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We Are Flying Solo

October 29, 2012

A Gear In The Complex Machine, Pt. I

Before I start, to all my friends, human and equine, north of me, please stay safe and wear a lifejacket!  I know those areas are not as accustomed to our tropical visitors as we are down here, so just buy an extra case of beer and keep your blankets handy.

Seriously, sun!!  At Waredaca!!  In October!!!
I've been gone the last four days (Wed-Sat, I know, I heard you sobbing) doing my annual volunteer stint at the Waredaca Training 3-Day Event (now including the Novice 3-Day!), which is run by my beloved Area II Adult Riders (see sidebar) group with the help of Gretchen Butts, the owner of Waredaca who donates the use of her amazing facility (omg, the XC footing...) to use for the event.  As longtime readers know, this event has been my riding goal ever since I first set foot on the showgrounds in 2009.  And hell or high water (both of which you might actually be in right now?), I WILL ride that course.  I tried to make it happen last year.  We all know how that ended.  But not this year.

I am always a strong proponent of volunteering for our sport.  I firmly believe EVERY SINGLE MEMBER from me to Boyd Martin should be required to spend 8 hours volunteering each year if they want to compete at a recognized event.  Doing ANYTHING.  Because there is a lot more to running a horse trial than judging cross country jumps.  Every time you are out there competing, we are running around like mad behind the scenes, most of us completely unpaid, there for the love of the sport, without which, you couldn't feel the rush of that course.  We make it happen for you - pass it on. 

Psh, a few judges, a TD, and some jump judges, what more could it take, you think?

Task Priori:  Keep Russell the russell warm!
I arrived around lunchtime on Wednesday; the first soundness jog-up was scheduled for late afternoon.  OMG, THE SUN WAS SHINING (This never happens; the T3D is usually held in 30 mph wind with a cold rain, during which I wear all the clothes in my suitcase at one time)!  I held on for dear life as the golf cart launched into warp drive to collect order of go sheets, distribute them to Gary from GRC, our dedicated photographer, Brian O'Connor (yeah, that one), smart-ass the entertaining announcer, TD, ground jury, and myself (jog steward) and one fellow yearly volunteer who also doubles as the stabling manager (MASSIVE job who is in charge of everything including safety checks, shavings, payments, posting announcements, answering 1,000 questions, and keeping the snack bowl stocked).  We also hold a briefing for riders, led by Stephen Bradley of how to organize your time and pace on endurance day (roads and tracks, steeplechase, cross country).  The riders stare back like spotlit kittens on a highway.

Post-jog, there is dinner to prepare for, dressage tests to be organized on clipboards with 27 pens apiece for judges and scribes, more orders of go for the warmup steward and all the rest (that printer's already smoking in protest),  The arena is set up, and everyone is already in pre-freak-out mode about endurance day (Friday).

The 10-minute box:  the last thing between you and XC
Thursday, as the frightened kittens riders perform their tests in the sandbox, I am once again clinging to a golf cart that is surely performing outside of its design specifications as we bounce off clumps of dirt on the side of a hill.  Have all the flags been staked for roads and tracks?  Where is the steeplechase practice jump?  Will the steeplechase be the same for Novice and Training (nah, they hedge-trimmed inbetween)?  Has someone fixed that decoration that blew over?  How are we going to stretch the 10 extra Friday volunteers (for shame, peeps, for shame) over 47 positions?  Is the 10-minute box roped off?  Can someone put out the finish flags for phase C?  Where is the start box for D?  Who will be control for cross country and will they be on the same radio channel as roads and tracks?  Has anyone seen the TD?  Have we picked rider reps yet?  Don't tell them how much paperwork it involves.  No one has STILL fixed the blowover?  Thank cod vet school minions are showing up to help in the 10-minute box!  Will we ever convince the kittens that the end of B and the start of C are the same location?  By the way, did anyone ever mark that?   

You get the idea.

I managed to steal about 30 minutes to watch Tremaine Cooper (FEI course builder and excellent teacher) and Stephen Bradley coach some of the riders through steeplechase practice after their dressage tests.  Two words:  FAST and FUN.  Just let go, ride the gallop, and it becomes a beautiful thing.

Want it done right?  Hire OCD girl.
Then I spent about 1.5 hours putting together all the clipboards for endurance day judges, talking through the system with the volunteer coordinator, labeling, re-labeling, stacking, mapping, and hoping people would actually show up.   After that, it was helping Michele, our magical, incredible prize coordinator, organize prize buckets and loot from a variety of donors and sponsors.

Then it was more dinner, including more attempts by our dedicated volunteer vet, Dr. Julie, and Max Corcoran (do I even need to explain who she is?) to teach riders how to untangle the pile of 4 phases of string and make it into a smooth line of endurance day awesomeness:  A - B - C - 10 min box - D - vet check - done.

Led by a cold beer and a warm bed, I was passed out by 9:30 pm.  And there were still two days to make happen, two days to give 50 lucky people the (safe!) ride of their lives around a championship level course.  Easy....

To be continued...      


  1. I so agree with you - everyone, and I mean everyone, should be required to do some sort of volunteer activity during the year. Even though I'm a lowly fence judge, I very much enjoy simply giving back. Can't wait to read about the final two days. And those pesky four-legged critters that had to stay behind this go-around. ;)

  2. Completely agreed -- everyone should volunteer at least once during the year. I scribe at least twice for our GMO and actually went to Twin Rivers (from Idaho!) to volunteer and help the barn. It's a great way to be involved, and giving back is so important!

  3. I can't imagine NOT doing it -- the information I have learned is invaluable and when I get to my T3D, you can bet I will be the one who DOESN'T look like a terrified kitten because I have spent several years already learning to plan and watching what works (and what doesn't).

  4. Volunteering is crazy hard work. I've never done it at a recognized event (much less a T3D), but hats off to those who do.