Whether you are a competitor, casual rider, parent of a rider, or just appreciate horses, volunteering at your local horse show is good for more than you probably think. Starting with the obvious, volunteering gets you out in the sun for a day or two (hopefully you have a great weather), but it also gives you that warm fuzzy feeling you get when helping others out of the goodness of your heart. Believe it or not, there are a myriad of other reasons why volunteering is one of the best things you can do in the horse world.
I have been volunteering for 16 years as well as competing, and have no shame in admitting that having my rules refreshed a few times a year when fence judging is extremely helpful. Think about how fast you forget what you wore last week. Sometimes it is nice to be reminded that yes, you can re-jump fence 10A if you have a refusal at B, or not, if that is your choice. It may not help you today on the sidelines, but next month when you are on course, you may be thanking yourself. Or possibly, when a friend or fellow competitor asks you questions and you effortlessly know the correct answers.
Become a Better Rider through Observation
Watching other riders, the professionals, good, bad, and the ugly, is undoubtedly going to make you a better rider. Like anything, experience is extremely valuable, and just because you are not in the tack does not mean you are not getting just as much out of the day as a competitor. Oh, horse #33 was flying and had a refusal? Maybe a combination like that should be taken slower, but with equal energy like rider #12 showed us. Wow, rider #65 sat still and out of her horse’s way and he was able to bail them out of what could have been a disaster? Duly noted. Watch, learn, absorb, treat it like a lesson, take mental notes (or written ones), and impress your trainer next time you mimic an experience rider you watched on course. You may even get to meet your professional idol. And, they may even thank YOU for volunteering. Need I say more?
Who doesn’t feel official jump judging, scribing, working jump crew, etc. while holding a walky-talky? Not only will you feel official but you will also become well known and respected in surrounding areas. You never know, the young girl you went out of the way to get water for might just be the daughter of the course designer at your next show. I am not saying to bend over backwards in hopes of receiving rewards. But, the more people you know, the better. It may open doors and could come in handy next time you need to call in a favor.
No good deed goes unnoticed. Show officials will be eternally grateful that you donated your precious time off to work at a horse show. And, I can tell you now that all horse shows could use extra hands. Whether you give two hours or twenty, you will feel magnanimous for giving back to a community that you know and love with all your heart.
If all of the above reasons have not yet enticed you to sign up to help out at the next local show, it is fun —I promise! I would not give up numerous weekends for the last 16 years if I did not enjoy it. Hang out with your barn friends, get some vitamin D, (bonus if you can wear shorts and tan your legs), give back to your community, and observe competitors of all different levels. I hope that for any or all these reasons I will see you volunteering at the next show!
From one horse crazed human to another – Maria Holman