Volunteer Management

When you first start teaching, it’s easy to fixate on your rider and forget the rest of the world. However, often your volunteers need just as much feedback and praise – if not more! So here are some notes on basic volunteer management.

VOLUNTEER MANAGEMENT

The role of a TRI isn’t just teaching the rider, but includes managing the whole team of volunteers and horses!

Volunteer management includes:

  • Prepare volunteers for your lesson
    • Leader has horse ready and in the arena on time
    • Sidewalkers are up front ready to greet the rider on time
    • Meet with them before lesson to discuss the rider’s objectives, how to interact, how much support to give, etc.
  • Maintain standards
    • Goal: keep the lesson safe and promote independence
    • Leader’s focus is the horse, sidewalker’s focus is the rider
    • It can be hard to correct them, but if you don’t do it no one else will
  • Set them up for success
    • Don’t put a short person with a tall horse, you compromise the rider’s safety and tire their arms
    • Tell them if they need to switch sides just ask!
    • If someone has a hard time running a long time, don’t put them with a rider who trots a lot
    • Try to keep the same people with the same riders – improves rider success
  • Watch your leaders
    • First responsibility is the horse
    • Position while moving – by head, not dragging horse or falling behind
    • Position while halted – in front of the horse just off to the side, to act as a barrier
    • How holding lead rope – not wrapped around hand
    • Both hands on lead rope – so if the horse pulls it out of their hand, the other one’s still holding on
    • Control of horse – if needs helpful hints
  • Watch your sidewalkers
    • First responsibility is the rider
    • Position – Stay between shoulder and flank, so support kid best and don’t step on heels (tell them “keep your shoulder by their leg”)
    • Use them! Involve them by delegating responsibilities
    • If too quiet – instruct them when to give verbal assistance, involve them in the games
    • If too much correcting, both at the same time – designate 1 sidewalker to be the helper, or different jobs to each (1 to watch the rider’s hands and the other to ask them to focus)
  • Give clear, direct instructions
    • Give them time to prepare
      • Ex) plenty of time before the turn
    • Tell them specifically how to support the rider
      • Ex) leader loose lead, sidewalker spot, count to 3 before assisting
      • Demonstrate how you want them to give assistance
      • They are the extension of you, so tell them exactly what you want
    • Give them appropriate feedback
      • Remember to praise them! It’s easy to get so focused on your rider you forget, but often they need as many how’s and why’s as the students.
      • Correct in a positive manner, always explain why
      • Address safety issues when they occur, during the lesson
      • Address other issues when it’s most appropriate
    • Provide corrections to the whole group
      • This is a great way to remind volunteers what they need to be doing without singling out one volunteer. All volunteers can benefit from reminders. If that doesn’t work, then address with the volunteer who needs the correction. If it is not urgent, wait until you can speak with the volunteer privately. (This suggestion from Susan Lutz)
    • Give continued recognition and appreciation
      • Continuing education to volunteers
    • After the lesson get their feedback
      • they may notice things you didn’t
      • collaborate about how to interact better with the rider next time

Any important volunteer management tips you’d like to share? Please leave a comment!

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Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgement!

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5 thoughts on “Volunteer Management

  1. Cindy – this is a terrific post. Last week we had 40 minutes to spare between sessions so I put two of our less experienced side walkers on to two horses and we practised mounting and dismounting as though they were disabled. it was very helpful and they appreciated the chance to feel what it is like to be on a horse and disabled.
    Great tips for volunteers – I’m going to run through them this week with my volunteers. Thank you!

    • I’m glad you like it! That’s a great idea to practice mounting and dismounting. I like it when volunteers get to feel what it’s like to be a rider, with thigh holds, ankle holds, the horse going crooked or straight, standing square or not, etc. Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. Thanks for this post on a very important topic! I also encourage instructors to get to know your volunteers…review their registration forms, know their names and history with the center, and take the time to have conversations with them outside of the lesson. You may learn that they have a unique skill or interest that could serve your center in an unexpected way!

  3. Great stuff Cindy. My additional comment on correcting volunteers is:
    o Providing corrections globally (to the whole group) is a great way to remind volunteers what they need to be doing without singling out one volunteer. All volunteers can benefit from reminders. If that doesn’t work, then address with the volunteer who needs the correction. If it is not urgent, wait until you can speak with the volunteer privately.

    • Thanks so much for your comment, that’s a great suggestion. I’m going to add it into the post so future readers don’t miss it in the comments section!

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