Our Featured Volunteer of the Month is Tamzen Black
For the past two years, Tamzen has been the President of our Board of Directors. This is just one of the many volunteer hats Tamzen has worn over the years at lancers. Her dedication to the organization is second to none, and we are so grateful to have someone who cares as much as she does volunteer so much of her time, energy and skills with us. Lancers has truly built itself on the backs of volunteers like Tamzen.
Tamzen has been riding at Lancers since 1997. She rode as a child and had a friend who rode at Lancers and Tamzen was always envious of her. Tamzen rode her friend’s pony at a barn in Dartmouth and it was there that Tamzen got the “horse bug”. When Tamzen’s family moved away, there weren’t any stables nearby so she stopped riding at the age of 13. As an adult, Tamzen moved back to Halifax and one day, in the midst of a “40-year-old crisis”, she was looking for something new to do so she dropped into Lancers and found they had adult lessons. In 1996 she signed up and started in the adult beginner course in the spring of 1997. Lancers’ beloved Barb Mabe was also in the course and Palha Halpern was their instructor. Tamzen has now been an adult rider at Lancers for 21 years and she rides twice a week with one of those still with Barb!
When Tamzen had three daughters, they too caught the horse bug and began riding at Lancers, two from the ages of 8-18 and one from 8-16. It was a household with four Lancers. This led the family to purchase a horse in 2001, named Patrick. Her children were 7, 9, and 11, and Patrick was a wonderful family horse because the girls would compete on him and would teach Tamzen while keeping her safe. Patrick lived at Lancers for 13 years and went to his final greener pastures in 2014. Those years saw Tamzen as a very busy parent volunteer and she has done every job that there is here. She would help co-ordinate the Rider Level program and was on the Board in the early 2000s. She co-chaired the capital campaign which led to the addition of the arena and the locker room and bathrooms in 2003. (It is fitting that in the last two years, we have had the bathrooms updated and refloored as well as the office, the arena footing updated and improved, and an adult locker room built). During those years, Tamzen was a barn mom and did whatever needed to be done to help out such as fundraising and organising the Christmas party.
Tamzen has been back on the Board for the past four years and spent the last two as President. Part of this time has been working through the strategic planning process which has gone extremely well and has given us a new foundation as an organisation. Tamzen explained, “financially, we have become more secure and we are very grateful. Our enrollment has never been so high and our community has never been so strong”. Of the experience, she explained, “I have enjoyed my role as chairperson because we had such a committed group of people with the same objectives and opinions of who we can be. We know that we want to be a stronger part of the Halifax community, be doing more for the therapeutic community, and ensure that our riders get the best education in both horsemanship and life. I am so happy that we are thriving and our volunteers and staff are so committed to our core values.” When Tamzen isn’t hard at work on Board matters, you can still find her volunteering for various things around the barn including August clean up. There is not a corner of the barn that she has not cleaned before!
It is evident that Tamzen has given so much of her time, effort, and heart and soul to Lancers for over twenty years because she deeply believes in Lancers and what it provides to its riders. The part she enjoys most about Lancers is that the organisation was started by Dick Zwicker for children to have a place to ride in the city and we have always been true to that founding inspiration. Tamzen added, “over the years, I have witnessed shy children bloom with the confidence they gain from riding horses and from being able to mentor other children and riders and then become leaders in their own right. When you’re a child and you grow up here, you gain a lot of confidence by being able to work with a big animal that will reward your hard work. First and foremost, we are an organisation for children and as an adult rider, I feel that this is a huge privilege to access this passion because Lancers is in downtown Halifax”. She also added that as a volunteer here, parents have the chance to share their children’s interests or other riders and it brings you closer.
It isn’t just junior riders who experience the benefits of horses and the welcoming Lancer community and Tamzen attributes this in large part to other volunteers. “As a parent and a rider, I have made life-long friendships because we all work together to make this place a better riding school for our children and for future generations of children. We are so appreciative of volunteers who are both parents and adult riders as they allow us to achieve our goals”, she added. Tamzen has seen the growth of a shared identity of “being a Lancer” and the spirit that naturally occurs is that young people help other young people organically. As Lancers, if juniors see someone that needs help, they do it automatically because that is how they learned. Tamzen concluded, “I like that our mission has been and still is, centred upon having children learn to be empathetic, caring, and skilled young adults who then take those skills with them throughout their lives. It is all for the love of the horse that they are here and they learn how to be better people because of it”.
When asked how volunteering at Lancers compares to other volunteers opportunities in her life, Tamzen explained, “It is different because I am passionate about this place and it means so much more to me than other volunteering I’ve done. It is a place where everyone’s skills and efforts are appreciated and make a contribution to the community. We need everything and everyone in this place and everyone has something meaningful to give”. Of course, the horses give so much to us as well. Tamzen’s favourite Lancer school horse was Pumba who, Tamzen said, “saved her from quitting”, and of course, Patrick was a favourite. Her current favourite is Rockette.
Tamzen’s favourite memory of Lancers in fact is of the daughters’ smiles that beamed across their faces in the Musical Ride. At one point, she had all three girls in the Musical Ride at the same time which must be a Lancer record. Riding is a very independent sport but in the Musical Ride, Tamzen explained, they all get to work as a team. Going to the Atlantic Fall Fair with the horses was always a highlight even if a lot of work!
When not riding or volunteering at Lancers, Tamzen enjoys going on trail rides around the world (Spain, Ireland, England, Alberta already top the list) and taking annual walking tours in the UK! And for her future, she sees herself at Lancers…still riding…till she is 100. Of Lancers, Tamzen concluded, “I am grateful to have had this in my life. It has given me more joy than I ever would have thought”.