You don’t need to have your own horse to be involved in equestrianism — volunteering is a great way to get your horsey fix without having to fork out. You get to make a positive difference, too, and that’s pretty awesome.
Even if you do have your own horse, it’s well worth considering volunteering to help make the horsey world a better place for everyone. Here are a few ways you can offer your services, with information on how charities are navigating volunteering during the coronavirus pandemic…
In the 40 years it’s been operating, this charity has helped thousands of people with disabilities develop their confidence, mobility and enjoyment through riding and interaction with horses. RDA offers activities for all age groups, and with more than 500 groups throughout the UK, there’s sure to be one local to you. If it’s hands-on horse time you’re after, RDA are reliant on voluntary help for grooming and tacking up, leading and side-walking, mucking out and so on – just an hour or two of your time each week can make a huge difference.
The current situation during the coronavirus pandemic: Caroline Ward, head of communications and insight at the RDA says: “Although our groups are closed, there is still a need for new volunteers to come forward — particularly as groups start planning for reopening. We know our groups are concerned about volunteer numbers, as many are in vulnerable categories and may not be able to come back to the group immediately.
“The RDA has prepared a full range of guidelines and resources to support groups planning to reopen in the coming weeks and months, which includes considerations for volunteer safety, social distancing and hygiene. As always, volunteer training is a priority, so new recruits will be well-supported.”
“The best way to start is by contacting your local group directly. You can find this on our website at www.rda.org.uk/rda-groups Because of the current situation, some groups may not be able to respond immediately, but we are grateful to anyone who feels they can give RDA their time.”
Get involved by visiting their website www.rda.org.uk
2. Horse sanctuaries
From Redwings to the Racehorse Rescue Centre, there hundreds of independent equine welfare charities and rescue centres throughout the UK. Many of these, if not all, are reliant on donations and voluntary help – why not contact your own local horse sanctuary to find out how you can make a difference?
The current situation during the coronavirus pandemic: Graham Oldfield, co-founder of The Racehorse Sanctuary says: “Anyone wanting to volunteer with our charity would be made very welcome and are much needed. However, under the current restrictions in order to safeguard our staff and the general public only essential and needed personnel are allowed entry to the yard and facilities at the centre, hence unfortunately any voluntary work has to be carried out from afar.
“Due to almost overnight ceasing of over 70% of our annual fundraising events it is in this area that we are desperately in need of help, any form of fund raising from home will help toward our monthly/annual running costs of simply feeding and caring for the horses, this can be done in any shape or form as every little bit helps through these troubled times.
“With regards to plans for if and when the restrictions are gradually eased, I’m afraid that at this stage it cannot be predicted until we know what form this will take. I can safely say that throughout the gradual return to normality we will be taking advantage of any steps we are allowed to take at that time in order to ease the financial pressure and secure the future of this charity and all of the horses who depend on its existence.”
Nicola Knight, head of communications and campaigns at Redwings Horse Sanctuary says: “During the pandemic we understand it’s incredibly difficult for everyone. But the charity sector is currently facing huge challenges so if you are interested in helping us it’s a great time to be creative about how you can do that!
“Firstly, you could sort through your unwanted horse and rider wear, sell it online and donate some/all of the proceeds to us, or put it somewhere safe ready to post, or bring to us when our centres can reopen. We operate a successful eBay shop where we sell preloved goods, but our volunteers are not able to come to the office to help us sort through donated goods and donated tack at the moment, so if people do this at home they are effectively doing a volunteering role from the safety of their own home.
“You can also get involved in our fundraising events online, such as the recent online show or our Mane Event fundraiser, where you donate the cost of your usual haircut and we match your lockdown locks with your horsey hair twin! See our Facebook page or find out more here https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/the-mane-event.
“There are lots more creative ways to support us through this time here https://www.redwings.org.uk.
“Unfortunately we can’t currently take volunteers in the usual way at Redwings. Our horse care teams are primarily made up of employed staff, who are all operating on reduced duties and projects, such as fencing and painting, have been put on hold so we can prioritise the care and welfare of our horses. Our teams are already restricted numbers-wise to help with social distancing and minimise risk so we can’t reopen volunteering until we reach a more normal operating pattern again.
“However, anyone who is interested in volunteering for us can take a look at https://www.redwings.org.uk/work-for-us/volunteering for more information. Any posts we have available after lockdown will be advertised here too. We are incredibly grateful to all our wonderful volunteers and look forward to welcoming them back (along with anyone new!) as soon as we can all get back to something approaching normality.”
There are always volunteer roles at local and international shows, whether that’s fence judging, stewarding, running the car parks or helping in the tea tent. Contact your local riding club and offer your services – they’re sure to be grateful. Some offer money off riding lessons in return for help. Or you can sign up for the British Riding Club Volunteers’ Club and get the chance to work at one of their six national championships, at some of the biggest equestrian events in the UK, including Olympia and Royal Windsor Horse Show. Visit the British Horse Society website at www.bhs.org.uk to learn more.
4. Sponsored rides
The British Horse Society doesn’t just provide standards for horsemanship and riding tuition, it also campaigns for riders’ rights and raises awareness of diseases such as strangles. One of its fantastic money-raising schemes is its ‘Challenge Rides’ abroad. Ever fancied riding across the Andes from Chile to Argentina, or through Peru on the Inca Ride Trail? These are just two of the terrifying but exhilarating trails available, although they’re not for the faint-hearted, and cost approximately £5,000 per person (attendees are encouraged to fund-raise to cover these costs). Talk about the ride of your life…
5. World Horse Welfare
A charity that aims to improve the lives of horses by increasing respect and understanding of equines through education and hands-on care, World Horse Welfare does invaluable work preventing suffering in the UK and abroad, and is always looking for volunteers. There are volunteering opportunities throughout the UK – and sometimes even overseas. The roles available vary from campaigning and fundraising, to helping out at WHW organised events, to working with equines in their various rescue centres.
The current situation during the coronavirus pandemic: At World Horse Welfare’s Hall Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Norfolk, there are currently no volunteers during the current restrictions, a sad decision made to protect everyone’s health and keep numbers on site at the bare minimum. Normally there would be lots, helping out around the farm and in the visitor centre — and they are essential to our normal day-to-day running.
Sue Hodgkins, Hall Farm Manager, said: “We are missing our volunteers dreadfully, they are such a vital part of the team, not just for the work they do, but the huge boost to morale they give as well. They bring a different perspective to the work, adding variety to the teams and their interest in our work is a real boon. When a volunteer comes in once a week and can see the difference in one of the ponies, it’s fantastic. We can’t wait to be in a position to start welcoming our regular volunteers back, and we are always looking for new ones to help on the yard with mucking out, grooming, filling haynets and ragworting. Once the visitor centre reopens we will be needing volunteers there too.
“During these strange times volunteers can still support us remotely by spreading the word about rehoming, keeping their eyes and ears open for welfare cases as we start moving around again, letting us know about interesting horsey stories for our Facebook pages, or even doing a bit of fundraising.”
Anyone interested in helping out at Hall Farm or one of the other World Horse Welfare Rescue and Rehoming Centres around the country can find out more by visiting https://www.worldhorsewelfare.org/about-us/our-people/volunteer-with-us or by phoning 01953 497 233
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade to access our H&H Plus online service which brings you breaking news as it happens as well as other benefits.