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 way....one 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.|