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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec. 16, 2003
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    Staunton, VA, USA
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    Default Getting GMO members interested and involved

    I am a member of a Chapter of a very long established GMO.

    Over the last 2 or so years we have been running into the problem of lower and lower member participation. The same 8-9 people do everything. run the schooling shows, participate on the board etc.
    We had to strong arm someone to be the President this year.
    We just had our year end awards banquet.
    Out of 104 members 8 people showed up, the awards secretary didn't make it either so no awards, but no-one came anyway.

    We cannot get folks to run the schooling shows or organize the clinics, yet when we put out calls for the membership to tell us what they want or to come to Board meetings we get silence.

    The same 8/9 people are very tired of doing it all. How do we get the membership interested and involved?

    Looking for ideas here, Please give us any and all ideas that you might have and especially ones that have worked.

    Thanks
    MW
    Melyni (PhD) PAS, Dipl. ACAN.
    Sign up for the Equine nutrition enewsletter on www.foxdenequine.com
    New edition of book is out:
    Horse Nutrition Handbook.

    www.knabstruppers4usa.com



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct. 2, 1999
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    Mendocino County, CA: Turkey Vulture HQ
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    Default

    How spread out are your members? Is that a factor?

    If you can create some sort of social media presence for your chapter, that may help you poll them to figure out what would get them to come out to a meeting and get them comfortable with y'all who currently run it. Then, maybe plan a party - something fun like a video potluck night or meeting at a restaurant or whatever seems to appeal to your area. A farm tour? Maybe there's a breeding farm with babies who would let you tour?

    People are busy; it can be hard to get them out of their well-worn routines, especially to go be in a room with strangers. Formal meetings are especially intimidating that way.
    If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec. 16, 2003
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    Staunton, VA, USA
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    2,481

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by poltroon View Post
    How spread out are your members? Is that a factor?

    If you can create some sort of social media presence for your chapter, that may help you poll them to figure out what would get them to come out to a meeting and get them comfortable with y'all who currently run it. Then, maybe plan a party - something fun like a video potluck night or meeting at a restaurant or whatever seems to appeal to your area. A farm tour? Maybe there's a breeding farm with babies who would let you tour?

    People are busy; it can be hard to get them out of their well-worn routines, especially to go be in a room with strangers. Formal meetings are especially intimidating that way.

    Not that spread out, and area say 50 miles across at most. We have had all kinds of parties, pot lucks, video nights, evenings with experts, etc etc. It's a very horsey area, and the Chapter is a pretty long established one. So lots of history and few discordant personalities (sic).

    But it just seems that every one is burnt out and uninterested, but then why join if you don't want to participate? And when I say 2 years, thinking about it, I was wrong, it's been more like 4 or 5 years that we have been having this decline. Not in number of members but in member activity and participation, we are a 501(c) so we can't just close up shop for a while, though I was thinking that that might be the answer, just go away until people start clamouring for a club.
    But out President (a lawyer) says we can't do that and if we did close the club the funds we have accumulated would go to the IRS.

    We run a licensed show each year and it's like pulling teeth to get that staffed. People seem to want the club, they just don't want to do anything to help run it.
    Melyni (PhD) PAS, Dipl. ACAN.
    Sign up for the Equine nutrition enewsletter on www.foxdenequine.com
    New edition of book is out:
    Horse Nutrition Handbook.

    www.knabstruppers4usa.com



  4. #4
    Join Date
    May. 17, 2003
    Posts
    5,462

    Default

    We have exactly the same problem. Desperately want and need new blood, new ideas, members who actually show up to things (fun things like fully catered parties on lovely horse farms!)

    Im afraid we've decided not to run our recognized show this year. It nearly killed the four people who actually did do it last year, so, tough luck. No help, no play.

    Very discouraging though.



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug. 11, 2008
    Location
    MD
    Posts
    3,644

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by poltroon View Post
    How spread out are your members? Is that a factor?

    .
    ^^ This.

