The Equo Events Volunteer of the Year award recognises the sacrifices made by volunteers to enable countless others to enjoy their sport or profession week in, week out. The award winner was revealed at the H&H Awards gala dinner at Ascot Racecourse on 2 November.
*WINNER* Mary Tuckett, 56
Mary has held the voluntary position of chairman of the Pony Club since 2014, as well as volunteering for British Eventing in a variety of roles, including fence judging, starting and timekeeping.
Highlight of 2017: “As part of the British Champions Series, we were able to take children and parents on a tour of Newmarket Racecourse during the Guineas Festival this year. A lot of people hadn’t been racing before and came away really inspired — just seeing one child smile makes all the hard work worthwhile.”
Top tip for volunteers: “Make sure you own a good set of waterproofs!”
What the fans say: “It’s virtually impossible to give as much time and effort to equestrian volunteering as Mary Tuckett. It’s not just this year, but for more than 20 years. Mary seems to live out of a suitcase through the summer — spending numerous days away from home, travelling between Pony Club competitions, championships, AGM meetings UK wide, British Eventing fixtures and anything else in between. Her contributions are phenomenal, and her drive and enthusiasm unrivalled.” Sophie Tuckett
Also on the 2017 shortlist:
Sue Pratt, 53
Sue set up the hugely popular “Mums’ Camp” 10 years ago, after taking her daughter to Pony Club camp, but feeling as though she had missed out on attending camp herself as a child. The non-profit, women-only camps involve cross-country, showjumping, flatwork, champagne and canapé rides, mounted games, Pilates, vet talks and more, all organised by Sue.
2017 highlight: “It’s got to be playing Pony Club games in fancy dress at this year’s camp.”
Top tips for volunteers: “If you have an idea, just get a bunch of people together and make it happen.”
What the fans say: “Alongside running her own business, being a mother of two and wife, Sue has selflessly organised a five-day residential fun camp every year for predominantly busy mothers to have a few days away with their horses from all the usual muddle of life. It is completely non-profit making and, apart from the catering, Sue designates no responsibility to anyone else, which I feel is the charm of Mums’ Camp. There is no hierarchy and, if Sue were to step down, it could not work.” Debbie Harris
Lyn Stebbings, 65
Lyn has volunteered for Bransby Horses for nearly three years, having fostered two ponies from the charity herself. She works on the visitor centre yard with a huge variety of horses, as well as assisting with activities for children and within the community.
2017 highlight: “I love being hands-on and am also interested in the veterinary side of things, so I particularly enjoyed assisting with the castration of two donkeys this year.”
Top tips for volunteers: “If you want to be hands-on with animals, it helps to have experience and confidence, but there are plenty of other options out there, such as helping with open days and fundraising.”
What the fans say: “Lyn is such a positive person and her lovely personality shows throughout her volunteer role at Bransby Horses, even in the face of her own bereavement with losing her husband and our wonderful volunteer, Tim. Each week Lyn supports the staff with their daily tasks, and provides the team with additional support in the school holidays, especially with our popular pony grooming sessions.” Claire Hogarth
Jo Lees, 46
Jo is the south-west British Young Riders Dressage Scheme (BYRDS) rep, acting as chef d’equipe at inter-regional competitions and home internationals, and organising training camps and other activities.
2017 highlight: “Getting 19 children from the south-west up to Rockrose in Scotland for the BYRDS home international, having organised an auction and a quiz evening to raise the money to get us there, and seeing every single one of those kids get up on the podium and all jump off together. And organising hobby horse dressage!”
Top tips for volunteers: “You have to love what you do and be passionate about it. I’m 46, but I’m just a big kid really, which helps with thinking outside the box. The reward isn’t monetary — it’s seeing the children having a fabulous time.”
What the fans say: “Jo has supported so many young dressage riders with her selfless devotion to ensuring they reach levels that exceed their expectations, and also ensuring that BYRDS is all-inclusive for riders of all abilities. She’s great at sourcing prizes to reward competitors, too.” Michael Lees