This is not, I hope, a holier than thou diatribe, the good old days versus now. But rather, I think, a reflection of times and circumstances.
In 1961, when I discovered eventing, there weren`t many events. Groton House, GMHA, maybe a couple of others. There were few USCTA members. I was the 63rd person to join in 1962, and I had that number for 40 years, until they changed the system. So we were either volunteer workers or we didn`t event. It wasn`t a case of, “If you build it, they will come.” It was, rather, “If I build it, I will come.” So that`s what we did. We built our sport from nearly nothing. We were volunteers by necessity, perhaps more than out of the goodness of our hearts!
Then, gradually, eventing got more prosperous. The USEA grew from a few hundred members to a few thousand, and, slowly to 13,000. We were a small big business. Our events still needed volunteers, but not for survival, so very gradually, that volunteer ethic that was built into early eventing through sheer necessity began to wane. It wasn`t anybody`s “fault.” Nobody suddenly said,” hey, don`t bother to help your local organizers”, but rather the perception of extreme need wasn`t so apparent.
So what happened? Prices started to rise. Just a month ago, General Burton said, “We`re pricing ourselves out of the market.” If organizers have to pay non volunteers, then that money has to come from somewhere, and entry fees go up.
So maybe it`s time to reinvent the idea that we all need to go back to a different volunteer ethic. And that means upper level riders, lower level riders, parents horse owners, even those who think of themselves, perhaps as “customers” If we can`t change this, Gen Burton`s prediction is far more likely to happen, probably first to the little events, where we all start out.
Can we change from customers to providers? We did it once, why not again?