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volunteer's perspective

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  • volunteer's perspective

    I volunteered for the afternoon at the local recognized dressage show as arena steward and bit/spur checker.

    First off, it was *very* gratifying that a good number of the exhibitors or their followers made a point of thanking me for giving my time. I've done this for years, and this was the first time that this many people have personally thanked me. It's nice to be appreciated!!

    Bit checking is something that's been done for years; it surprises me how many riders immediately say that their horse doesn't like people messing with their mouth, and assured me it would be next to impossible for me to check their bits. Their bits were all regulation, they're not trying to hide something; its just that there are some horses that ARE unusually difficult in this regard. Seems a simple thing to condition for. On the other hand, there were obviously many horses who were used to getting a treat or a peppermint, and those were quite easy to deal with. (I apologized to each one for the yucky gloved fingers).

    I really do hate that the steward is supposed to check the horse's sides for evidence of misuse of spurs. It feels so accusatory to do this. (I didn't find the first ruffled hair). Also gratifying to have seen no cavesons or flashes that were anywhere near to being too tight.

    Like many small-to-mid sized shows, ours was way down on entries; made for a comfortable afternoon, and no huge training level classes to wade through. But certainly hard on management and the GMO organization. Disappointing that there wasn't more local support, but so it goes these days. Interest in serious dressage ebbs and flows in some smaller areas, and I think it's definitely down in ours.
    "One person's cowboy is another person's blooming idiot" -- katarine

    Spay and neuter. Please.

  • #2
    As a show manager, thank you for volunteering.

    I drove through Cullowhee today - where is there a show? Is it running on Sunday too? I may go by.


    • Original Poster

      The show is in Asheville--that's the closest that there would be a recognized show of any persuasion. Cullowhee is *ahem* not a hotbed of dressage ...
      "One person's cowboy is another person's blooming idiot" -- katarine

      Spay and neuter. Please.


      • #4
        Darn. Was just in Asheville yesterday. In Cashiers now, and I don't think I'll get back to Asheville today.


        • Original Poster

          If you do, it's at the Ag Center, right across the street from the airport. But, like I said, it's a pretty small show this year, I think they will end by about 2:30 this afternoon. Maybe 3 or 4 FEI level rides, lots of one-entry classes.
          "One person's cowboy is another person's blooming idiot" -- katarine

          Spay and neuter. Please.


          • #6


            • #7
              Thanks so much for the positive comments, and I'm glad you were treated well. That is an NCDCTA sponsored show, and has unfortunately been declining in entries every year (despite being highly reviewed). We keep it on the books because it serves the western part of the state, when it seems like most of the dressage here lies around the central (or even eastern) areas of NC.

              Two things are killing the "smaller" shows. 1) the economy, and 2) the presence of more and more small shows. Here in NC, you can attend a USDF show 2-3 weekends out of the year from late March to November within a few hours driving. While that's awesome for the sport in general, it's killer to each smaller show individually as attendance gets spread out. A show really needs to stand out to make it special these days.

              For future years we are hoping to revitalize this show by maybe running a clinic or symposium concurrently or ? (feel free to submit idea here). Olga is a very competitor friendly manager, so I know that the show is fun for those who make it there. And with the heat here in NC lately, I'm sure the mountains of Asheville made for a horse-friendly show as well.

              While I have considered going to this show many years, the 4+ hour drive makes it less attractive to me (especially since there was just one 20 minutes away last weekend)--but there's always next year!

              Robyn Hahn, NCDCTA VP
              From now on, ponyfixer, i'll include foot note references.


              • Original Poster

                Originally posted by Pony Fixer View Post
                Olga is a very competitor friendly manager, so I know that the show is fun for those who make it there.
                Olga is a treasure!! I've been involved with this show in some small capacity, either as a competitor (back in the dark ages) or a small-time volunteer, for over 20 years (yikes!) and Olga has been a complete breath of fresh air. It's always been competent and well-run, but Olga really Gets It.
                And with the heat here in NC lately, I'm sure the mountains of Asheville made for a horse-friendly show as well.
                Just too bad that the refreshingly brisk rain hit during intro and training classes yesterday!

                I agree completely about the reasons for a small show. Too bad it's so hard to make a small show work out, because yesterday was the first time in ages I thought it would have been a fun show to compete at.
                "One person's cowboy is another person's blooming idiot" -- katarine

                Spay and neuter. Please.


