Monday, May 22, 2023

volunteer report @ Fair Hill

Happy Monday, y'all! Let's break up the monotony of ... inaction ... around these parts by reliving the quiet satisfaction of spending a beautiful day volunteering at a wonderful local horse show, yes? Yes. 

oh hai there, charles!
Hopefully by this point, you've already been inspired to set up your (free!) (no membership required!) account thru USEA's Volunteer Portal. It's an easy one-stop-shop for discovering volunteer opportunities near you, and signing up for actual volunteer positions couldn't be easier. There are definitions, descriptions, and even some videos on what you can expect once on site. Virtually none of these roles require any prior experience.  

And the best part, once you have an account, you'll get regular emails about events near you that are looking for volunteers. Most offer all sorts of rewards and/or swag -- like t-shirts, meals during your shift, schooling passes, and more! 

pic shamelessly stolen from facebook a few weeks ago, when i stewarded dressage warm up for Fair Hill's spring FEI event
Personally, I try to volunteer at least monthly -- sometimes more often, depending on what else is going on in life and/or on ye olde eventing calendar. 

Stewarding the warm up ring (for any phase, honestly) is usually my preferred role. I like being on my feet and interacting with the riders, ya know? (Plus, cough cough, bossing people around lol). And actually, I got to do that last month at Fair Hill's International Spring Event. 

back again for more -- this time just jump judging!
This weekend was more of a last-minute sign up, tho. Charlie hasn't been sound (more on that later), my schedule was unexpectedly light, and the event needed warm bodies. Check and check, sign me up! 

Just about anybody can be a jump judge. It's engaging enough to keep you focused, but honestly pretty low key. Which is good bc.... Most events need literally dozens of jump judges. Mostly just to have eyes and a radio constantly focused on every horse galloping at speed over immovable objects. Ya know. Just in case. But also for ensuring accurate scoring and timing, etc.

Boyd Martin's former mount and homebred Ray Price, capably piloted by his new rider Jessica Gehman to win their class!
I felt especially lucky this weekend to get somewhat interesting jump assignments too! Not bc of penalties or refusals or whatever* but bc I got to see a variety of different riding styles. 

Like, on the Training course, for example, I was assigned to the last combination on course. It was two inviting roll tops, set on a fairly open 3 strides on a straight line -- but slightly downhill and a little bit on a camber. And most riders did the long 3 basically pretty much fine, as you might expect by the end of the course etc. 

Tho a couple produced very measured pleasant looking 4-stride efforts. One soul fit in 5 (very strong looking horse held to a very controlled short stride). And a couple chopped in a sketchy half stride on the way out. Mostly tho... Riders committed to the distance and made it happen - cool to watch!

(*One of the first things you learn as a jump judge is that.... Actually, most horses and riders just go out there and jump the things more or less fine! It's kinda inspiring, actually!)

Phillip Dutton on one of his N horses, demonstrating one of many many different approaches we saw to this decidedly tricky terrain for the water complex
Similar story for my Novice course assignments. And honestly this is a big reason why I like volunteering at the lower levels at national events -- it's more relatable lol. These are my people (even if, uh, it's still a whole bunch of pros mixed in there too...). 

The N water looked tame on paper --- cross through the water, then out over a little log on the far side. In reality, tho? The terrain changes everything here. You come down a big hill into kinda a shadowy unexpected pond. At least the banks into the water aren't that steep --- but the banks out ARE. You end up going up a little bump, then back down to the log. It's a lot of footwork!

and Diego Farje, assistant rider at Windurra, demonstrating a different but equally effective (and possibly quite educational?) approach
Obviously quite a few riders made this look totally like NBD. Bc... Ya know... For a seasoned horse it all makes reasonable sense. But at Novice... Well... You get a mix of basically every level of horse and rider experience, combined every which way. 

So it was cool watching how everyone handled it. Some allowed a patient, slow approach --- some were significantly more, uh, positive is a word lol. I'm not even sure how Charlie would have done it. Probably fine lol, but I also probably would have had heart burn about it going in LOL!

finishing up the day with BN at one of Fair Hill's iconic ruins
Anyway, last fence of the day was the most boring --- as the lort intended, given that it's BN and the whole point is to help horses and riders learn to be a little boring haha... Still, tho, honestly not a bad way to pass an afternoon. 
sir. grow your feet and that could be us!
So. Anyway. If you haven't created an account on the Volunteer Portal, go do that now! And if you already have an account.... Go sign up for something!! Lol...

Oh, and anyway anyway... Charles. My dear friend Charles. He's good. Last you heard, we were going again! and Horse showing! But then started to feel the nagging worries of foot soreness after like ONE proper jump lesson (omg we coursed around 3', it was glorious! no pics tho, sorry). Then a sudden cacophony of lost shoes and more bruised feet. 

Guys. A horse should NOT be so sore after ONE jump lesson, ya know? So at a planned vet visit intended to do his normal hock maintenance, we instead pivoted to the more pressing front end needs and did his coffins again (last time 2019). Sigh. 

As far as my vet could tell, this horse should be sound. But. More insights came to light, after a few more lost shoes, and therefore an unusual farrier appt where I could actually be there. And... Well.... I learned that we need a new farrier. Recall Charlie's former farrier of many years retired this past winter. The new guy hasn't had an easy go of it, after Charlie's whole gravel-induced subsolar abscess apocalypse. But.... Ya know. At the end of the day, I need the horse to be sound, and I need a farrier to produce that outcome without ignorant me supervising. Sooooooo.... Let's hope for better luck with the next?