Volunteering: Just Do It!

I took this photograph of this banner at a ballpark in Benton, Louisiana. Photo by Michelle Wadley.

 We eventers are a pretty cool lot. We’re tough and hard-working, but we’re also friendly and fun-loving. And for the most part we love to give back to this insane sport we care so much about. So how come there is such a lack of volunteers?

I know what you’re thinking. “Oh no! Here comes another lecture on the importance of volunteering.” (Reader closes page.) Well, yes and no. Pretty much to the day that I started riding again as an adult, I started volunteering. I saw it as a way to get involved, get to know people, learn the ropes and hang out in the horse world until I was ready to actually compete. My motto then was, “If I can’t compete, then I will volunteer.” Sixteen years, one bad accident, one child, many moves involving job, barn and location changes, and countless crazy situations later, and it is still my motto. So much so that I just spent the weekend volunteering at the horse trials at Texas Rose Horse Park.

Unfortunately for me, this has been yet another one of those seasons where life interfered with my ability to compete. My horse and I were actually ready to get out there and git ‘er done, but some uncertain family health issues have kept me close to home. And it’s hard for me to stay home. I love events! I love the competition, the pretty ponies, hanging out with my horse girls, even staying in hotels. (I know! I’m weird!) But life is life, and family will always come first. But … right about the time family circumstances were stabilizing was right about the time the volunteer coordinator rang me up wanting to know if I was available. I heeded the call and headed down to Lindale, Texas. I’m so glad I did!

Here’s the thing about volunteering: Most shows are desperate not just for volunteers, but for volunteers who have some horse knowledge, better yet, event knowledge. They are super grateful for anyone who can help for any length of time, but they are especially grateful if they know you can handle a spot doing just about any job because you have evented. They will feed you, water you, give you t-shirts (and other swag), drive you around on golf carts, and just basically be extremely kind and forever thankful. It is so worth it!

I started out this weekend on Saturday by filling in for a scribe who couldn’t make it, shifted to being a score runner on cross country (double bonus here because I got a close up look at all the courses since I had to collect jump judge sheets from each jump) and finished up the weekend by being the warm up steward in cross country all day on Sunday. Yes. It was a bit chilly, but I almost didn’t notice. I was having too much fun catching up with trainers and riders I hadn’t seen all season while herding horses in out of the start box and screaming the occasional, “Woo Hoo! Go get ’em!” It was exactly the fuel injection I needed to keep me motivated through the winter into next season. It was so good for my little eventer soul, but here’s the deal: It wasn’t about me. The show needed me! They needed volunteers. The event may have fed my need to be a part of the community I love, but the event needed me just to help keep the show running. And that is truly what this article is all about.

Most events are desperate for volunteers. If they aren’t desperate, chances are they are still in need. It truly takes a village to run a show. They need scribes, and warm up stewards, and score runners and jump judges, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The bigger the event, the more volunteers it requires. I have volunteered since 2010 at the event formerly known as Rolex. That event quite literally requires tens of thousands of volunteers, enough to rival the population of a town in my home state of Arkansas! Stop and really think about that for a second. That’s a lot of folks!

The point is this: Get your butt out there and volunteer! It’s fun! Really! You get to be a social butterfly and an encourager. You get swag! You learn stuff! (Scribing can provide invaluable insight into the mind of a dressage judge.) You get free food! You get to meet new people! It’s fun!

In all seriousness it really can be a blast, and it’s always good for the soul to help out while feeling needed and appreciated at the same time. You don’t have to make an all-weekend commitment like I did. Most shows are so happy to have you, they’ll let you volunteer for a couple of hours, sometimes even ONE hour. They simply need volunteers.

So the next time you are about to complain about something at an event, ask yourself…

And go volunteer.

Go eventing.