    I started out actively involved in my local chapter, but about 6 months in they moved the meetings to a weekday evening at 6:30 PM - a 90 minute drive from my office. So I dropped out of the chapter the following year because I could not make it to meetings. I still volunteer for shows for my GMO, but its just not the same when you're out of the loop with the local chapter, the GMO is far flung, and you don't know anyone.

    Its also a sad fact of life that 20% of the people generally do 80% of the work when it comes to volunteering.

    I've also found that beginners tend to drop out quickly if the core group of the chapter is filled with experienced and upper level riders because the chapter isn't filling their needs. Lower level, beginner, and more recreational riders have very different needs than experienced, active competitive riders, so it might be a good idea to poll your membership to see what level of learning and training opportunities might best meet the needs of the greatest % of riders.

    Many people join thinking that they'll meet others who can help them along their dressage journey, but then lose interest unless there is something that the chapter is doing that helps them meet their goals.

    You migh also consider some type of chapter rule that requires a minimum amount of volunteer hours - even if its only 4 - it will still help you have a more active participation rate.

    I made many wonderful friends in my local chapter, and plan on re-joing this year. I feel that you only get out as much as you put into it, but its hard to drvie this point across in today's mindlessly frantic society.
    Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
    Witherun Farm
    http://witherun-farm.blogspot.com/



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan. 12, 2000
    Location
    Proud owner of one Lunar acre! (Campanus Crater, The Moon)
    Posts
    14,008

    Default

    Watch out that those same members that are running everything are also being inclusive. When people volunteer to help, do they have to have everything their way? Do they act like it's a private club? Is there a perception in the community that there's nepotism (of sorts) being used when people are placed on the board or on committees? Sometimes those few who volunteer will only give up control when it is taken from their cold, dead hands.
    "Relinquish your whip!!"


    6 members found this post helpful.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug. 25, 2008
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    1,968

    Default

    One thing that we did was create a rewards program and publicize it heavily so that members became aware that it exists . For every 4 hours that you volunteer, If you do an oral or written report on a lesson that gives other members a learning opportunity you get $50 to put towards a clinic or a lesson. We subsidize this through our shows, so it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle - the better our shows do, the more $$$ we have to put towards rewards (and we make sure our members know this!). It's a really successful program - our shows typically pull in 120 rides for our fairly small area, and we run 2 rings (and have to get 15 volunteers!).

    For our clinics, we lose money, because we subsidize them. We try to keep rides at around $55-65, so that a reward will actually pretty much cover a clinic (less gas and lunch). We also host a big party with the clinician that night if they're willing, and those are usually well-attended, too. So those are a big draw and feed into the rewards programs (they tend to be two-day affairs).

    That's how we get our volunteers, though, and I (or our president) usually bring them cupcakes, too . We try to do small things like that. For our meetings we always do food, and I host them at my house, or our president does (we switch every other month) and since we both like to cook, we try to do something special. I make homemade bread, etc. We are a SMALL GMO, and don't have a large membership (35-40 members) so we have to appreciate the ones we have!

    We try to stress that our club is an educational experience, so we showcase learning opportunities like giving the reports for rewards, and putting on the clinics, etc. to our members. I think that makes us more accessible. We of course DO get a lot of the same people, but it's a very small dressage community anyway, and there are only so many of us here, so we pretty much get everyone involved who does dressage around here!


    4 members found this post helpful.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar. 24, 2011
    Posts
    128

    Default

    Covering a large geographic area can be a challenge. I know the GMO I belong to has members spread out over a large area but generally holds meetings in just one town which can discourage members from other areas from attending meetings. It might help to put your marketing hats on and do a market survey of your members to get a better understanding of what their interests are and how they would be willing to volunteer/get involved. People really are busy and attending meetings can be tough. What about teleconferences for meetings so folks could "attend" remotely. A lot of business meetings are done via conference calls these days.


