With 850 competitors on the roster, putting on this year’s USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds was no easy task. And like all other horse trials in the U.S., the AEC still relies heavily on the efforts of volunteers to bring its efforts to fruition. Over 750 volunteer shifts were filled over the course of the 7-day-long competition by an outstanding 300-plus volunteers. Those volunteers hailed from all over the country, with 30% of the final volunteer number driving in from out of state. Eventing enthusiasts flew in from each coast to help make this event a special one for the qualified competitors this year. While on grounds, the USEA caught up with a handful of these spectacular individuals to get the down low on why they opted to volunteer at this year’s national championships.
It was by mere accident that David Slagle stumbled upon the horse world and the sport of eventing. "I'm not a horse person," he said, "but I discovered the sport. Really, Elisa Wallace is responsible, as I just happened to be watching YouTube videos and came across her mustang training videos, which led me to her. She posts cross-country helmet cam videos, and I started watching those and thought, 'Man, that looks like fun.' I didn't know anything about the sport. I spent my first few years in Lexington, Kentucky, but I knew about racing, not eventing. And I saw these videos and said, I want to go to one of those events."
The sport of eventing wouldn’t be possible without the amazing volunteers that donate their time to support competitions across the country all year long. As of July 14, a total of 38,040 hours have already been recorded through EventingVolunteers.com for 2023, and there is still much of the season left ahead. The Volunteer Incentive Program, which was formed in 2015, was created to recognize the USEA’s dedicated volunteers through national and area leaderboards which award year-end awards and prizes. Here are the volunteers that are currently topping the leaderboard for 2023!
If something needs to be done at an event in Area IX, you can be sure Kayla Dehart’s thought of it. And when she’s not doing her usual job of cross-country control, the 24-year-old will step in to help with anything that needs to be done.
From horse trials in her home state of California where she prepared herself and her horses to take on the best in the nation and around the world to five-star events overseas where she represented the United States on some of eventing’s biggest stages, Tamie Smith had a remarkable season and finished 2022 as the Bates USEA Lady Rider of the Year for the second year in a row.
Being spontaneous has paid off for Kevin Keane and Sportsfield Candy. “I bought him on a Wednesday and showed him on a Thursday,” Keane recalls about his first event with his Irish Sport Horse gelding, then 9 years old, at Plantation Field Horse Trials (Unionville, Pennsylvania) in September 2016. “I owned him for part of a day, and the next morning I showed up at a CCI and jogged him up for a two-star, and we went clean and clean and clean.”
The first time Caroline Martin competed at the FEI WBFSH Eventing World Breeding Championships at Mondial du Lion in Le Lion D’Angers, France, in 2021, she admitted she was a bit of a deer in the head lights. With 40,000 spectators lining the galloping lanes on cross-country and a buzzy atmosphere around the arena for dressage and show jumping, it was a big ask for her horse King’s Especiale, but the experience made the gelding better and made Martin want to come back.
After working for nearly 30 years as a broadcast engineer and operations manager for the largest radio network in the country, Westwood One, Richard "Dick" Owen has acquired many of the skills needed to help a horse trial run smoothly. From presidential inaugurations to political conventions to the State of the Union address, Owen’s friendly and calm demeanor and experience with the logistics of covering major events have served him well in Area III, where he volunteers on dozens of weekends a year.
“I love it when a plan comes together” is the phrase that could sum up the 2022 season for Lady Chatterley and Leslie Law. Although, in this case, comparing the bay mare and her British Olympic gold medalist rider to the A-Team also refers to the fact that they successfully moved up to the Advanced level and earned the title of Bates Mare of the Year on the USEA Leaderboard. Lady Chatterley, who's owned by Lesley Grant-Law and Stephen and Jackie Brown, was also the Bates Mare of the Year in 2020 and second in 2021.
Bethany Hutchins-Kristen knew Geluk HVF was special from the moment he was born. Out of her former Intermediate mare Bronte HVF and by the popular dressage stallion Jazz, “Geluk” had the bloodlines to succeed in eventing. He finished well as a 4- and 5-year-old in the U.S Eventing Association Young Event Horse East Coast Championships (Elkton, Maryland) and went on to win the U.S. Equestrian Federation CCI2*-L Eventing National Championship (Lexington, Kentucky) as a 6-year-old.
After Donna Miller lost her beloved Connemara stallion Ardceltic Art in 2013, she took her time to find her next stallion and potential upper level eventing partner. With strict criteria in place, Miller scoured the internet and finally came across Coud’Poker in 2019.