“Volunteers are the sport, it could not survive without the hundreds who give their time every week to help make this sport what it is.” Sir Mark Todd
So what is being a BE Volunteer (BEV) all about? Here is an insight in numbers...
150 – The average number of volunteers required for a normal one day event running over a weekend
100 – The number of volunteers required for a day of BE90 competition
700 – Roughly the number of volunteers recruited for Blenheim Horse Trials. They recruit from their stock of regular volunteers, who hail from Devon to Yorkshire
7.30am – The time at which a fence judges day can start, with a briefing (and usually a bacon butty!)
6pm – The time at which a fence judges day can finish
50 – The minimum number of miles it’s usual for a BEV to travel to an event. Often they will pay out for overnight accommodation, in addition to fuel expenses
500 - The approximate number of volunteers required for Badminton Horse Trials; around 250 on the cross country course, 100 or so doing programmes and arena stewarding, then buggy drivers, course walk stewards, dressage officials, show jumping officials etc.
£2,000 - If fence judges were paid mileage to cover their fuel costs, it would average over £2k at each event
10,000 – The approximate number of people registered on the official BE database
3 – The number of hours Volunteer Coordinator Jennie can spend per night peak season emailing volunteers, yep you guessed it, voluntarily
250 – The number of volunteers on Jennie’s database
So what can you do? There are many ways to get involved...
- Get in touch with your local event; each event recruits their own volunteers so they will be very pleased to hear from you if you are able to help in any way, whether it's for a morning or a whole weekend
- Get involved with the BEV Facebook and Twitter accounts; meet fellow volunteers and see opportunities to help out with events
- Add your name to the official BE volunteer database: If an event is unable to resource enough volunteers, the BE database may be used as a back-up. Find out how to add your details here.
- #HugaBEV; Remember that every event you are at, whether competing or spectating, most of the people you see will be volunteers, giving their time unpaid. Be polite and friendly, say thank you, and if all else fails, take cake! Also, until the end of June 2015, take a photo of yourself thanking a BE Volunteer and tweet it with the hashtag #HugaBEV and you could win a £100 voucher from Flair Equestrian, thanks to Jennie and her BEV Twitter account.
"We are utterly dependent on them and very grateful for their assistance which is vital to the event." Hugh Thomas, Director of Badminton Horse Trials
JENNIE SMITH, Somerset
Helps at: Larkhill 1 & 2; Somerley Park International; Howick; Bramham; Chepstow; Barbury International; Calmsden 1&2; Blenheim; plus as a volunteer where needed.
Jennie has been involved with BE Volunteering for 15 years. She not only helps out personally, but also gives her time to act as a volunteer coordinator helping to resource events from her database of volunteer contacts, as well as run the BE Volunteers Facebook and Twitter accounts as a social space for her fellow volunteers.
She says; "These outlets work wonders – at midnight before Larkhill this year I found, through Twitter, a start team member that we were short of for the next day! Volunteers and riders all talk to each other and friendships are built. At Blenheim, volunteers from across the country meet up like old friends because they have had the chance to chat first – it’s great for team building and morale.
"I started as a volunteer then took on fence judge co-ordinator for the Royal Bath & West, then neighbouring West Buckland and the rest, as they say, is history. I’m just a girl who can’t say 'no'.
"I’ve met some fantastic people who will stay lifelong friends. It can be damn hard work, and often thankless as for every wonderful person there’s another not quite so altruistic in their approach to things, but every time I think about giving it up, those wonderful people remind me why I do it. Also, fantastic cake!"
ELIN STENBERG, Bristol
Helps at (this year alone): Howick, Larkhill (x2), Ascott under Wychwood (x2), Withington Manor, Mount Ballan, Bramham, Nunney, Chepstow, Barbury, Calmsden (x2), Hartpury, Little Gatcombe, Blenheim, Dauntsey and Aldon. She also volunteered at the World Equestrian Games but said you are much better looked after at BE events!
Elin has been volunteering on this level for five/six years, but first fence judged up to 15 years ago. Elin says; "I love the sport and being involved in it, and it gives me a great opportunity to 'switch off' from work. My day job is very corporate, but in a previous life I groomed at the very top level and I really missed eventing when I gave it up. This way I still get to be involved and have front row seats for the most exciting sport in the world.
