All equestrian sports rely on a ever decreasing number of volunteers to keep them going. From the judges to the arena party, the sheet collector to the steward we have to have this band of people help us do what we enjoy.
As some of you know, apart from running TestPro, I am also a non executive director of British Dressage with my specialist area being Para. It is a voluntary role, yes we get mileage expenses to attend meetings and a night in an hotel when on duty for 2 day meetings but that is it. Yet, and this is not a moan by the way, I put in about a day a week of my time. I am very happy doing this and get a lot of satisfaction on helping to shape the sport I love and be involved and give my expertise in so many ways. But I can’t help thinking that with the very busy lives we have that the volunteer role is gradually dying out.
Not only are our judges a more committed and professional bunch than they have ever been with many hours of online training, in person attendance and exams behind them but now our stewards go through training and assessment to be the best that they can be. This again is all voluntary and for the bare minimum of recompense. Is this right? As competitors should we put our hands in our pockets to start paying more to cover these roles? As we demand better run events and increasing levels of knowledge from the volunteer is the unpaid helper a dying role?
If I am totally honest I am happy with the status quo on paying people however it does mean that more people need to put their hand up and take a role in driving our sports forward. I realise that this makes it difficult when money is tight and if you judge or steward you potentially lose money from your regular job. It also means that as we progress to a more diverse sport that we may find it difficult to encourage everyone to join in and feel that they too can become judges or a youth rep at regional level or a sheet collector and mark checker.
How do we encourage people to take part? I would love to hear your thoughts. Could you give some time at a local level to help out? I would urge you to and next time that one of the equestrian organisations puts up an advert for a role on a committee or your local event needs help, please put your hand up!
Much love and thanks to all the helpers out there that so selflessly give their time.