In 2021 Cynthia Smith recorded 536 hours and 59 minutes of volunteer time, setting the standard with the most amount of volunteer hours recorded in a single year since the creation of the USEA Volunteer Incentive Program in 2016. The record-breaking number of volunteer time earned Smith the 2021 USEA Volunteer of the Year title.
In previous years, the top volunteer has averaged around 300 hours but Smith almost doubled that in 2021. Nearing 537 hours, this number of hours totals to 67 eight-hour days, meaning Smith spent an average of 67 days last year working unpaid to support the sport of three-day eventing.
The dedicated eventing volunteer has an extensive background in the sport of eventing, horses, teaching, and a great history with Pine Top Horse Trials.
“I started riding at 16 [years old] taking lessons on school horses. I joined [the United States] Pony Club at 18 also riding school horses. I got my first horse at the age of 24. I graduated from Post College’s horsemanship program and got my first teaching job at Ferry Cliff Stables in Bristol, Rhode Island.” Smith continued, “I married a military man and taught riding at different army bases. When my husband retired, we settled in Georgia. I was hired as the instructor at Pine Top Farms and helped the Wilson’s establish and run [Pine Top] Horse Trials.” An Area III favorite, Pine Top Farm is located 30 miles west of Augusta, Georgia, and is host to four USEA recognized horse trials per year.
“After teaching at Pine Top for several years I went back to college and got my degree in Physical Education and taught PE until I retired from the school system," Smith shared. "I needed a retirement plan since one is usually not available in the horse world. Even though I stopped teaching riding lessons I continued to volunteer whenever possible.”
“After retiring from the school system, I started volunteering two to three times a month. Even though I don’t ride anymore I still consider myself a horse person and volunteering keeps me engaged in the sport I love.”
Smith, the expert volunteer, has worked many types of volunteer positions recording 12 different positions in 2021. These volunteer responsibilities ranged from dressage score runner, show jumping warm up, cross-country jump judge, event prep, vet box assistant, and cross-country control. Out of all the volunteer positions she’s done, Smith commented that her favorite is judging cross-country.
2021 was the fifth consecutive year that the USEA recognized a Volunteer of the Year. The first USEA Volunteer of the Year was in 2017 earned by Michael Smallwood with 221 hours and 1 minute. The following year, the 2018 USEA Volunteer of the Year was Vicki Reynolds with 330 hours and 25 minutes. The 2019 USEA Volunteer of the Year was Diane Bird with 307 hours and 31 minutes and the 2020 USEA Volunteer of the Year was James Newman with 292 hours and 51 minutes.
The USEA would like to congratulate Cynthia Smith on earning the 2021 USEA Volunteer of the Year!
About the USEA Volunteer Incentive Program
Volunteers are the lifeblood of our sport, the unsung heroes, and the people who make it possible to keep the sport alive. In efforts to recognize the dedication, commitment, and hard work that volunteers put into eventing, USEA formed the Volunteer Incentive Program (VIP) in 2015. In 2017, an online management portal was designed for volunteers, organizers, and volunteer coordinators at EventingVolunteers.com (available as an app for iOS and Android).
Volunteer incentives include national and area recognition, year-end awards with ribbons, cash prizes, and trophies, a top ten USEA Volunteer leaderboard, and a Volunteer of the Year award which is given to the volunteer who tops the leaderboard by accumulating the most volunteer hours over the USEA competition year. Click here to learn more about the USEA Volunteer Incentive Program.
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