    2 members found this post helpful.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb. 9, 2005
    Location
    Ocala, FL
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    1,669

    Default

    Similar issues here in our GMO, although we usually have enough volunteers; it's in the organizing and running/managing that we have problems. For our volunteers, we offer vouchers, good for anything we do that costs money. A full day's voucher is "worth"$20, and half days worth $10. Managing a show or organizing a clinic are worth multiple vouchers. We also give year end awards to those who have volunteered.
    One thing that has helped recently is a Facebook page. I manage it, and post not only items of interest (like videos), but current events, show results (even shows from other organizers, if members participated), etc.... and we put out requests for volunteers there, as well.
    Our website offers email services, so our officers have the ability to send out an email blast to all members when we need volunteers. This really helps.
    We have yearly training days - a mock show, and we train scribes, runners, scorers, etc. All volunteers are paid with a voucher, and we keep their names on file - and will call them up if they don't volunteer at one of our events. (I thin we should make them sign up for an event at the training day....but most folks are not that well organized, to sign up for something 6 or 8 months in advance...)

    L

    L



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan. 12, 2000
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    Proud owner of one Lunar acre! (Campanus Crater, The Moon)
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by schneidepc View Post
    Covering a large geographic area can be a challenge. I know the GMO I belong to has members spread out over a large area but generally holds meetings in just one town which can discourage members from other areas from attending meetings. It might help to put your marketing hats on and do a market survey of your members to get a better understanding of what their interests are and how they would be willing to volunteer/get involved. People really are busy and attending meetings can be tough. What about teleconferences for meetings so folks could "attend" remotely. A lot of business meetings are done via conference calls these days.
    ^This.^ A LOT of horse people just don't understand enough about technology to get how to run this sort of meeting and how to engage people. They always think it has to be face-to-face. In this day and age, especially with uber busy schedules, this can really get people involved. This and also (I hate to say it) awards for volunteerism. People will work for awards. No denying that!
    "Relinquish your whip!!"



  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb. 6, 2003
    Location
    Deep South
    Posts
    14,230

    Default

    Most members spend their time working, and grappling with the necessities of their lives, in order to afford their fun time with horses. Is it any wonder that they do not want to pack more work in to the very few hours they get to enjoy their hobby? The one time I managed to make enough time to volunteer for my GMO, I was told to show up at 8:00am, and was totally ignored all day. I will not be repeating that time wasting experience.
    ... _. ._ .._. .._


    1 members found this post helpful.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul. 23, 2008
    Location
    Da UP, eh
    Posts
    749

    Default

    I;m an a very dressage-light area. The 'local' GMO had 12 members at the last count, but there are at least two other GMOs that are close enough to me for me to be familiar with. I have joined the GMO that is furthest from me to become a participating member.... Why?

    Well, since I have to pay money to join a GMO I like to ask myself three basic questions:
    What can they teach me?
    What can I earn?
    Where does the money go?

    I used to be a member of a very large, very well funded GMO in the south. They kept themselves well funded through show participation. Unfortunately the show fees reached a point that the members who couldn't attend 'sponsored events' were really supporting the dreams of those who put on the events.

    The GMO I joined has their meetings 8 hours from where I live. Obviously I am not going to attend the monthly meetings; however, I am kept in the loop by the secretary and can then email/phone in my concerns/questions/comments. I joined this GMO because, despite the distance, they put on two very nice recognized and two very affordable schooling shows, which allows myself and my students the chance to compete for year end awards.

    The close GMO that I opted out of holds their meetings ~100 miles from me. They do not sponsor any affordable clinics or host any shows. Their sponsored educational contribution to the area's dressage scene was to send an EMT member to some horse rescue course in Lansing. While interesting, I don't think that this is the best use to member funds and they lost my membership.



  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug. 25, 2008
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    1,968

    Default

    Training volunteers is getting to be a real issue with us. Since I do tech writing I am putting together a booklet for us that should help with show management, and I'd like to do something more interactive (a video?) for setting up an arena, etc.

    I may have some of my tech comm students work on that - they always need projects and part of the idea is that you don't have to have discipline specific knowledge .



  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr. 17, 2002
    Location
    between the barn and the pond
    Posts
    13,648

    Default

    The GMO I belong to is small, and we're trying to reach out to the area via Facebook, brightening up our webpage, and varying the location of the meetings to try to accommodate that we are geographically dispersed. Weekend meetings don't seem to do as well as week nights, and we aim for 6:30-7:00 to make it work. We try to only meet quarterly- the most bang for your buck. We are reviving a quarterly newsletter. We have a small scholarship opportunity that people rarely apply for?? we promote it, I don't know why it hasn't been competed for in the past, but we are going to raise awareness of it via the newsletter, we'd love to see a small number of peeps 'compete' for it. We offer two schooling shows a year- we simply cannot support a recognized show- can't afford it, would lose money on it, based on past experience. We are always reaching out to the membership and asking- what do you want? We offer clinics and often, despite lots of 'oh goodie!!' they are historically hard to fill. No matter the caliber of the clinician and facility...they can be hard to fill. So the BOD gets burned up tired pushing and offering and asking and trying....and getting met with ...crickets. We have an active Board this year, and a jam of volunteer coordinator, and we (to be fair, I'm the President LOL) we inherited a great club from an equally jam up BOD. But we are small, and while we don't want to think small...we do have to think realistically.
    A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking. (Steven Wright)



  15. #15

    Default

    Having done many hours of volunteer work for other organizations, I agree with many of the above advice. When I volunteer, I want to enhance the organization and feel like I'm contributing...and I need it to be fairly easy to volunteer in terms of work and family life. For some organizations that means working at home by myself when I can, and for some that means I spend the day volunteering somewhere when working at home isn't possible.

    I agree with all of the above. Not much to add, except first, I'd call the members, individually. Seriously. Perhaps send an email to everyone ahead of time and state that you're looking for ideas to keep the GMO alive, then follow it up with a personal phone call. Perhaps one person is spoiling it for others, perhaps the meeting times are off, perhaps there isn't any interest, perhaps the economy is such that the most active people are working more hours, etc. Do some qualitative research and you might hear some trends...and perhaps you might have to put out there the hard facts that the GMO is suffering for these reasons.

    I appreciate what Trev wrote above about beginners. I'm new to dressage, and just bought my horse in September. We went to our first show in January and had a blast. I'm excited. I have tons to learn and am building from the ground up. I'm stupid in love with my horse. I clip hearts into his neck. Clearly, I have no hidden agenda. I'm ripe for the dressage volunteering picking, so to speak, but do have a fragile ego due to my being new! I have joined my local GMO. I can't speak for anyone else, but what would help me, being new to dressage, new horse owner, etc., get more interested in joining the GMO would be the following. I'm a very social, outgoing person, and I'm not that shy. Like I said, I'm been very involved in other organizations and probably will become involved in my GMO once I learn the ropes. But dressage can be very intimidating. It seems like everyone knows who everyone else is (let alone what piaffe and passage are/how to do it even if the horse can't, what renvers is), etc. It would be great for people to come up to me at the show (in the barn, etc.) and introduce themselves and welcome me to the dressage world, ask me about my horse, etc. Not be my bestest lifelong friend, but just say hello, welcome, and we need some new blood in the GMO . (My trainers and the two women from my barn (and Netg) introduced me to some people at the show, which was great!) If you see a new rider, cheer for her just because she's new. Make it a point to wish her good luck and congratulate her for her rides (or in my case, her horse's rides with the trainer ). Be encouraging at the shows. Tell her how badly you screwed up your first test. Find out why she isn't coming to the next schooling show, and offer to help (she has no trailer, you have an extra spot and will charge her of course). If you see her with a camera, ask her to be the photographer at the next clinic in exchange for half-price clinic ride, etc. If you know she is in healthcare, ask her to help get the first aid kit list together. Give her something specific so that she can feel like she's helping, rather than sitting at the meeting with nothing to contribute. These ideas may not work with upper level riders, but for me, they would. And fawning over my sweet horse would probably convince me to join the Board!

    I especially agree with the comments regarding it being a volunteer organization...if someone always has to have his or her way, it gets old. This isn't life or death, and because I deal with life or death in my job, I won't tolerate drama queens or kings for very long.

