Volunteerism: A Dying and Essential Art


John Lambert presenting stallion Coltrane SS to the crowd.

By Brianna York

As featured in the Winter 2024 issue of Arabian Horse World.

t’s no secret to everyone who shows horses these days that horse shows have difficulty making ends meet. The rising cost of everything from bedding to awards to feed has made horse shows very expensive to host, manage, and arrange. Add to these struggles the increasing cost of facility rentals and the fact that there are fewer and fewer places that are willing to rent to horse-related events. It’s a tough time to be a local Arabian club, and even the most profitable clubs in the US and Canada are feeling the pinch.

Social media is full of people complaining, arguing, and struggling over how to make horse shows easier to host, more affordable to offer, and more available to newcomers. There are no easy solutions to these challenges, and the reality is that it will take all of us to make a difference to save this industry that we love.

Amateur riders are the backbone of the Arabian horse industry. For good reason, Arabian horses have long been promoted as family horses. There are few breeds of horses so well-suited for young riders, people new to showing, and those with big goals and a high skill level. The Arabian horse has it all when it comes to talent, personality, and potential. But that’s all for naught if we can’t figure out how to make horse shows happen in an increasingly challenging world.

John Lambert presenting stallion Coltrane SS to the crowd.

Volunteers Have Never Been More Critical

I am old enough to remember when there were more volunteers at horse shows than the shows knew what to do with. You might have to arm wrestle someone to get to work the gate or hang out in the office helping out. Clubs never struggled to find people to volunteer their time, and some of the most beloved of my friendships during my youth and early amateur career were with people who came to the shows simply to help out.

It’s hard to imagine this now. We are all busy, struggling to make ends meet, and too frazzled to think about much more than survival. Most of us have a hard time thinking about plans that must be made a week into the future, let alone considering how we might best volunteer our time at the next show.

But the reality is that the days of shows that were run entirely with the help and generosity of people who didn’t even own a horse any longer or who didn’t show themselves are primarily at an end. Maybe there is a generational gap at work here, or perhaps just the cost of travel to a show is so steep that no one who isn’t already showing wants to come to help out.

However, the reasons don’t matter. Volunteer effort is critical if we want to have shows to attend where we can make memories with fellow Arabian Horse lover. Donating even a few hours to help out at shows can make the difference between a show thriving and dying.

Hospitality team, Emma Dybka, Sherri Dunne, Marg Jubenville, Heather Downey, at Canada’s National Show.

How Can You Help?

There are so many ways that you can volunteer your time at shows. Some of my favorite memories at shows are of helping to score dressage tests with my mom, ironing ribbons in the ribbon room with friends, or listening to my dad making gate calls at a local class A show for a day. Even if you have limited horse experience, many jobs don’t specifically require these skills and desperately need to be done.

The show office will happily direct you toward someone who will find you something to do. No matter when you stop by the office at a horse show, someone will be available to direct you toward the places where you can be the most benefit. Working the gate, running documents back and forth to the office, and helping clean up walkways and arenas are common areas where hands are always needed. For those with more specific skills, you might be asked to help with scoring, or you could be asked to make ring calls.

Even if you cannot attend a show to help out, you can donate some cash for prizes or some of your time to help with year-end awards banquets and other events; you will be welcomed by local clubs with open arms. There is always a supply of work that needs to be done, and you can help alleviate some stress on overworked and often burned-out show secretaries and club board members by pitching in.

Saving our beloved horse shows should be an essential concern for all who love the Arabian horse. While it might sound boring to volunteer time at the shows you attend, you might be surprised at just how much fun you have. After all, all of us who show horses are friends, and what can be better than hanging out with our best buddies doing something as a team? Creating a new generation of volunteers passionate about the Arabian horse is an essential mission for many Arabian clubs all over the US and Canada. Being willing to donate your time this way can make you part of a desperately needed solution that will offer a lasting benefit to the Arabian breed, which cannot be overstated.

Doug Enders scribing for Judge Brian Scoggins.
Mary Trowbridge of Arabian Horsemens Distress Fund with Arabian ambassador Possesion PGA+//.
Allan Quast maintaining the footing.