Wednesday, June 6, 2018

pardon the interruption...

Thanks to Sara's Volunteer Challenge this year, a lot of us have been getting out and about more than ever to pitch in at local shows. I've always loved volunteering at shows bc let's be real, I plain old just love horse shows and enjoy being in that atmosphere even if I'm not riding.

And actually I baked volunteerism into my overall goals this year, planning to volunteer at a show in any capacity in at least 7 of the year's 12 months. And so far I'm on track!

i first noticed this potted cactus outside a neighborhood building on a side street two winters ago. i assumed it was dying - just a few fleshy segments that looked shriveled and mushy. much to my surprise, it revived in the spring and grew like a weed!!
It's been kinda tricky keeping track of the small local stuff, like my own barn's schooling shows this past spring. I should probably create a tag here on the blog so I could at least track it that way... And maybe I still will. Bc there have been a few instances like that.

Just by memory tho, I've scribed at two dressage shows (under two different judges, so two unique perspectives that were each pretty interesting and insightful). Stewarded the warm up at another dressage show. And ran the in gate at our schooling CT. Lots of fun stuff - esp bc I know most of the riders and horses at these home events.

it pulled through this past winter similarly, and has been growing ever since - but then SHOCKED me when it sprouted all of these bud-like appendages. could it be? would it bloom??
Tracking my hours at USEA events is obviously much easier, bc of the Volunteer Dashboard. And actually, it doesn't even have to be a USEA event to be listed there. Loch Moy, for instance, uses that platform for organizing volunteers for all their events, including USDF shows and unrecognized starter trials.

and this first blossom was just so beautiful
Personally I like the iphone app for the volunteer dashboard better than the online portal bc it's easier to see past signups and hours. And so far this year, I did bit check at Plantation's USEA HT, SJ in gate at MCTA's Shawan Downs, plus jump crew at an MDHT Twilight Event and warm up steward at Loch Moy's USDF Dressage Festival. Plus will be scribing again tonight at another Twilight Event!

and now the whole thing is erupting! 
There are a few serious advantages to volunteering, as far as I can tell. First of all, just the networking alone feels really valuable. The horse world has always been a small, interconnected place. Becoming more familiar with the local trainers, organizers, judges, and pro riders is useful for a lot of reasons, and volunteering is a great way to do that.

Plus in my experience, the horse community often recognizes and rewards hard work. Obvi that's not always true - I'm sure we can all think of examples haha - but for the most part, opportunities tend to open up for those who are already poised to act on them. Meaning: those who are already out there on the scene demonstrating a willingness to be helpful and useful.

they're so cheerful looking, right?
Also, for more personal reasons, I get a lot of value from volunteering at horse shows bc it grants me the opportunity to see riders at all levels prove themselves and their horses to be just normal mortal beings who work hard but sometimes make mistakes. I've gotten to see a lot - A LOT - of really amazing and impressive and inspiring riding lately. But.... also some less smooth rides. And also some reeeally questionable rides.

Seeing really good riders make mistakes humanizes the sport a little bit for me. Seeing kinda average riders getting around higher levels gives me hope haha - makes it seem accessible. And obvi seeing some of the more questionable rides at higher levels makes me more resolute that.... yea, I want to keep doing my homework so I don't end up being that rider too (tho, ya know, it could happen haha!).

so pretty!
So long story short, I've really enjoyed getting out and about more this season. And am seriously grateful for Sara creating the motivation to do so by her awesome challenge. Remember - there are monthly random prize drawings of anyone who logged any horse show volunteer time. And at the end of each quarter, the volunteer with the most logged hours gets a prize. So be sure to get your hours in to Sara! And you don't have to be a blogger either!!

Have you been volunteering this year? Or do you have any plans to do so? Do you have similar feelings about why volunteering is fun and useful? Or maybe you've had different experiences? Like I know some of you have kinda been sucked into the vortex of becoming a beast of burden for your local organization... which like, isn't always super desirable either haha.

How have you gone about finding volunteer opportunities? Do you use the USEA volunteer dashboard if eventing is your thing? Or are there similar platforms for other disciplines? Or maybe there are facebook groups or forums that have been useful? Let me know, I'm all ears!

18 comments:

  1. I volunteered for years and years and years, even serving in the president capacity of a state club and show secretary for my local GMO. I love to volunteer, but I have not for several years now because I just got burned out. I also don't have as much free time with a toddler haha. Plus, it didn't help that my local GMO basically told me two years ago that I was no longer needed as show secretary for their summer show, after doing it well for six years straight. The way it was handled really irked me and now every time I get asked to volunteer, I say "no thanks!" Don't treat your volunteers poorly because you'll regret it later on when you are struggling to find folks to help! :-(

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    1. ugh yea that's really unfortunate, but also seems reeeeeeally common. i have toyed with the idea of getting involved with some of my local organizations in a more formal position .... but, i'm kinda afraid of it being a bit of a similar situation as what you describe above. bc yea... turns out a lot of horse ppl are too political for their own good! ultimately i volunteer for personal reasons and don't see a need to do so at my own expense if i don't feel appreciated or don't find the experience rewarding. figuring out what opportunities are more satisfying than others is definitely an important piece of that puzzle....

