The sign is perpetually up for every horse organization, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There is always something that needs to be done or that we’d like to have done, but the question remains, “Who is going to do it?!” We all look around the room at each other, names are bantered about, and then reluctantly, one of those present in the room agrees to take on the task on top of everything else they’ve agreed to do. The Pareto Principle is in full bloom; the principle that says that 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people.
Yes, yes, everyone knows all about the frontline volunteers at the shows. The scribes, the runners, the stewards, the fence judges, and even the scorers who are tucked away in some windowless room. We need those volunteers for certain, but I am going to ask that you consider volunteering on the other side of the organization as well. If you are a competitor who maintains a busy show schedule, then this will be right up your alley. You can get in your volunteer time in the dead of winter when the rings are frozen or at night after dinner when your horse(s) are tucked away for the evening.
How, you ask? I will share with you how your talents can shine at both the local and state levels.
I’ve just completed my first year and am beginning my second year as a chapter representative for the Virginia Dressage Association. When I began my dressage obsession, I had no clue about the intensive volunteer need for the sport. I have a new-found respect for those people who work tirelessly year round to keep the organization running smoothly. The Board (President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and all the chapter representatives) meets via conference call once a month. Don’t worry, the calls start at 8:00 p.m., so most horse tasks for the day are done.
I’m also gearing up for my first full term as my chapter’s secretary. I pinch hit for the end of last year after our secretary moved out of state. Our meetings are once a month also in the evening to accommodate those who work, go to school, and have families to feed. It is a smaller chapter, so there are times we do struggle to fill the empty spots and most of us tend to wear more than one hat.
Are you a type-A personality with good organizational skills? Then we want you to help organize clinics – potential clinicians need to be contacted (this is your chance to get your favorite clinician lined up), a host facility found, rider application reviewed, schedules made, travel arrangements completed… You can also consider being the membership chairperson, and keep all the member information organized.
Are you a people person and can you herd cats? Volunteer Coordinator is right up your alley! Help rally the troops to fill all those vital positions at the shows and clinics. Don’t limit yourself to just club members. I found that horse friends from other disciplines were more than willing to help out in a pinch. Sometimes they became dressage devotees after spending the day watching talented horses and riders perform their tests.
Are you a legal type? You can put that legal mind to work to draft contracts for judges, clinicians, and venues. You can review insurance documents (sadly, no show or clinic can be held without it these days) to ensure that the club has adequate coverage. How about helping your club become a 501(c)3 organization or updating their bylaws?
Can you summarize the conversations of 10 people all talking at the same time? Come be a secretary with me! You attend monthly meetings and then type up the meeting notes for the newsletter. You will need to summon all those skills you learned in elementary school on how to write a summary.
Do you have marketing skills? Licensed shows and the big regional competitions are not inexpensive endeavors. Show fees just scratch the surface at covering the costs. Sponsorships help clubs make a profit for all their hard work. There are all the usual suspects of big equine supply companies, but don’t be afraid to approach non-traditional sponsors. But many local businesses that you frequent will sponsor a class. VADA was able to get Lladro to sponsor some FEI high point awards at our fall show last year. All it takes is the time to write the emails or make the phone calls.
Do you like to be in the driver’s seat? How about being the President of your club? You can help revitalize the club and decide where the group should be headed for the future.
Are you an English major with wicked good language skills? Newsletter editor is the position for you. Or if you prefer something without a monthly deadline, how about updating the club’s handbook? You know you like looking for misspellings and typos… just admit it.
Are you a good writer? The newsletter isn’t going to write itself. 🙂 Consider writing a witty piece about your horse or share some show results with fellow club members. We can all find our tiny voice inside that has something to say. (Some of us have voices that are a bit more boisterous than others.)
Can you balance your checkbook to the penny every month? Then you are the chosen one to manage the club’s money as the treasurer. You can also ensure that your club doesn’t end up on the wrong side of the IRS.
Are you the hostess with the “mostest”? That annual club awards banquet needs you to insure that we have more than 20 bags of chips and a 2 liter of soda as refreshments.
Calling all shoppers! Clubs need someone to select the ribbons and prizes for shows and year-end awards. You can spend hours browsing online to find the best deal and the coolest stuff that club members will squeal over when they receive it. Best of all, you get to spend money that isn’t coming out of your pocket.
Phew! Who knew that there was so much to do to keep an all-volunteer organization running smoothly. Like I said, I honestly had no idea when I began my dressage hobby in 2005 that things could be so involved. I was too worried about understanding what a half halt was and not knocking over the arena rails. I have come to believe that it is our obligation as competitors and enthusiasts to give back to the sport we love. We would not have places to go and things to do without dedicated volunteers. Even events like the World Equestrian Games rely on volunteers to pull off the biggest equestrian event on the planet. Equestrian sports can’t grow without people stepping up to keep things running. So the only question that remains is, what will you do for the sport that you love?