                • #9
                  MP, you are so right. There are so many times when a small show is superior to a large one (bringing out babies, dealing with show nerves, etc.). Each season, I pick my show schedule based largely on venue (location and footing), management, and childcare (not necessarily in that order ) and so end up at some larger and some smaller shows. The large shows are great for stiff competition, ability to watch a lot of tests, and vendors. The smaller shows are great for camaraderie, relaxed pace, and wrapping up early.

                  Financially, generally speaking, one ring loses money, two rings breaks even, and three + rings makes profit. So you can do the math on that one and see where we're gonna end up. We tightened our belts/economized as much as possible but realize that this show is not going to fill our coffers.

                  Thanks again for your help, we love our volunteers!
                  From now on, ponyfixer, i'll include foot note references.


                  • #10
                    I was one of the competitors this past weekend, and actually chose SMG with the 4 hour drive over Raleigh with the 20 minute drive, and didn't regret it one bit. It was a fabulously laid-back weekend with great people. Thank you MonstrPony for volunteering! I apologize for my youngin that wasn't used to the fingers in his mouth - I'll work on that

                    Olga was incredibly easy to work with. I made some last minute changes and she was incredibly accomodating. Very pleasant, all around!

                    Thank you to everybody that volunteered, and to NCDCTA for continuing to hold this show even though it isn't a money-maker. It really was a "Summer Mountain Getaway" for us!


                    • Original Poster

                      Rhiannon, yours was not one of the ones I was talking about, he was a sweetie! I made a point of checking all of the younger horses, because I feel pretty comfortable doing it (I know some people who get this job do not, and that doesn't help the horse) and its a necessary experience for them. It's the third and fourth level horses who should know better but just haven't learned to tolerate it, that I was referring to. I know horses are very personal about their mouths, so accepting this, and from a stranger, has to be a learned behavior. But it CAN be learned.

                      Anyway, glad you enjoyed the show! Neat horse you have!
                      "One person's cowboy is another person's blooming idiot" -- katarine

                      Spay and neuter. Please.


                      • #12
                        Just out of curiosity, is it allowed to have the bit check as you leave the ring instead of beforehand?


                        • #13
                          The bit check is always after, and not before, per the rules.

                          As for my (Second level, just debuted Third level) horse, he is fine with the bit check--but you have to go slow. He's wary of strangers moving quickly towards his head (unless they CLEARLY have a cookie). Once they give him a stroke or two and talk to him, they could probably crawl into his mouth if they wanted.

                          Sadly, some bit-checkers are NOT as astute or trained or whatever as you seem to be MP, and they come in like a vampire. Then they look at me like I have an untrained heathen when I explain they need to go slow to start. So I would venture to guess that other horses are the same...
                          From now on, ponyfixer, i'll include foot note references.


                          • #14
                            I am in a different area so wasn't anywhere near the show....but thanks for volunterring! I love volunteering! Due to my finances, myself, my horse etc. I often either braid and groom or volunteer and love doing either or both almost as much as showing.

                            I have done bit checks a lot and as mentioned much of it is how the horses are approached (though it sounds like the OP was doing a fabulous job!) as some horses are wary of strangers etc. I know my horse is off the track and I work with him a lot and he is perfect for me and everyone he knows but he is what I consider barely acceptable for a good bit checker and downright sad for a less than tactful one despite my efforts. I think maybe from having his lip done? I don't know. He is easly trained usually but that is one thing he is still not where I would like him to be. So just another perspective there. I try to have someone he knows near the gate though so they can assist in holding him as that usually takes care of it. Maybe I need to drag some strangers in from off the street to poke and prod him and give him cookies

                            I know my trainer does the same with her youngsters- she usually has someone they are familiar with hold them and pet them to help them relax so they get to be more ok with strangers around them and then if they have a baby moment the ground person can calm them down.
                            My blog:



                            • #15
                              I was also at this show this last weekend and it was the first time in many years showing a recognized show. It was a fabulous show and helped my show nerves stay under control. Thanks so much to the volunteers and show mangement for the hardwork it was really appreciated.

                              This show was picked because of location, management and size, it is such a treasure. I am looking forward to next year.

                              Ivy and Victoria (horse)
                              \"Horses do good things for us.\"