It always helps to see a warm and friendly face when heading to warm up for that all-important test or jump round. In this new series, the United States Evening Association (USEA) is partnering with Athletux, to feature those around us who help make these events happen, the volunteers. Without them horse shows and programs could not succeed and these volunteers go above and beyond to make sure every rider feels comfortable and confident. Do you know a volunteer who should be nominated as Volunteer of the Month? We are looking for our March feature. Email your tips to [email protected]
By nature, Dale Clabaugh is a doer, worker and supporter. She rode horses in her youth and grew up in Pony Club during the 1960s, but drifted away from riding for a short period during her high school and college years. It wasn't until she got married and moved to a farm in 1974 at the age of 21 that Clabaugh started riding again. She decided to advertise for boarders to offset the costs of the farm, and what began as two boarders turned into 40 by 1980. It was never meant to be a business, and she explained it was more of a hobby that turned into an avocation. She had a dressage trainer on site but had many different types of riders as boarders and it was through them that she was introduced to eventing. In 1991 she ran her first starter horse trials and then a few years later Menflet Horse Trials was born. Their recognized events were fixtures on the Area II calendar for many years and ran annually with divisions up to Advanced.
In fact, one of Clabaugh’s fondest memories in the sport comes from her days running Menflet Horse Trials. She recalls, “It was in the late ’90s and I needed a warm up steward for show jumping. Stephen Bradley came right up and said he was done riding his Advanced horse and could give his whole day to me. He was so gracious and it has always been a poignant moment that stands out for me.”
Even when Menflet Horse Trials stopped running in 2003, Clabaugh knew she wanted to continue to be involved in the sport. Carolyn Mackintosh purchased much of the farm’s cross country portables, judging booths, maintenance equipment and much more from Clabaugh for the Maryland Horse Trials, but this exchange also led to a blossoming friendship between the two that would eventually lead Clabaugh to where she is today. She truly believes the Maryland Horse Trials is, in a sense, the offspring of the Menflet Horse Trials and it has become her favorite venue to volunteer. She is so thankful for all the man-hours that went into helping the Menflet Horse Trials be successful, and wanted to take her turn to give back.
Clabaugh volunteering at the Maryland Horse Trials. Photo via MDHT.
When you ask Clabaugh what volunteer roles she has filled, she is quick to respond with a “literally everything,” but her favorite position is cross-country Steward. She explains, “cross country stewarding requires a lot of thought and I love to go out a couple of days prior to really plan what I need to do based on jumping efforts and number of volunteers. I place everybody from score runners to jump judges and even manage the hospitality to ensure everyone has access water and snacks or can take a bathroom break.” However, Clabaugh doesn’t stop there. She also enjoys announcing and during the Maryland Horse Trials’ Twilight Series, and will do double duty by acting as the show jump judge and announcing at the same time. She truly enjoys every second and estimates that from March to November she is busy almost every weekend volunteering.
Clabaugh getting into the spirit at the Loch Moy Christmas Derby in 2016. Photo courtesy of Clabaugh.
Not only does Clabaugh volunteer, but she also has done just about everything one possibly could in the eventing community from riding to organizing, and she has even dabbled in breeding. Clabaugh added, “I didn’t expect to have an upper level horse on my hands and actually bred Wundermaske as a horse for myself. I sent him to Sharon’s for some boob proofing and we quickly realized how much potential he had and “Patch” never left.” The amount of support Clabaugh has given to the eventing community in every form is incredible and she is always looking for more ways to get involved. She is currently the Treasurer of the Maryland Horse Council and is working to bring eventing to the entire state. This is just another way she gives back to the sport she loves.
Richard Weber, "Patch," Sharon White and Clabaugh at Pau in2014. Photo courtesy of Clabaugh.
It truly is easy to see and hear how passionate Clabaugh is about the sport of eventing when you speak with her. It is the comradery between competitors and the blurred line between being competitors and friends as well as the support for one another that keeps Clabaugh coming back. She sees time and time again that if a competitor doesn't have something essential it is their competitors that are the first to set up and offer up whatever they can to help.
Her passion for eventing is unparalleled and her continued dedication to giving back is a trait that sets her apart from the rest. The members of the Area II community truly value and appreciate Clabaugh ale and showed their support for all she does last year when they awarded her the Seema Sonnad award for her exceptional work. Clabaugh also receive a Top 10 volunteer award from Area II just a few weeks ago showing her continued dedication. If you were to ask someone about Clabaugh, you would hear words such as, “passionate”, “caring” or “generous”, to name just a few. It is truly special to see how much of an impact she has made on everyone in the in the Area II community and beyond. Expect to continue to see her at events lending a helping hand wherever is needed or even announcing your rides. When you do, make sure to give her a huge thank you because eventing wouldn’t be the same without her.
Photos courtesy of Bill Watson. Do you know someone who should be recognized as Volunteer of the Month? We are looking for our March feature. Email your tips to [email protected]