Prime Stables Volunteer of the Year award 2019

This year’s Horse & Hound Awards, run in partnership with NAF, promise to be as exciting as ever, with 11 awards being presented at our glamorous gala dinner hosted at Cheltenham racecourse on Wednesday 4 December.

Without an army of dedicated volunteers the equestrian world wouldn’t get very far. The Prime Stables Volunteer of the Year award is to recognise the sacrifice made by volunteers to enable countless others to enjoy their sport or profession week in, week out.

Prime Stables described the decision to support this award was “unanimous”, saying: “What could be a more worthy cause than sponsoring an award that acknowledges other people’s selfless acts?”

Previous winners of this award include:

  • 2018: Keith Watkins
  • 2017: Mary Tuckett
  • 2016: Jane Cepok has been volunteering for over 50 years including with the Strathearn branch of the Pony Club, Central Scotland and Blair Castle International Horse Trials, and Riding for the Disabled Association Auchterarder Group.

The H&H judging panel, which included at least one independent judge, chose the following shortlist of contenders from the nominees received. The public vote has now closed and the winner will be announced at the gala awards dinner at Cheltenham on Wednesday 4 December.

Prime Stables Volunteer of the Year 2019 shortlist

Kerry Dawson, 43

Resumé of volunteering role: “I joined the Endurance Horse and Pony Society (EHPS) in 1998 [which later merged with the British Endurance Riding Association to form Endurance GB]. I then became a part of the West Riding Endurance Group committee and finally joined the board of Endurance GB five years ago. I am the IT director, look after health and safety, communications, marketing and sponsorship as well as our para, young rider and junior teams.”
2019 highlight: “Relaunching the Endurance GB magazine. There are 23 local endurance groups, so it was important for me to get information about endurance out there to include more people.”
Top tip for volunteers: “Just do it. There’s no silly job in the world of volunteering — even if you can only spare one hour, that will still be essential to the success of whatever you are volunteering for.”

Charlotte Ditchburn, 23

Resumé of volunteering role: “I started volunteering for the Riding for the Disabled (RDA) nine years ago at the Lake District Calvert Trust Riding Centre. I continued volunteering at the Washington RDA in Newcastle while at university and then moved to Suffolk in 2018. Since then, I have been volunteering with the Woodbridge and District RDA.”
2019 highlight: “I started the RDA coaching pathway in January 2019 and I passed the assessment by May. I now teach up to seven children per session two days a week and my role involves teaching stable management, recruiting volunteers and looking after the horses. I’m also proud that we raised more than £3,500 at our inaugural open day at the Woodbridge and District RDA.”
Top tip for volunteers: “Volunteering is the best opportunity ever — the skills you can learn are brilliant.”

Caroline Eagle, 46

Resumé of volunteering role: “I worked closely to with Shire Horse Society and helped to get their first Heavy Horse Camp off the ground. There were a number of volunteers and I am honoured that I have been put forward for this award. I have been involved with Shire horses for six years — I encouraged my partner to put their Shire mare in foal and I now compete that foal —I haven’t looked back since. I put myself forward to be on the Shire Horse Society committee and we’ve had lots of fun doing demos. I found that lots of people new to Shire horse ownership were asking for help and advice on social media, so I thought there might be appetite for a heavy horse camp. At the inaugural camp this year we had 39 people. There were sessions for all levels and we already have 60 people booked on for next year.”
2019 highlight: “Camp was my highlight — I never stopped smiling throughout. It was great to help so many people.”
Top tip for volunteers: “Just do it! Speak to the right person who can point you in the best direction.”

Olivia Robertson, 23

Resumé of volunteering role: “I started volunteering when I helped fundraise for Hannah Francis before she passed away — I set up the website and sold wristbands from my home. I’m now a south-west youth ambassador for British Dressage (BD), which makes me a middle man between committee members and the children and parents involved with competing, and I help organise fun activities for children during competitions. I started competing in BD when I was 11 and it seemed like my fellow competitors were all so good and it was quite a scary thing — my role is to help alleviate those feelings in others.”
2019 highlight: “Having more new members join us and watching really talented fledgling riders go so well with such great team spirit.”
Top tip for volunteers: “Choose something you have a passion for that will make you really happy — it will never be a chore then.”