The Comical History of My Stints as an Equestrian Charity Volunteer

By Posted on 3 Comments 4 min read 250 views
Photo by mcmoody/iStockphoto
Photo by mcmoody/iStockphoto

Horse mystery novelist Kit Ehrman recently blogged about having a case of “horse withdrawal.”

I know what she means. I’m in the same boat, more or less.

I’m in no position to own a horse. Both my physical and financial health would be better off if I didn’t even take lessons.

Besides, I don’t have the time anymore. I have the typical, modern over-scheduled life.

I used to ride before I had a scary health situation. Now, the idea of sitting to a trot is enough to keep me away from the saddle. So, as a consolation, I started writing about horses.

But, at times, there is no substitute. There’s nothing like the warm breath from a soft muzzle. Or the soft fur of a winter coat. Or the satiny sheen of sleek summer coat.

Helpful horse people give me lots of suggestions, like they did for Kit in the group blog Equestrian Ink.

One suggestion is to work in a barn for a local trainer. Working as stable help is a time-honored way to get riding time. Let alone horse time. Young William Shatner reportedly did it.

(Ed. note: I’ve driven myself batty looking for the source to cite for a link. I know he once said that he worked as a stableboy so he could ride. I remember reading that. If you can find it, post it in the comments. All I can offer you in return, though, is Internet glory in my comments section.)

But I’ve been too sickly to participate in manure management. My husband made me promise, “No saddling. No mucking.” I all but swore to it with my right hand up, as if I were taking a pledge. Even though I’ve always prided myself on the fact that, once I became tall enough to do so, I saddle my own mounts, thank you very much.

Once, a tack shop owner offered up another suggestion, to volunteer at a horse rescue. Or a therapeutic riding stable.

I’ve tried both. I wish I could report warm fuzzy feelings. Let alone link to these deserving groups. They work hard on wispy shoestrings budgets of both staffing and funds. But if I identify them now, I can’t tell you the funny stories. Believe me, you’ll see why soon.

The Therapeutic Riding Stable Misadventure

Once my health situation stabilized, I jumped at the opportunity when a local therapeutic riding stable opened up its volunteer program. It does so once every year, only in the spring because it’s easier to train volunteers for the season all at once.

However, when I showed up ready to work, I wasn’t ready physically. I didn’t have my strength up yet. Plus, even if I had volunteered just to groom, I would have to break my promise to DH about the saddling.

But the deal-breaker for me was that I needed to be able to either lead the horse during the sessions or walk along to help the rider as a walker. After all, the more reasonably fit volunteers who could help would give more clients a chance to ride. And that’s the whole point.

So. because I couldn’t keep up on foot with a trotting horse, I was dismissed. I cried bitter tears of frustration, but I understood.

The Horse Rescue Deflater

Option number two: I picked a somewhat local horse rescue that’s really too far for me to visit regularly. No worries. I could write press releases and do online public relations. A board member said that she would serve as my contact.

But she didn’t grasp that print publications and other community activities boards often need months of lead time for submissions. She would send me updates for event notices the week before the event. Sometimes, even the night before. I came to wonder if my distance from the rescue may be putting me a bit out-of-touch to serve as a spokesperson.

I finally got to attend one event that I had promoted in various outlets for months. I arrived oddly pleased for once to have trouble finding a parking space because there were so many cars. I overheard guests marveling at “such a great turnout.” When I finally tracked down my contact, her first words after “Oh, hi,” were not “Great turnout” but “Where’s TV?”

Thus endeth my year in horse rescue PR.

Now, I realize that It’s Not About Me. I should Just Suck It Up and Do It For The Horses. And I’m not proud that I found myself with more generosity of spirit than I could manage in practice.

But the bottom line is that, if you don’t fit into what these time- and cash-strapped organizations need, then they treat you like any other harried human resources manager does.  It’s “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” time.

So, it’s back to writing about horses. Following various competition circuits. And the occasional bit of equine tourism. All of which I will share with you at one point or another.

It’s not such a bad gig. After all, there’s “no mucking and no saddling.”

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