Gary Snyder has been involved with horses for the past 50 years. “We had horses when I was a kid, so it’s been about 50 years,” recalled Snyder. “He married me almost 47 years ago, and he got me, an old dog, and a horse, and we have been in horses ever since!” added Snyder’s wife, Colleen.
Snyder is located in Tyler, Texas, Area 5, where he and Colleen own and operate a commercial farm. For about ten to twelve years now, Snyder has been actively volunteering at events for the USEA.
Launched in 2020, the USEA Volunteer Medal Program recognizes the volunteers who consistently volunteer year after year. Hours earned are cumulative over a lifetime of volunteer service. To earn a bronze medal, volunteers must record 500 volunteer hours; to earn a silver medal, volunteers must record 1,000 volunteer hours; and to earn a gold medal, volunteers must record 2,000 volunteer hours eventingvolunteers.com.
Michelle Wadley has had the horse bug since she could remember. “My mom swears my first word was 'horse,' way back when I was two years old,” she recalled. The rider now owns a horse of her own, and through volunteering for the USEA, she has grown her knowledge and love for eventing.
Wadley began riding at the young age of five in Fayetteville, Arkansas, at a local hunter/jumper barn. After moving between Arkansas and Texas, Wadley gained experience in the western, eventing, and Arabian disciplines. Although tough at times, she always found a way to keep the equestrian world a part of her life.
It is the eventing programs like Lee Ann Zobbe’s program in Area VIII that help keep the sport alive. In addition to teaching students how to ride, Zobbe the manager and coach at Come Again Farm, also teaches her students how to volunteer. Whether her students are 11 years old or 70 years old, volunteering is an integral part of her program located in Sheridan, Indiana.
Billy Jackson was introduced to horses at a young age through his local 4-H program. “One of my mom's close friends was a large animal vet and she really encouraged me to stay with it,” Jackson said. As an adult, he is a Marketing Project Manager, and when he’s not at work, he’s a lower level eventer based at Poplar Place Farm.
Aimée Arnold has wanted to ride horses for as long as she can remember. “At 4 years old I asked my mother for a pony for my fifth birthday,” Arnold recalled. “She responded that we could not afford it, to which I asked, ‘Can we trade you in for a pony for a day? I know anyone would appreciate having you for a helper.’ The look on my Mother’s face was priceless!”
In a difficult year for the sport of eventing, it was volunteers like James (Jim) Newman who helped many events stay afloat. Through www.eventingvolunteers.com, Newman recorded a total of 292 hours and 51 minutes of volunteer service in 2020. Newman’s dedication to the sport amidst a pandemic earned him the top spot on the USEA Volunteer of the Year Presented by Sunsprite Warmbloods leaderboard.
Prior to moving to Aiken, South Carolina in the summer of 2019, Kristin Harms Matthews’ involvement with horses was limited to attending the Aiken Steeplechase Events. “At my first Aiken Steeplechase event, we were positioned in front of a jump near the finish line,” Matthews recalled.
The sport of eventing, like many other sports this year, has endured a year unlike any other. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the eventing volunteers that helped keep this sport alive. By ensuring competitions ran smoothly and safely, these volunteers are truly the unsung heroes of the sport.
The USEA Volunteer Committee invites you to attend their year-end committee meeting. This meeting will be led by Volunteer Committee Chair Bonnie Kibbie. The mission of this committee is to promote and support Eventing volunteers, to develop and maintain a national volunteer database, and to provide comprehensive educational resources and networking opportunities for volunteers, organizers, and area chairs.
Regina Cristo grew up on a horse farm in downstate New York. “My dad loved horses as a kid, so we were raised with horses at our home,” Cristo explained. “We had ponies and were involved with Pony Club and 4-H, and had horses for trail riding in our rural area.” Cristo rode all through her childhood, high school, and college, even riding for her college’s equestrian team.