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Dengie Volunteer of the Year 2020

The 2020 Horse & Hound Awards, in partnership with NAF, will be an exciting multi-media online bonanza this year, with equestrian fans from around the world invited to join in the fun

This award is to recognise the sacrifice made by those 
wonderful volunteers who enable countless others to 
enjoy their horses, sport or profession week in, 
week out, through their incredible dedication 
and selfless actions

The shortlist has been chosen and voting for this award is open for one week only, until 11.59pm on 5 November, in accordance with these terms and conditions.

Carrol Simpson

Carrol, 78, founded West Midlands Dressage Group 23 years ago and remains dedicated to the cause, putting on six clinics a month for riders aged 25 and under. The retired school teacher has ridden throughout her life, owning a pony as a child, but has now “hung up her boots” and enjoys spending her time dressage writing.

Why did you become a volunteer? “To provide a pathway for children from the very beginning of their riding career. Our aim is to take the ordinary child and the ordinary pony, and help them achieve whatever they want to do.”

Proudest moment: “Around five years ago, nine of our members rode at FEI level in one year which was a huge achievement.”

Major Nicola Rush

Nicola, 37, a physiotherapist in the army, took on the role of secretary of the Army Equitation Association six years ago, devoting around three hours of her time “most evenings” to the role. As a keen 14-year-old, Nicola wrote to showjumper James Fisher, which resulted in a dream opportunity training with and grooming for James.

Why did you become a volunteer? “The army is a difficult place to work sometimes; people put themselves on the line and their career can take over their personal life, so I wanted to give something back to soldiers by providing them with opportunities and support within the sport.”

Proudest moment: “Watching our grassroots riders winning their first-ever rosettes – you can see from the looks on their faces how much it means to them.”

Esme Fordham

Esme, 81, was a long-term supporter of Remus Memorial Horse Sanctuary before she became a full-time volunteer six years ago. She has a varied role, describing herself as a “jack of all trades”. The retired office worker never had a horse growing up, but she has always had a love of animals.

Why did you become a volunteer? “I’ve always been a supporter of the sanctuary and when I retired at 74, I told the owner Sue that if only I was a bit younger, I’d love to help. She said, ‘I’ll find you something to do,’ and that was that!”

Proudest moment: “Five years ago, we rescued two blind pregnant mares, Holly and Gracie. When they gave birth, I helped bottle-feed the foals, Bracken and Jess, and it was the most wonderful thing. They are still with us now.”

Sally Merrett

Sally, 63, has been a fence judge for British Eventing since 2006. In 2019, she gave 40 days of her time to the sport she “loves”. Sally rode at riding club level and developed an interest in eventing as a spectator, as well as formerly grooming for her brother David Merrett.

Why did you become a volunteer? “Cross-country has always interested me and I wanted to do something that would get me out meeting like-minded people. I really enjoy the camaraderie between volunteers and the interaction with spectators.”

Proudest moment: “I fence judged at Blenheim for the first time in 2019. There were four of us on fence four, which was the first big question on the course in that class, and it was great to apply the knowledge I’ve built up over the years and use it in that bigger situation.”

Place your votes now

Previous winners of this award include:

  • 2019: Olivia Robertson
  • 2018: Keith Watkins
  • 2017: Mary Tuckett
  • 2016: Jane Cepok

About the Horse & Hound Awards 2020

The H&H Awards, in partnership with NAF, are back – this year’s ceremony will be virtual, an exciting multi-media online bonanza. This innovation means equestrian fans around the world can be part of the celebration. We look forward to sharing the evening with you all.

This year’s awards will celebrate the heroes of the past decade (2011–2020) in elite equestrian sport, while honouring the unsung stars who have helped our industry, our horses and our spirits during this unusual year.

As previously, the H&H Award winners will be nominated and voted for by you. Anyone is welcome to nominate the person, group or horse they feel deserves recognition from Thursday 3 September.

Following the close of nominations at 5pm on 4 October, the H&H judging panel will decide on a shortlist of contenders. The panel will be influenced by the number of nominations and strength of the story of the nominee’s dedication and achievement.

On 29 October, we will announce the shortlisted candidates in the magazine and online, sharing their stories and inviting you to vote for your winners online, with voting closing on 5 November.

The winners will be revealed in our sparkling online virtual ceremony on 10 December, with guests joining us from around the world.

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