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Thu, 2017-01-05 09:43

Catherine Baker: USEA's Volunteer of the Month Presented by Athletux

Catherine Baker at Former USEA CEO Jo Whitehouse. StockImageServices.com Photo.

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 February feature. Email your tips to [email protected]

It is hard to put into words what Catherine Texter Baker means to Area V. She has filled about every role a volunteer could and keeps coming back for more. From the start, she had always volunteered in some form or another. She helped out in any way she could and served as a leader and camp staff for both Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts for her children. Volunteering is a way of life for her everyone in her family.  

Catherine didn’t start riding until late high school. She got her foundation in the hunter and jumper rings and then switched to eventing from there. When her daughter, Elizabeth, started riding volunteering came with the territory. Elizabeth is older now, having graduated college, but the two fondly remember the days at Holly Hill when she was younger. “I required her to volunteer at Holly Hill for a whole weekend before I allowed her to compete,” joked Catherine. “These were the days before the USEF instituted the golf cart driver’s license rule, so we have pictures of 10-year-old Elizabeth, barley able to see over the steering wheel, driving around doing everything and anything they needed help with.”

Elizabeth added, “She wanted me to understand and appreciate how much work goes into a competition. Her philosophy was that without volunteers I would not be able to compete. I am forever grateful for that lesson and, as I have gotten older, I realize exactly how right she was.”

Eventually, the mother daughter duo began competing side by side, but Catherine still was not the typical horse show mom. Catherine was either competing or volunteering or both, and she sometimes would spend more time out helping than in the barns. She filled any position that the show needed from scribing to cross-country jump judging to timing. Her favorite job is to serve as the cross-country starter. It is a unique role but she believes that if, “you get to know them more than just say 10 seconds, then you can kind of laugh with them. I figure if I can get them to laugh in the start box then I at least know they have oxygen going to the first fence.” To this day people come ask Catherine if she can start them even when she isn’t working the box. She knows every Area V horse’s barn name, nervous quirks, and their riders because at some point or another, she has sent them out of the start box. “Not many can say that they have had their mom send them out of the start box to have the best cross-country ride of their life,” Elizabeth explained. “She truly wants everyone to enjoy it and have fun!”

Photo Courtesy of Catherine Baker. 

When asked Catherine what her favorite part of the sport is Catherine is quick to say, “Eventing has a different community of people than other equestrian sports. Eventers event with their hearts and it is such a camaraderie.” In her eyes eventing is “getting to know the people in the barn who you’re stabled with but didn’t know 10 minutes ago.” You can truly hear the passion and love in her voice when she tries to put into words what the sport means to her. 

If someone needs help, Catherine is there to lend a hand. “Once, an Organizer called me up because her first grandbaby was due within days of the event. She asked if I could be the co-organizer to ensure success if she had to run off. Of course I said yes and went out and decorated and flagged and whatever else they needed me to do,” recalled Catherine. This truly defines her character. She is selfless and kind, always willing to put others before herself and she enjoys doing it. Events survive because of people like Catherine.

Her dedication to helping the sport extends beyond just volunteering at shows. She has served as Area V Chair, Young Rider Coordinator, and Adult Rider Coordinator at some point. She recently stepped down as Young Rider Coordinator but not after leaving a lasting impression on all coaches, riders and parents alike. In 2016, one of her young rider’s coaches came to the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC) to cheer on the Area V team, and nothing made Catherine happier than when she saw them and one of the parents volunteering in their free time. It is moments like these that make it all worth it for her.

Catherine Baker hard at work. Photo courtesy of Baker. 

Area V values Catherine so highly that they created a new position just for her once she handed the Young Rider job over. Catherine now serves as the Eventing Advocate, whose goal is to bring more people into the sport of eventing. Catherine believes eventing is the “unknown of equestrian sports” but strongly believes that once people come out they will be hooked.

Catherine didn’t stop there. She is a licensed FEI Steward and travels the country to different venues to steward.  In 2016, you may have spotted Catherine at the Colorado Horse Park and the Virginia Horse Trials. She also volunteered at the 2016 American Eventing Championships acting as a steward to help riders and guide them on the path to success. “As a steward you’re not judging or critiquing them, rather helping them be successful by ensuring they have all the proper equipment and won’t be eliminated,” explained Catherine.

All her volunteer and stewarding work helps her in her day-to-day activities as a coach and rider. In 2016, Catherine decided to finally drop her amateur status and turn professional. This has allowed her to pick up a dedicated list of clients and students and motivated her to take part in the USEA Instructors’ Certification Program (ICP), another way to be assist and drive the sport. Catherine was quick to add that even as a professional she still aims to volunteer and give back just as much as she did prior to help the sport that has given so much to her.  

Catherine Baker being recognized with a USEA Governor's Cup for her dedication to eventing with former USEA President Kevin Baumgardner. Josh Walker Photo. 

Her passion for eventing is unparalleled and her continued dedication to giving back is something every event rider should strive to have. If you were to ask someone about Catherine, you would no doubt only hear wonderful things. It is truly special to see how much of an impact Catherine has made on everyone in the eventing community. Elizabeth concluded by saying, “I have been so blessed that she not only understands my passion for the horses but that I get to share it with her. She truly is an amazing person.” It is hard to find a more dedicated volunteer who will continuously go out of their way to help than Catherine. Expect to continue to see her at events, and if you’re lucky she may send you out of the start box. When you see her, give her a huge thank you because the eventing community would not be the same without her.

Do you know someone who should be recognized as Volunteer of the Month? We are looking for our February feature. Email your tips to [email protected]  

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