One Million Hours

I am currently recovering from helping organize a schooling show at the Horse Park, and I am slowly realizing that it is high time that I gave back to the sport that I love. I am director of eventing for Equestrians Institute, a non-profit group whose focus is education and organization of shows. We put on recognized, and schooling shows for eventing, dressage and combined driving. My formal commitment to EI involves attending board meetings every month for spring, fall and winter. In the summer season we are swamped in show season and forego on the meetings, but exchange rapid and voluminous emails about how our summer season is progressing.

But a little logistics background first: I have been participating in events as a competitor since 1984, when I rode Zildjian in both of our first Novice event. BN was not offered back then, and I wouldn’t have even known the difference if it was.  Since then, I have ridden one one-star, 8 two-stars, 5-three stars and almost all of Rolex.  All of those FEI events were done at full format (except one) and I get dizzy with the number of horse trials that Ive ridden to qualify for those events. I think that I have easily ridden horses in 24 events per year for most of the last 12 years. That works out to at least 288 events since 2000. And at least 400 events since I first wore a pompom on my helmet in 1985.

My point is not to list my accomplishments, but rather, I would like to point out that I have been a rabid, drooling consumer of USEA eventing for the past 28 years. While I am horrified to calculate that number, I am also realizing that it is high time that I gave back to our sport. I happily accepted the EI position when Todd Trewin told me that it was an offer I just could not refuse (with twinkly eyes).  So far, for every year I have been a competitor, I have donated back less than one weekend of volunteer work.  That is terrible odds, but lets keep going with the numbers.  For every 7 days working in my barn, EI demands about 5 hours of emails, paperwork, and logistic planning. For every hour at show that we put on, I have to find 12 volunteers to join me in performing thankless jobs. But if I think that my schooling show was difficult, my head spins when I think about Jon and Suzy and their situation at Aspen Farm. Aspen Farm is in it’s 5th year of running horse trials, and they will soon have BN – Advanced events twice yearly. Those two have probably quadrupled the amount of time giving back to the sport if they calculated time spent staining jumps, ordering ribbons, washing jump poles and dragging arena footing, just to name a few of the endless tasks that are needed when you host a high class event. I admire them for how they have given back in such a huge way.

While I am so excited about our schooling show that we are running here at the horse park, I am also overwhelmed when I think about the number of events that I personally have participated in the past, as well as the number of events that are hosted across the entire US every year. Maybe you don’t realize the volunteer effort that is needed, until you are ankle deep in it, but I am so grateful to be involved in a sport that has such a strong support base. Next time you are at an event… calculate the hours that it took for you to get there, and then look around you. How long did it take to set up the dressage arena? Who donated the flowers at each letter? Who washed and painted all those poles? Who is sitting behind that desk listening to people complain about how their trailer parking is too far from their stalls? Who packed 400 packets with papers and goodies?

Im not trying to guilt anyone, rather, I am trying to convey just how amazing our eventing sport is. Lets keep it this way. If you are only riding one horse at an event,  see if you can spare two hours to volunteer at the show at bit check. If you live nearby an event, ask a month ahead if they need help to prepare.

Its not much. Give back and you will get big karma points.

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