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.
Jerry and Lynne Buell met at Asbury University in Kentucky where Lynne was a member of the first class in the Equine program in 1978. Lynne had started taking riding lessons while in high school in Florida – first Western, then English – and Jerry is a preacher's son from northeastern Ohio.
Jeffrey Lesitsky was always intrigued by horses, but growing up Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he didn’t have much access to them. “My only experience was what I saw on television,” he said. “I saw pictures of Secretariat when he won the Triple Crown, but I was only 10 years old and I didn't really understand what was going on. Secretariat was a beautiful horse and I wanted to learn more about them – later I learned Secretariat and I have the same birthday, but I'm seven years his senior!”
For 39 years, the Loudoun Hunt Pony Club (LHPC) has held the Loudoun Hunt Pony Club Horse Trials at Morven Park in Leesburg, Virginia. Margaret Good, the District Commissioner (DC) of the Loudoun Hunt Pony Club, has helped organize the horse trials since day one.
Bub and Janet Dillon used to race sailboats, and when their daughter, Olivia, was old enough to tag along, she would accompany her parents on sailboat races. For Olivia’s birthday one year, Bub and Janet rented out the “Pony Pavilion” where Olivia met an old pony named Lightning.
As 2020 has forced competitors to reroute or adjust their competition calendar, volunteers have also experienced several changes of their own. While most volunteers love to volunteer at various events, many have altered their plans to stick within local limits, like volunteer Angie Leihy, or to stick with one venue, like volunteer Leah Fleming.