    Just my disorganized random thoughts...and I look forward to volunteering with my GMO and having the other members open to showing me the ropes and helping me through my mistakes.


    1 members found this post helpful.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Oct. 2, 1999
    Location
    Mendocino County, CA: Turkey Vulture HQ
    Posts
    14,085

    Default

    The phone calls are a painful but powerful way to make a connection to people. The Connemara pony region X has put on a show several times... and one of the things that made it successful was setting up a phone tree where everyone in the region got a phone call asking if they would be bringing ponies for the show. It was a chance for people to make contact and it was probably valuable for pulling people in who might not have gotten around to entering/committing to the show.

    If you call people and personally ask them about the GMO, or personally invite them to a meeting, it might make a difference.

    And I say that even though I find it incredibly uncomfortable to call people. But someone I respected asked me to call on behalf of the Connemara show, so I did my 5 calls one year...
    If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket



  17. #17
    Join Date
    Aug. 24, 2007
    Posts
    837

    Default

    I think this is a problem everywhere. We are NOT spread over a large area (its an island, only so far you can go!) we have a few people that do everything. We've tried just about everything I think, mandatory volunteer hours to qualify for year end aways, sent out surveys to see what people want, had a big meeting to find out what people want. You name it. We hold shows and get 15 entries but when we say we aren't going to do them any more there is an uproar. None of those people actually help in any way however. We talked about vouchers but realized we can't afford to give them becaue the shows are barely (or not) breaking even. Its a huge struggle. Every year I think this might be the last year we run and some how we stagger along for one more year...


    1 members found this post helpful.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jan. 12, 2000
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    Proud owner of one Lunar acre! (Campanus Crater, The Moon)
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    I honestly think that the burden of the USDF fees are killing smaller GMOs. If this is impacting a smaller organization I think they need to assess whether or not a GMO is needed for the area, or if a local dressage centered organization that promotes schooling shows and local clinic opportunities is more appropriate.

    Another thing to check into is merging with a local eventing group. Sometimes it can be beneficial to both groups to merge. And you also increase you volunteer base.
    "Relinquish your whip!!"


    1 members found this post helpful.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Nov. 20, 2007
    Posts
    804

    Default

    Our GMO also had this issue a few years back, so it is now a requirement that in order to qualify for year-end awards, you must volunteer for a minimum of 4 hours during the season. Most people can do that, and it really helps spread the work around.

    The bigger issue is getting people to volunteer for the boards. The board members are SAINTS!

    We also offer a Volunteer of the Year award that goes along with our schooling show awards. I think that really helps motivate people to get out and volunteer.
    Unashamed Member of the Dressage Arab Clique
    CRAYOLA POSSE= Thistle



  20. #20
    Join Date
    Feb. 1, 2001
    Location
    Finally...back in civilization, more or less
    Posts
    11,369

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by right horse at the right time View Post
    Having done many hours of volunteer work for other organizations, I agree with many of the above advice. When I volunteer, I want to enhance the organization and feel like I'm contributing...and I need it to be fairly easy to volunteer in terms of work and family life. For some organizations that means working at home by myself when I can, and for some that means I spend the day volunteering somewhere when working at home isn't possible.

    I agree with all of the above. Not much to add, except first, I'd call the members, individually. Seriously. Perhaps send an email to everyone ahead of time and state that you're looking for ideas to keep the GMO alive, then follow it up with a personal phone call. Perhaps one person is spoiling it for others, perhaps the meeting times are off, perhaps there isn't any interest, perhaps the economy is such that the most active people are working more hours, etc. Do some qualitative research and you might hear some trends...and perhaps you might have to put out there the hard facts that the GMO is suffering for these reasons.

