From Endurance to Dressage
My stint as a MARE volunteer is coming to a close. I am not done quite yet, but the clock is ticking. When I showed up last week, Trainer 2 spotted me before I was even through the gate and asked if I could relieve Trainer 1 who was serving as a horse handler for the lesson with my favorite kiddo. I broke into a little jog, signed in, grabbed my name tag, and ducked through the fence so I could take hold of Haven's lead rope.
I don't know what the rest of the week looks like, but Wednesdays seem to be the hardest day to find volunteers. We are always short handed. That's probably why I've been able to learn so many different jobs. After each volunteer completes their training, they receive a name tag with different icons colored in. Each colored icon indicates which jobs you are permitted to do. My name tag shows that I have clearance for all jobs, but I was specifically trained for horse handler as that job is the hardest to find qualified candidates for. Anyone can sweep, but not everyone knows how to tack up a horse.
There have been so many weeks though where there haven't been enough volunteers which means the kids get barn lessons instead of riding lessons. And on the weeks where we have too many volunteers, I have cheerfully (and willingly) opted to do the less glamorous jobs like digging ditches, cleaning tack, and weighing out the feed. Last Wednesday turned out to be the first week where I was the only horse handler. As soon as the lesson was done, I handed Haven off to T2 for another lesson and hurried back inside to get George tacked up for his lesson.
The two little girls who come on Wednesday afternoons are pretty interesting One is non-verbal, and after a spook on George, she has since refused to do a mounted lesson. Since I've been volunteering, she only does a walking lesson where she "leads" her horse. In an attempt to reduce her fear, she was recently partnered with Cricket the Haflinger, but so far, she hasn't been able to mount. That meant I led George for the other kiddo's lesson.
As I untacked George, T1 asked if I could do one more lesson with Haven and a new student. As I put George back in his stall, T1 handed me the lead rope and off I went with Haven for round three. I had met the new kiddo the previous week, so I was eager to get to know him. He's a fifth grader which means we speak the same language. He was super fun to work with because he was so enthusiastic about the lesson.
For the three lessons I did, there was only one side walker and no other horse handlers which was why T1 and T2 were helping each other by serving as the horse handlers. Like most Wednesdays, by the time the last horse was brought in, all of the volunteers had gone leaving me on my own. While I took care of the outside horses, Reina and Knightly, the two trainers fed everyone inside the barn.
With no other horse handlers onsite for the afternoon, the ladies kept me plenty busy. I was so busy tacking up, leading, and untacking that it didn't leave me any time for the other jobs that I enjoy so much. I was itching to get the blower out to clean out the crossties and barn aisle, but there simply wasn't time. Fortunately, the hay had already been weighed and brought in, so that made feeding a lot quicker than it might have been.
After a whirlwind two hours of horse handling, I looked around to see that the three of us were standing in the barn aisle with the day's jobs pretty much finished. It was then that I let both trainers know that my last Wednesday was on the horizon. They didn't mean to make me feel guilty, but they laughed and said that if it worked, they were glad to have done it.
We'll be in Europe the first half of June, so I knew I couldn't help then, but I am wondering how I'll feel when we get back. The truth is that there will be another six weeks before I go back to teaching. Do I need the break, or could I do another session? I am looking forward to the mentoring position that I'll likely be getting in August, but I might have room for one more round of volunteering.
It is so hard to say no.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: