Things I learned from volunteering at Plantation CIC on Sunday:
1. Upper level eventing is very different from lower level eventing, and not something any more I think I would like to aspire to. They go very, very fast, and it’s very very hard on the horses. No wonder the vets live in the barns and the horses don’t last from season to season. I know I can’t base all observations on one event, but I was mildly surprised at the increase in speed between fences at the one star, two star and three star level. Very few horses are pulling on the riders between fences any more. They are not running off on cross-country because the difficulty of the fences keeps them backed off. It kind of scares me to see the big jumps and the speed and it never used to. I think sticking to my little novice stuff is a good thing anymore!
2. Having said the above, I also observed that the quality of riding forward seems to be fabulous among the riders I saw at the three levels on cross-country. The positions were ninety percent exemplary and most were in position on every fence. I rarely saw riders seriously miss distances – like one or two all day – and horses jumped nicely, there were no scary jumpers in my observance. I think it is obvious that coaching and training and instructing ARE being improved for the sport of eventing, and that is a very good thing. Again, just one event but there were a lot of horses and riders over the whole day, and they were all international level, from one star to three star.
3. Officials do know what is going on, and are concerned, do make decisions for the welfare of the horses, and always have the horses’ safety paramount. My radio was on all day and that is all that I heard from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. when the last horse went across the finish line. Don’t ever criticize an official. Well, if you have to, just make sure you are well grounded. They have a monumental task that requires an immense amount of quick thinking and multi-tasking, and drawing on years of experience and an innate sense of fairness. No wonder officials training takes years.
4. Sometimes when fellow volunteers are inconsiderate, you just have to go on and not let it bother you, even though their snotty attitude all day long on the radio is exhausting to all by the end of the day. One craptastic idiot can spoil the whole day and make it hard for the other volunteers to enjoy their jobs. We do this for fun. It is a reminder to me to be as polite and considerate as possible when volunteering!