WAS at the Texas Rose Horse Trials and I must give major props to the organizers and everyone who competed, volunteered, and supported. It was so well run! And everyone was so well behaved! We Area V eventers were just happy to be back at it. From my perspective, folks happily complied and happily competed. We were even treated to a brief respite from the heat Saturday morning, which is ALWAYS a good thing in Texas in June.

So it might not be the easiest transition to make, and parts of it may seem unusual and strange, but in the end, it was really just good. Good to see friends I hadn’t seen in too long of a while. Good to see pretty ponies and happy faces. Good to see trainers and parents hugging competitors, and good to see people trying to (gasp) relax for a moment. It was all just … Good. And I’m so glad I went! And when our calendar opens back up in August, I won’t just be volunteering.

Stay safe, and go eventing!