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CLIENT NEWS: Volunteers provided the horse-power to Equidays 2016

Volunteers provided the horse-power to Equidays 2016

An army of more than 100 volunteers worked at Equidays this year, providing essential support to New Zealand's premier equine event.

"Even if you're not a horsey person, you get into it," said volunteer team leader, Stacey Tancred, who has volunteered at Equidays for three years.

Back home in New Plymouth Tancred works as a property manager, and is a mother and grandmother. But she wouldn't miss coming to Equidays. "It's great fun – you met new people and you learn a lot about horses too."

Now in its sixth year, Equidays 2016 was held at the Mystery Creek Event Centre near Hamilton from October 14 to 16. More than 23,000 people attended the three-day event and volunteers were needed to set up, pack up and ensure things ran smoothly.

Tancred has had a passion for horses most of her life, something she inherited from her late father Ivan Woodward. "Dad introduced me to horses," said Tancred. "He used to do farm work with Clydesdales many moons ago, and at age seven or eight he brought me a pony and taught me to ride."

Last year Tancred's parents, Ivan and Joan Woodward, joined her on the volunteering team at Equidays. Tancred said her father, then 71, particularly enjoyed the experience.

After working during the day, they attended a jousting competition on the final evening of Equidays. Each jouster had to give one red rose to a member of the audience to show who they would ride for. One of them gave her rose to Tancred's father. "Dad was so chuffed. He kept it and it was very special to him," said Tancred.

When Ivan Woodward passed away in May this year, he was buried with that rose. "Being part of Equidays meant so much to Dad," said Tancred.

This year was bittersweet for Tancred, without her Dad volunteering alongside her, but she was kept busy and enjoyed the experience. "I love every part of Equidays, especially the great group of friends you make," said Tancred. "We get to work with a great team of people and then enjoy each other's company at the end of the day."

Tancred has enjoyed working in a variety of roles at Equidays, from safety to setting up the arena for show jumping competitions.

Fieldays volunteer coordinator Deb Kay manages the volunteers for Equidays. She said the organisation is very grateful for the work and dedication of the volunteers, who ensured Equidays was successful.

Kay said most helpers are locals but some come from afar afield as Queenstown, Christchurch, Wellington and Northland.

Volunteers were recruited through the Equidays Facebook page, and Kay said it was relatively easy to fill the ranks. "They love to be part of it, and for those who love horses, it's exciting to work alongside some very famous and talented people in the equine world."

The majority of volunteers were women, and ranged in age from teenagers to people in their mid-70s.

Volunteers work in the arenas and back-of-house, said Kay. "In the arenas the volunteers were there to assist the performing clinicians with jumps or with anything they need. All of the people in the arena have a passion for horses," said Kay.

Those working in back-of-house assisted with set up, in the stables and checking on horses, with safety and other behind-the-scenes jobs. Many of them are a core group of Fieldays volunteers, who assist with that event also, said Kay.

Tancred said this volunteering opportunity was well worth it. Not only were the volunteers treated to sponsored goods, but also received free tickets, camping and meals.

"I'm definitely coming back next year with my partner and my two boys," said Tancred.