Tuesday, June 15, 2004

2004 Old Dominion: A Volunteer's Experience - Amanda Perez

Amanda Perez, aka Walkergirl

I cannot imagine putting on a ride like the OD. The managers have their hands full, and I hope they didn't have to go to wrk today!

It is a credit to the management that another poster said 'There wer plenty of volunteers'. At the awards ceremony, they said ony 12 volunteers had commited ahead of time, though they picked up more as people pulled. The management wisely put their efforts into making things go smoothly for the riders. That came at the expense of making things go smoothly for the vets, however. The ended up with more vets, and communications problems meant that Art King, the head vet, often did not know where his vets were. There was also some confusion at some of the vet checks, but this was not too obvious to the riders.

I have volunteered to be a vet scribe and was assigned to work with Joy Watkins. However she ended up getting shang-haied into doing treatments at the base camp (the 4-H center, a wonderful facility), and nobody, including Art King, the head vet (who drive down from Canada) knew where she was. So I ended up playing find-the-vet most of the weekend. Also, better volunteer info could have been provided. My packet did not include a schdule of events, or a map. I was able to get a rider map, which had the trail routes marked, but something similar with the road routes between the vet checks would have made my life easier, as some of the raod signs were easy to miss. In hind-sight, once I lost track of my vet I should have headed back to the office and said 'put me to work'.

I HIGHLY recommend any newbie starting out in the sport volunteer at a ride first, especially if you are, like me, not an experienced camper. I took my one-horse Brenderup trailer and my dog, Tarski Monster. For some dumb reason I actually beleived the weather forcase (raid Friday, clear the rest of the weekend) and packed lots and lots of shorts and short-sleeved shirts. Due to the rain I skipped the tent and slept in my trailer (yes, that was me tucked in beside the shelter where the dinners were served). Being near the bathrooms (REAL ones, not port-potties) was good, but being that close to the finish line did not make for easy sleeping. I think the first 100 milers began rolling in around 3 am.

It was cold booth nights, and I just about froze. I drove to the near by shopping centers to try to find a sweatshirt. Ha! Could only find one light weight long-sleeved shirt. Bought more blankets, and a mattress cover so my borrowed inflatable mattress would'ne get totally filthy with mud. I was not the only one surpirsed by the weather. Many people had no rain-sheets or coolers for their horses. Even horses used to full-time turn out got shileld standign al night in the cold rain, being unable to move around and wram up. I was told this was a factor accounting for the many tie-ups. I saw 5 pulls at the very first vet-check: three due to bad gut sounds and increased pulse int he CRI, one lameness and an injury. The injury pccured when a horse fell in the river (all the milk had washed away during th night). Both horse and rider went completely under, and she horse came up with a prety badly scraped knee. Joy, the vet I was working with, was the designated treatment vet, so I helpd her check th ehorse over. He was shivering and the rider habd no blanket,. Firtunately I had left my tack trunk in my truck, so I lent her my feleece cooler.

I saw LOTS of people putting their jackets and shirts over haunches: lesson learned: always take a rump-rug and have a cooler or blanket in the crew bag! Also, several people had nop buckets to water their horses while waiting for the ambulance wagaon. Joy Watkins kindly loned her stainless steel vet's bucket for people to use and, fortunately, got it back. although crews coudl not drive in to this stop due to muddy raod conditions, management trucked in gear for people, so a bucket coukld have been sent in. Another lesson learned.

The next time I volunteer, I will get involved earlier. I plan to offer to help out with the volunteer coordination and putting together the volunteer info packets. The management could make much better use fo their website and email to distribute info to vets, riders and volunteers BEFORE the event. Had I known where the vet-checks were ahead of time I could have visted them before hand or printed out maps from pa-quest. I also will volunteer myself and my trailer as an abulance. They had only two (I think) trailers doing abulance duty. I also have some friends who are into ham-radio and will ask them about soliciting ham radio clubs for volunteers: more radio operators would have made the head vets' life MUCH easier.

I heard someone say that there were a record number of treatments, don't know if it was true or not. One horse with colic was shipped to Morven Park equine hospital but was fine when it got there and did not need surgery. From what I heard ans saw, it seems the most common complaint was tie-ups. A surprisig number of horses pulled early in the ride, most likely from going too fast, which the cool temperatures made tempting.

All in all it was a good experience, though a wee bit disorganized. Riders in the area really should come out and support this ride: volunteer!!!! I hope I volunteer at the next OD ride, if my schedule permits. And next time I'll have more warm clothing!!!

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