Traditionally, autumn brings cooler weather, softer ground, and friskier horses — and is getting towards the end of the competition year. Many championships are scheduled in the fall of the year, for eventing, young horses in dressage, eventing, and jumping; equitation; hunters and jumpers.
While many disciplines continue throughout the winter, some begin anew in the fall, such as foxhunting. It’s the seasonal change in the outside conditions that sets the stage for better footing and cooler temperatures which are better for horses who are performing at a high level.
So, it makes sense that competitions like the Washington International, the Fair Hill International three-day event, Pennsylvania National Horse Show, USET Festival of Champions in dressage and more all take place in the fall. The organizations ramp up for these huge competitions months in advance, and pull out all stops to bring in volunteers to help stage them. If you want to see great competition up close and don’t want to pay to get in every day and sit in the rafter seats, volunteering is the way to save money but give time instead. So of course, like many others, I volunteer each fall at my favorite events.
Over the years, volunteering becomes a tradition and the organizers rely upon these folks for real-time hands-on work being done. You say “yes” when they email or call, and before you know it, you’ve spent a whole week setting up, manning a booth, helping out. My friend at Fair Hill, Alissa, knows this scenario well. Here’s a link to a blog piece about “sacrifice” and how it affects more than just the volunteer, but the volunteer’s family, too.
If you have horses and love to ride, autumn is a great time for you — the weather is cooler, you can get out longer and the horses are fit from a summer’s worth of work. It’s the last hurrah before winter and not much riding. Weekends become your favorite thing. You can’t wait to get into the barn, get saddled, and hit the arena, the trail, or the get loaded in the trailer for the horse trial, foxhunt, or show. As the light fades earlier in the day, there’s a rush to get home and get boots on to hit the barn aisle.
Autumn requires a real fine-tuning of your organization capabilities when you start to be crushed with time and weather and volunteer responsibilities. But for me the golden skies at night, the huge orange color of the tree canopy out in the woods, the softness of the moist grass from morning dew — all worth it.
And worth it too, the smiles of the championship competitors with a horse they lived and died with for years to make it through a challenging course, or the joy of getting every fence on the equitation course perfectly, sharing the cheering of many others in wishing a well-deserved winner congratulations.
Yes, autumn brings chaos but it brings joy to the equestrian world, too. Welcome, fall. We’ve been waiting for you.