In 1984, the U.S. Eventing team won the gold medal at the Los Angeles Olympic Games, and from that moment on Diane Bird and her husband Art Bird were hooked. Two years later they watched top riders compete at Chesterland Horse Trials and shortly after that, their first volunteer opportunity opened at a local show in New Jersey in 1988. They have been volunteering ever since.
For over 31 years, Art and Diane Bird have devoted their lives to volunteering, and this past year, Diane recorded 307 hours and 31 minutes on eventingvolunteers.com to earn the 2019 USEA Volunteer of the Year.
A former eighth-grade science teacher, Diane and her husband have slowly migrated south since their retirement. Originally from Abescon, New Jersey, the couple moved to Lexington, Virginia in 1999 where they were members of the organizing committee with Brian and Penny Ross for Virginia Horse Trials. In September 2017, they permanently moved to Aiken, South Carolina, giving them easy access to volunteering opportunities up and down the East Coast. “We do as many recognized and unrecognized shows as we can. So, I really don’t think I can pick a favorite,” said Diane.
Although unable to choose a favorite event, she does have a couple of favorite volunteer roles. “I love to dressage scribe as I always learn something. [But,] I like starting cross-country best, as you get to talk to everyone.”
A fan of margaritas, corgi dogs, and gardening, Diane explains what she likes to do when she’s not scribing in dressage or starting cross-country. “[I like to] ride my Arabian mare, Flame, while Art rides his paint mare, Peylone. [We also enjoy] spending time with our two retired geldings, Skip and Orie. Other than our horses, we have two corgis, George and Millie, who are the love of our lives!” Her list of interests continued with, “transporting rescue dogs from high kill shelters to foster homes, and helping take care of our flower gardens at home.”
The owner and founder of Equiglas, Diane also runs a small business. “I turn client photos of their horses or dogs into stained glass panels or sun catchers.”
With four horses, two dogs, a small business, and a new national title - there’s not much Diane Bird can’t do. Between her and Art, they’ve clocked in over 1,177 hours on eventingvolunteers.com since December 1, 2016. She’s the second-highest ranked volunteer on the volunteer all-time leaderboard with 639 hours and 33 minutes, and Art is fourth highest with 538 hours and 59 minutes.
“Worry more about enjoying the race than winning it,” is Diane’s life motto and her race of volunteering was the best in the nation in 2019.
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.
The USEA would like to thank Sunsprite Warmbloods for sponsoring the Volunteer Incentive Program.
In 2000 and with the support of Joan Iversen Goswell, the Worth the Trust Scholarships were established to provide financial assistance to amateurs to pursue their education in eventing. The funds from the Worth the Trust Educational Scholarship may be used for training opportunities such as clinics, working student positions, and private or group instruction, or to learn from an official, course designer, technical delegate, judge, veterinarian, or organizer.
The Surefire Farm Horse Trials scheduled for September 25-27, 2020 in Purcellville, Virginia has been canceled.
When introducing a horse to a new concept, it is important to make the entire learning process enjoyable. Make sure to always praise your horse so they continuously understand that they are supposed to be enjoying this time. In eventing, the skinnies have gotten so small that the sooner the horses begin to lock on and enjoy it, the better.
This article will be updated to include statements as they are released from upcoming USEA recognized events regarding actions they are taking due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).