Sunday, April 17, 2011

Eventing Etiquette For Dummies

Earlier today, I volunteered as the cross-country warm-up steward at my hometown event, River Glen Horse Trials. I have been volunteering out at RG for several years and I always try to help out with whatever Tracey and Kathy need me to do. Fortunately, what they usually need me to do is steward XC warm-up (which I love doing) and I've done this about 3 or 4 times, now, in the past year. 

The show this weekend was light in numbers and rather small (compared to their summer event in August, which precedes AECs by about 3 weeks). The reduced number of competitors meant that things were laid back, comfortable, and everyone had plenty of room to relax in warm-up and nothing today was hurried or behind-schedule. Since things ran quietly and smoothly, I had time to really take it all in and see who was there, how things were going, catch up with some visiting friends and other eventers, and I also got the chance to enjoy the beautiful day participating in something I am passionate about: volunteering at local, family-run horse trials. 

While most of what I absorbed and drank in today was related to the pure essence of eventing (good people, wonderful weather, great courses, nice competitors, and a well-run event), I was tweaked a bit by a trainer who kept popping up on my radar throughout the day in a less than positive manner. In my experience, obnoxious eventers are (THANKFULLY) in the minority. But, as a volunteer, I am in a prime position to see people at their best (Megan Moore deserves a public shout-out here as one of the nicest people I always encounter at River Glen), and to observe people at their worst -- mainly in regards to how they treat me and the other volunteers and participants. Fortunately, the majority of the trainers I encountered today were kind and cooperative (2 of these trainers being hometown coaches from here in Knoxville who are always polite, friendly, and pleasant to be around when I see them either riding or working with their students). If there is one thing I consider to be a mark of true professionalism (or the lack-thereof) it is how a trainer treats not just their horses and their clients, but also how they behave towards surrounding competitors and event volunteers. With that being said, here are a few things that some (fewer, rather than most....thank goodness) eventing trainers need to think about when at a show. 

Your clients/students are paying you to teach them, not to work them into a frazzle or run the legs off their horse before they leave the start box. Being a paid professional in this sport is a gift; a luxury. Be thankful for and respectful of your students and remember that without you.......they would simply just go and find another trainer. You're providing support and assistance, not solving world hunger. Act like you like the people who put money in the bank and help keep your business alive.

Part of your job at a show should be to keep your students safe and prepared, not to have them careening around warm-up as if there is no one else in the arena. Your students will do what you tell them, so be responsible and remember that this is a community sport and your part in the community is an honor and a privilege, not a God-given birthright. Watch out for others, don't expect them to just magically stand back and watch out for you/your students.

Show organizers and volunteers are here to help make an event run successfully, not to cater to your personal whims nor ask "how high?" when you tell us to jump. If you have a question, ask nicely and we will do everything we can to quickly comply. If you need something, inform us calmly and politely and things will be taken care of as soon as possible. I am not a bumbling idiot and my Walkie-Talkie is not your personal hotline to Wayne [Quarles]. Get over yourself and get down to the task you are there to complete: assisting your students. Be active; try to participate in making things run better, not worse. In other words, get off your butt and be a part of the solution....don't just be the megaphone that cries "problem!" 

Attitude is everything! When you are positive and enthusiastic, so are your students. They have a better experience, a more confident ride, and a more successful competition. Smile, respect those around you, and be grateful for the opportunity to take part in this sport we all love. Everybody puts on their pants the same leg at a time (even Boyd!). You are no different. 

Remember......whether you know me or not, I do know you. If you are rude, condescending, or just plain unkind (to me, to your student, to a horse, or to another person), I will tell 5 of my friends. And then they will each tell 5 of their friends. And then those 25 people will tell 5 of their friends. And before you know it? You have a reputation. A bad one. So, for someone that you might see as unimportant or insignificant, just remember that we volunteers are most likely also riders (potential clients) and we have lots of friends who are also riders (more potential clients) and they know lots of other riders (even more potential clients). If you think you exist in a vacuum and live above the influence of those you look down upon, then you've got another think coming!

So, the moral of this story is simple: do unto others as you'd have them do unto you. And if you do that? The world will be a better place. And that saves me from having to kick ass and take names. Why you wanna be on my list? Just play nice in the sandbox, people. 

I'm watching you, Focker.


Anonymous said...

I love this post!!! Sadly I may have an idea who this may be directed towards and if it is, bow howdy im glad someone has said something, because she needs it!! I sure do love RG and all it's wonderful people(and the showers!! :)..keep doing a great job.

stoneg8jackie said...

You go girl!! Thanks for volunteering.

Emily said...

LOVE this blog!! I volunteer too, and while I mostly jump judge (which keeps me away from the trainers/warm-up scene), I still see some not so nice sides to some people. Thankfully, in eventing, those faces are few and far between.

SAF said...

Thanks for sharing. I volunteer regularly at GHF Horse Trials and for the most part have found riders and trainers to be gracious and grateful, which makes the ones who aren't even more memorable.

Holly Ratcliff said...

SAF, you are absolutely right (about the few bad apples having a greater, more memorable impact than the number of wonderful faces). Last time I was volunteering at RG, this same trainer bugged me in a minor sense, compared to one other coach (an infamously obnoxious trainer here locally in my state). Since said "infamously obnoxious trainer" wasn't there this past weekend, the second-in-rank obnoxious trainer rose to the top of the pile. I was thinking to myself this morning that I wish I could single out all the NICE, FRIENDLY, and POLITE people I encounter at each event (instead of dwelling on the baddies), but there are just too many good people to name individually. I guess that is the upside! Fortunately, they are the majority out there. :-)

Leslie Wylie said...

What a great post. Every rider/trainer ought to be required to volunteer at an event periodically so they remember to be respectful toward the people without whom events could not take place, a.k.a volunteers and organizers. I for one was happy to have your smiling face be the last thing I saw before I headed out to the start box;) And you are so right about the warm-up not being the time or place for a last-minute riding lesson or a screaming match. The point is to send your students and their horses out there feeling like they can take on the world. Anyway, thanks again--sentiments shared!!

Holly Ratcliff said...

Thanks, Leslie! I was bummed to hear about your encounter with the fence #1 "cows of horror," but I'm happy the rest of the course went just fine for you guys. Maybe you can take Esprit back when they have team penning/roping nights up in the western arena. That would cure him of his cow phobia for sure! :-)

Kate Wooten said...

You know what's really funny ... I was jump judge at the water complex, and that's about the first time I've been at RG in time to see the higher levels go (I usually haul in, and me and my tiny pony are often last ride of the day). So I got to see the Prelim and Intermediate folks - and you know what - just from her first ride, I had to stop and look up the name of that really nice, sympathetic, got-it-together-looking rider. And it was Megan Moore ! So pleased to hear she's a nice person IRL too :)

p.s. Leslie - hush now, girl, Holly's probbly talking about YOU :o (I know, I"m gonna get a bruising for that, but it's ok, I'll go pet my magic bunny)

Holly Ratcliff said...

Kate, I just saw your comment and you are horrible! You know very well I wasn't talking about Leslie! :-)

And, yes, Megan is always a very nice rider and gracious competitor.