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    2. Yeah, I dislike feeling so mehhh (and slightly negative) about volunteering right now, but oh well. I wish we had USEA events in Maine because I would totally volunteer! Such a good way to learn. And the closest one in NH is run by the college kids, so there is not much need. Most of the straight dressage shows around me seem to be harder to scribe for, as that is the most desirable job haha. ;-) Or I am already riding in the show (hence the reason I liked being show secretary, as I could still ride in the show itself).

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  2. That is so awesome, way to go Emma! I used to do a TON of scribing back in my dressage days, and loved it! I felt like after writing "needs more impulsion" 50 bazillion times, it really drove the point home for me, and helped to overall increase my scores.

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    1. Ha yea agreed completely that scribing is basically like getting a mini lesson. It’s so helpful bc it kinda distills down what the most fundamental pieces of the puzzle are that the judge is looking for at each level.

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  3. Thanks for getting out there and volunteering! It is so vital to not only that event but I believe to growing as a competitior as well. Plus when you know all the hard work going on behind the scenes I think it makes you more understanding as a competitior.

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    1. definitely. i think it works both ways too tho - like as a competitor i get stressed out when there aren't stewards or when stewards don't know about the timing of the show or whatever, and am always appreciative of kind and helpful stewards. so then when i go to volunteer - i try to treat the competitors from that same perspective and help make sure they have everything they need etc. makes for a better day for everyone!

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  4. I like volunteering for the community and giving back and all that, but I also feel like it's a great opportunity to learn more about eventing. I've learned the most from scribing, but even jump judging is really educational. I especially love going around in the gold cart as a score runner and watching ALL the XC jumps. I like seeing how different riders approach jumps differently, how they deal with horses that have different attitudes or issues.

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    1. ya know, score runner isn't one that normally catches my eye when i'm looking down the list, but the way you describe it makes it actually sound pretty fun! i'll have to try it some time!! my favorite tends to be warm up ring steward - jumping or dressage. i just really like getting to talk to all the riders as they prepare for their turns.

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  5. Volunteering has made a pretty big impact on me as a competitor, even after just doing it once. You're totally right in that it helps humanize the sport. Also, when you volunteer, you get to spend a WHOLE DAY with horse people and talk about horses. It's a pretty sweet gig. ;-)

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    1. oh man, agreed completely. it's all the fun parts of the show (well, aside from the riding part haha) and none of the stress!! such a fun atmosphere ;)

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  6. I'm impressed how much you've been able to volunteer this year! I feel like I "owe it" a little if I like to have these shows/whatever available, plus I do get something out of it (whether that be an educational opportunity or free admission and lunch) but I it's only an occasional one-off thing.
    I've been involved with various local organizations (both horse-related and otherwise) and yes eventually the infighting or bureaucracy just drives me nuts and I get sick of it.

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    1. yea i mean, it's definitely worth it to make the time. i'm lucky where i am that there *are* so many close by opportunities - it's not like this everywhere, i totally get that. but it's fun when it works out!! agreed tho that the more formal positions inside the orgs and associations can sometimes be fraught with drama. as much as i want to be more involved, that's really made me hesitant.

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  7. It has been so fun joining in on Sara's contest and has definitely made me figure out how I can help even if I’m competing (the local shows) and if I’m not how I can make time for it. Though sadly things have slowed down around here for the summer plus I work 6 days a week (just for the summer)… Sunday shows???? As for finding events I tend to stick to the events I know and are local. I really enjoy the VIP portal the USEA uses except the check in and check out thing!!! That’s tricky bc I forget to do one or the other!!!

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    1. Oh man I did the “6 days a week” gig for a long time and DO NOT miss it haha. It’s real grind, I don’t blame you for not feeling like you have a lot of spare time for shows lol. Also yea I always forget to check in or check out on time too... tho usually it seems like a lot of organizers go back and make corrections as needed so that’s helpful lol

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  8. I've been crap about volunteering but mostly because I haven't had time to go anywhere and volunteer! I actually love it as well- especially at well organized venues. I love that Sara is rewarding us for volunteering. Just more incentive!!

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    1. it's such a great incentive haha - and the prizes are so great too!! i've won two of the random drawings and got a sweet horse show themed scented candle and a road ID wrist band for ICE contact info. hopefully you are able to squeeze in some more time later this season for some fun outings!

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  9. Hahahaha. This is one of those things I definitely think I should do, but last time I volunteered at a dressage show, I got my ass chewed by the TD for stupid shit that really wasn't show related and it completely turned me off on the concept. I'm happy to put in the work, but I don't care to be treated like garbage for it.

    soooooo.

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