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 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 next feature. Email your tips to [email protected].
This month’s volunteer of the month, Lefreda Williams, is more than just a volunteer. She is not only a pillar of the eventing community in Southern Pines, North Carolina and beyond, but she has also been volunteering and competing in the sport longer than most. It is for these reasons and more that Williams is more than deserving of this month’s nomination. She has done just about everything one can in the sport, from volunteering to competing to organizing, and she still is a dedicated member of the community today.
Williams’ days in eventing date back over 50 years ago. She began eventing and never looked back, adding in fox hunting as part of her winter routine as well. She took up organizing in 1970 and was a member of the United States Combined Training Association (now USEA) Board of Governors for 13 years. Many may have stopped there, but not Williams. When she moved to the Southern Pines area, Williams, along with a group of dedicated and passionate individuals, founded the Carolina Horse Park Foundation, with Williams serving as the founding director. The Foundation oversees all events and shows at the Carolina Horse Park, one of the premier equestrian facilities on the east coast. She continues to serve on the board today and she did all this while continuing to compete in the sport she is so passionate about.
It is true, Williams truly is a driving force behind the Carolina Horse Park. Eventing great Denny Emerson credits Williams with helping the Horse Park become what it is today and he would know – he was one of the three individuals who first laid eyes on the 180 acres of land that would become what we now know as the Carolina Horse Park.
Icons of the sport being honored at the competitors' part at the 2015 Carolina International. From left to right: David O’Connor, Lefreda Williams, Michael Plumb, Phillip Dutton, James Wofford, and Bobby Costello. Leslie Threlkeld Photo courtesy of Lefreda Williams.
Once the Carolina Horse Park was founded, Williams took over organizing roles at their many events throughout the year in addition to volunteering at every single one. To this day, those who have competed at the Carolina Horse Park see her at every event. She is often spotted tending to the details that one might overlook, such as ensuring the roping is tight enough on cross-country or even creating specialized lanes for competitors and gold carts alike to keep everyone safe but also to preserve the footing for the horses. These are just some of the many things you may find her doing before, during, and after a show.
Those who know her fondly recall the times that Williams would head back out to cross-country after the roping was done and redo it because “it just wasn’t done tightly enough” or the number of hours she puts in jump judging with her beloved dogs. Many of the other volunteers at the Horse Park recognize her as well since Williams leads one of the caravans of jump judges out to cross-country to find their positions. She does so much for the sport and the community and does it all with a smile.
Photo courtesy of Lefreda Williams.
It was because of her long-term dedication and impact on the community that Williams has been awarded many honors by both the Carolina Horse Park and the USEA. In 2000 she was named one of the Ten Most Influential People in Moore County, which is the adjacent county to where the Horse Park is located; in 2008 she accepted the Andrew H. Popiel Memorial Award from the USEA, which honors the unsung heroes of eventing; and in 2014 received a very special USEA Governors Cup. Williams also organized the inaugural running of the USEA American Eventing Championships as it was held at the Carolina Horse Park for the first three years of its existence.
Even after she stepped down from organizing in 2009, Williams continued to stay involved in the sport and the community. She now serves on the Carolina International CIC organizing committee spearheading the event and the improvements at the Horse Park. Williams has helped make the event into what it is today and she was honored for her tireless work for the event in 2015 at the Carolina International CIC as one of eventing’s icons. She was also honored by the Carolina Horse Park as they named their dressage pad after her. Every competitor that has come through the Carolina Horse Park has ridden in the sacred arena and it is a place of pride for the Horse Park.
Photo courtesy of Lefreda Williams.
It really is hard to sum up what Williams means to the sport and the community in one short piece. The contributions she has made are invaluable and she continues to go above and beyond. Whether it be something as simple as jump judging or fixing ropes or something even bigger like assisting in orchestrating one of the biggest events on the spring calendar, Williams is there to lend a hand wherever she is needed. It is people like Williams that really are the pillars of the eventing community and the sport could not live without them. So, let’s join together and toast to one of the sport’s most passionate, dedicated, and supportive individuals. Who knows where the sport would be without her!
Do you know someone who should be recognized as Volunteer of the Month? We are looking for our next feature. Email your tips to [email protected].