"I think meeting your heroes is really special. A recent one that made my day was Lucinda Green telling me I was doing a great job of SJ stewarding at Withington - I nearly burst with pride! It sounds silly but being appreciated by somebody so legendary was a really special moment. (Especially when the task is as relentless as SJ stewarding!)"
FI BOUGHTON, Malmesbury
Helps at: Badminton Grassroots, Greenwich 2012, Gatcombe, Dauntsey, West Wilts, Mount Ballan, Larkhill, and also as pictured above (left) at Eglinton in Scotland with her friend Tanya Adamson.
Fi has been involved with BE volunteering since 2009, and helps out with scoring, xc control and time keeping. She says; "I used to groom to a high level for the likes for the likes of Pippa Funnell and the Fredericks', and then after I had children I still wanted to be involved with the sport. I first started off helping with scoring at Shipton Monyne, and realised how much I loved doing it - just being 'me' rather than being a wife, or mother, with a great group of friends.
"I love the friendship and the camaraderie - meeting like minded people, the Twitter account is really fun and the banter is quite ridiculous! The crowd that I did the Olympics with still meet up regularly. You also get to see the best riders in the world up close.
"My highlights would have to be London 2012 - I was one of only three scorers for dressage, and part of a team of six for xc timekeeping. Also doing xc control at Badminton Grassroots when you have Mike Tucker and David Luck there - it's just really good fun."
DEBRA HUDSON, Berkshire
Helps at: Gatcombe, Goring Heath, Howick, Larkhill, Hambleden, Withington, Berkshire College, Farley Hill, Barbury International, Calmsden, Smiths Lawn, Wellington, Blenheim CCI.
Debra signed up three years ago, persuaded by Jennie and the promise of cake and like-minded people!
Debra mainly fence judges, but has also been a part of the scoring team, xc start team, sj collecting ring stewarding, corporate hospitality hostess and dressage steward! She says; "I am a former competitor in various equine sports and a previous horse owner of many years. I do it to give something back, after all, someone had to do it for me!
"I am based in an office during the week, so it’s great to get out into the country at the weekends; I also enjoy being around the people associated with the sport.
"My most memorable moment to date was being a part of the team fence judging in the main arena at Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials. Besides having the privilege of undertaking such a high profile role within the volunteer team, I was lucky enough to spend my day admiring gorgeous horses, beautiful Blenheim Place and a stunning Aston Martin car provided as arena dressing by sponsors AM. AND the sun shone. Perfect."
CALA AND GARRY RUSSELL, Bury St Edmunds
Helps at: Keysoe, Little Downham, Gt Witchingham, Stratford Hills, Burnham Market.
Cala and Garry have been involved with BE Volunteering for three years, mainly fence judging but occasionally as crossing stewards.
Cala says; "You learn so much, not only about the latest rules but about how to ride certain fences (and how NOT to !) its also lovely to feel part of the 'machine'. The events that give away free schooling vouchers (Lt Downham and Keysoe) are our priority events as its a saving of £50 an event when there are 2 of us in the car :)"
Cala cites the camaraderie (and food!) as what they love most about it. Their memorable moment came courtesy of Andrew Nicholson... "Garry spotted Andrew Nicholson's last ride of the day cast its shoe at our fence. He ran over and grabbed the shoe, holding it aloft like the Holy Grail (pictured left). After winning the class on the same ride, Andrew invited Garry into his lorry and signed his latest book for him, in return for finding the shoe. Fab day!"
RACHEL CASBON, Cambridgeshire
Helps at: Little Downham. Isleham. Keysoe. Has also done Houghton International and Burnham Market.
Rachel has been a BEV for five years, primarily as a fence judge but has also done scoring, arena party & SJ collecting ring duties.
On why she does it, Rachel says; "I love the sport and really enjoy watching & learning from others. What better way to watch lots of combinations than to volunteer for the day!"
The best thing about volunteering for Rachel? "Meeting loads of lovely like minded people and learning from watching horse & riders. Also spending some non ridden time with my fence judge parter in crime who is also my sister and groom when I compete."
Rachel competes unaffiliated, and is about to do her first event with her youngster, pictured above. She feels that by giving a few days a year to BE she makes up for the days where volunteers allow her to compete.
Her memorable moment came courtesy of a Badminton winner. She explained; "Being thanked personally by Paul Tapner at Burnham Market! He chatted to us for a good few minutes.
"It's great when those who compete recognise what we do. I think every competitor should do a days volunteering a year. They'd appreciate exactly what we do a bit more!"