Have you ever wondered what exactly an Equestrian Canada (EC) President does? What are their roles and responsibilities? How do they operate? What is involved in their day-to-day life? Is it a paid or volunteer position? How much time do they invest in EC?

EC President, Peggy Hambly answered all of these questions and more in a candid interview. Keep reading to get to know Peggy – including her undeniable passion for the equestrian community and her fantastic sense of humour!

EC: Can you tell us about your background in the equestrian community and within EC?

PH: I don’t remember my first horse – but his name was Peanuts. I was so young, I couldn’t sit up yet. I grew up on a cattle ranch, so I’ve always been around horses.

I used to do barrel racing and team roping and all the things you do on a ranch. I knew nothing about eventing until 1970 when I got married and moved east. Because my husband knew I was missing my horses, he took me to the Essex Three-Day Event in New Jersey, and I thought, ‘I want to do this.’ When we moved back to Canada in 1981, we went to a three-day event at Checkmate, and then the next event I went to was the Blenheim Horse Trials in England. So that’s how I got into eventing.

I had also taken my son, Jay, to that Checkmate event to see our friend’s daughter compete. Jay saw her do one steeplechase jump, then looked at me and said, ‘This is what I want to do.’ And he hadn’t even seen the cross-country yet. So he watched the cross-country and then never looked back, that was what he wanted to do. Eventing became our life.

Jay eventually started building cross-country courses, and that’s how he started making his livelihood, so he had less time for riding and competing. This created a big gap for me. I went to a Technical Delegate (TD) clinic and here I am today, still at it and loving every minute.

As a TD you start to meet a lot of people, and that’s how I got involved with the Ontario Horse Trials Association, and then the EC Eventing Committee. I moved on from that to the EC Board of Directors, and then from there to EC President. And I’m very passionate about it. It’s a huge part of my life. It’s not for everybody. Governance isn’t exciting, but it’s important.

EC: What made you want to take on the role of EC President?

PH: I thought hard about it for 24 whole hours straight. And I really felt I could bring something important to the table and help to start to bring everyone together during these next four months of the President term. I care; I want this federation to be successful. And if we can just have a moment to breathe during these next four months, from all angles, we can work together to resolve challenges. I felt I could give us this time.

While I may appear to be ‘old guard’ or a dinosaur, I am not afraid of change. I never have been. I’m not afraid of trying something new. I love trying new things. You just have to open your mind and give it a chance. I’m not entrenched in old ways. I am interested in fairness. That’s the training you get to be an official – fair play. Let’s have a field of fair play everywhere. I’m all for that.

EC: What are your roles and responsibilities as EC President?

PH: The EC Board, period. My job is to manage the Board, not operations. I am responsible to oversee, to make sure – from 30,000 feet as Tony Eames likes to say – that progress is happening. My job isn’t to get involved in the thick of it. I sometimes find I have to remind myself of that, and then pull back and go back to a higher level. That’s my job – that’s the role, to stay high level and to manage the board. And to do that, you listen to your board, and ensure they make decisions together. I don’t make the decisions. A good leader draws it out of everyone to make collaborative decisions, and then supports those decisions. That’s my job!

My job is also to listen and to hear. A few years ago, we had the President of the British Equestrian Federation at the EC Convention, and one thing he said still rings in my ear. He made it very clear that it should be volunteer to volunteer and paid staff to paid staff. And that actually works very well. You meet, you discuss, and you move forward.

Another critical job as President is to go out to our constituents to listen, to answer questions – and to make sure I’m well informed so I can give the correct answer. Everywhere I go, I am asked questions. We are such a complex federation, that it can be challenging to really grasp the scope of it. I am also constantly told how happy people are that I am there. I walk in the same shoes, so to speak.

EC: What does your day-to-day schedule look like as President?

PH: Generally in the morning, it’s fairly quiet, so my life is my life, and I can accomplish my own personal responsibilities. But, occasionally, I get a call or an email early in the morning and I spring into action.

In general, there are a lot of phone calls, and a lot of emails. When something comes in, you stop whatever you are doing and you react – and I do. I don’t have set business hours as President, because my life allows me to operate that way. I just take a time-out from life when I need to and get done what I have to do as President. Because I can, I put EC business ahead of my own. But you have to be prepared to do that, because there’s a lot of it – generally several hours a day. When it’s haying time though; I’ll be thinking, ‘Please, somebody call me!’

It is a volunteer position. I asked for my salary to be doubled – so they added on a few more zeros to my zero. It’s surprising how many people think the President (and Board) are paid.

EC: What are some of the EC mandates that you are working toward?

PH: We are a service organization with many areas to serve. Our immediate priorities are to provide timely service in all areas where we need to be providing service. With all the governance changes, that is proving to be a challenging task, but we are getting closer every day, and I feel better about it every day.

EC: How do you interact with the equestrian community as President?

PH: I made it very, very clear that anybody can call or email and contact me. And, many people have. But a few have slipped through the cracks. I try not to let that happen, but, for example, three emails came to my mind last night that I have to find and follow up on. I have a huge responsibility in that and I take it seriously.

Anyone can contact me. However, it must be with respect, because there’s only one reason for anyone to sit in this chair: because you care. I do it because I care. That’s why I’m here. If people intend to rant and shout at me, the conversation is over. But they can come back any time when they can leave the emotion at home. We have things to do. We have challenges to solve. We can only do that if we do it together. I’m very interested in relationship building and building a community that will work together to solve problems.

I’m open. Call me. Email me. Walk up to me at a horse show – politely, and I’ll try my best to answer questions.

Peggy Hambly