    I appreciate what Trev wrote above about beginners. I'm new to dressage, and just bought my horse in September. We went to our first show in January and had a blast. I'm excited. I have tons to learn and am building from the ground up. I'm stupid in love with my horse. I clip hearts into his neck. Clearly, I have no hidden agenda. I'm ripe for the dressage volunteering picking, so to speak, but do have a fragile ego due to my being new! I have joined my local GMO. I can't speak for anyone else, but what would help me, being new to dressage, new horse owner, etc., get more interested in joining the GMO would be the following. I'm a very social, outgoing person, and I'm not that shy. Like I said, I'm been very involved in other organizations and probably will become involved in my GMO once I learn the ropes. But dressage can be very intimidating. It seems like everyone knows who everyone else is (let alone what piaffe and passage are/how to do it even if the horse can't, what renvers is), etc. It would be great for people to come up to me at the show (in the barn, etc.) and introduce themselves and welcome me to the dressage world, ask me about my horse, etc. Not be my bestest lifelong friend, but just say hello, welcome, and we need some new blood in the GMO . (My trainers and the two women from my barn (and Netg) introduced me to some people at the show, which was great!) If you see a new rider, cheer for her just because she's new. Make it a point to wish her good luck and congratulate her for her rides (or in my case, her horse's rides with the trainer ). Be encouraging at the shows. Tell her how badly you screwed up your first test. Find out why she isn't coming to the next schooling show, and offer to help (she has no trailer, you have an extra spot and will charge her of course). If you see her with a camera, ask her to be the photographer at the next clinic in exchange for half-price clinic ride, etc. If you know she is in healthcare, ask her to help get the first aid kit list together. Give her something specific so that she can feel like she's helping, rather than sitting at the meeting with nothing to contribute. These ideas may not work with upper level riders, but for me, they would. And fawning over my sweet horse would probably convince me to join the Board!

    I especially agree with the comments regarding it being a volunteer organization...if someone always has to have his or her way, it gets old. This isn't life or death, and because I deal with life or death in my job, I won't tolerate drama queens or kings for very long.

    Just my disorganized random thoughts...and I look forward to volunteering with my GMO and having the other members open to showing me the ropes and helping me through my mistakes.
    I think this is very, very good advice.

    I am also a dressage newbie, though I have ridden for many years and I have volunteered extensively with H/J associations as well as non-horsey organizations and charities.

    One item in the excellent post above that I would expand on is the "Newbie Factor." Right Horse is absolutely correct about the dressage world often appearing a bit insular. We are very lucky where I live to have a thriving GMO - there were several hundred people at our recent awards banquet, which was a lovely affair - but when I go to the GMO sponsored events, I've noticed that it is the same small handful of folks running everything.

    Now, clearly they are doing a terrific job... I am certainly not criticizing them! On the contrary, having been "one of the handful" of hard core volunteers in other organizations, I appreciate them with all my heart.

    But if they want to build a larger foundation of volunteer support - people like me - then they would be well advised to do a little outreach. Perhaps a "Welcome to Dressage" event - which could easily be a social affair - would be a useful way to engage new members. Look at all the questions we, the newbies, have on this forum. A presentation on the practical matters - what to wear, what the rules are, what to expect type stuff - over dinner and an adult beverage might be a great deal of fun, and a good learning opportunity.

    I ran something like that for my former H/J group. We'd have an evening event, perhaps with a guest speaker or short video presentation (20-30 minutes) dealing with some aspect of the discipline, then some food and drink, and a tack/apparel swap that was a huge hit.

    One time we had a "rider's turnout clinic" with a mini fashion show to demonstrate some of the current trends in the hunter ring, along with the tried and true classic (navy coat, tan breeches, white shirt, gloves...) It was quite easy to get the local tack store to support that type of event, and it was a lot of fun. We did raffle prizes including some "personal shopper" gift cards that were a huge hit.

    The newbies were thrilled to meet others who were "in the same boat," so to speak, and very happy to learn they weren't the only ones trying to navigate the waters of their new discipline - with all its unwritten rules, and "stuff people just know."

    Probably the most appreciated effort was the tack swap. Everyone loved having an opportunity to pick up good quality gently used tack and clothing (who doesn't appreciate the chance to get a good deal on outfitting themselves or the horse for a new discipline?) It became an annual event, and eventually the people who joined each year became, "the class of 201X" and they had their own social stuff, hung out at shows and clinics together, and that sort of thing.
    **********
    We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
    -PaulaEdwina



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