It always helps to see a warm and friendly face when heading to warm up for that all-important test or jump round. In this series, the United States Evening Association (USEA) is partnering with Athletux to feature those around us who help make these events happen, the volunteers. Without them horse shows and programs could not succeed, and these volunteers go above and beyond to make sure every rider feels comfortable and confident. Do you know a volunteer who should be nominated as Volunteer of the Month? We are looking for our next feature. Email your tips to [email protected].
Angie Leihy rode horses a bit as a child in Ohio and moved to Maryland in 1986, but it wasn’t until after 2003 that her passion for horses really grew. She took riding lessons at Willowbend Farm (WB) in Upper Marlboro as her young daughter rode there for years on their equitation team in the National Capital Equitation League (NCEL). Leihy recalled, “The WB instructors, Laura Johnson and Emily Merkel, are very talented, all-around horsewomen and introduced us to different kinds of riding including eventing.” Thus, her love for the sport was born.
One horse that stood out for both Leihy and her daughter was Willowbend’s Sugar High, aka Spunky. “She was my daughter’s first event pony and that little mare taught us so much: about being brave, about learning from other people (and horses!) and about love,” she said. Spunky just passed away last month and Leihy attributes her to really instilling the love of eventing in both her and her daughter.
Leihy fondly remembered the days traveling all over the mid-Atlantic region. “Laura and Emily took us everywhere, to Morven Park, Tranquility Manor, Waredaca, Fair Hill and many, many others. I wished I was a sponge so I could just absorb all they taught,” she detailed. Leihy also spent lots of time at Full Moon Farm in Finksburg, Maryland, owned by Stephen and Karen Fulton. “Karen and Stephen Fulton welcomed us like family and are absolutely amazing,” she said.
By the time her daughter left for college, they had been to many, many venues in Virginia and Maryland, but it wasn’t until she left that Leihy began dedicating her time to volunteering. Leihy volunteered for the first time at The Maryland Horse Trials at Loch Moy Farm in Adamstown, Maryland and she credits her love of volunteering to the organizer, Carolyn Mackintosh. “Carolyn is the amazing person who got me hooked on volunteering at events that day. She is extremely knowledgeable and is very good at appreciating her regular volunteers and attracting new ones. She also has great co-workers who take great care of the volunteers,” Leihy added.
When we asked her what her favorite role to fill is she quickly replied, "Jump judge," however Leihy has filled many other roles. “Volunteering as a cross-country jump judge is my thing, although I have done other jobs like dressage warm-up, stadium in-gate, jump crew, and even a shuttle driver at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event,” she detailed. For Leihy, she feels it is a great way to help out the sport and she added she always learns more about eventing when she volunteers as well making it a no brainer.
She is also quick to point out how lucky she feels in Area II. “We don’t have to travel far to watch America’s top eventers compete with their most advanced horses, and with the new horses they are just starting. It’s also fun to watch those riders who are just trying eventing for the first time. It’s inspiring to watch them progress over time,” she explained. “Knowing they are working toward higher levels of dressage, braving the higher fences in stadium, and getting to watch them closely as they navigate the interesting challenges on the cross-country course makes it all so amazing.”
Now, Leihy volunteers all over and has lots of fun doing it as well. Currently, she is in the top 12 on the USEA Volunteer leaderboard with over 140 hours. When you consider that a typical day spent volunteering is about eight hours, that is over 17 days spent volunteering and over eight weekends out of the year so far. You’d be hard-pressed to find a volunteer who has more fun or is more dedicated than Leihy. In fact, she sits right behind our September volunteer of the month, Paige Ervin, on the leaderboard. It is an exciting race to see who is going to take home the end of the year award!
For Leihy, it is about her passion for the sport and for giving back. She considers all those whom she volunteers with good friends and them the same, a true testament to the relationships she has developed over the years and the passion she puts behind her volunteering. Carolyn Mackintosh, the organizer of the Maryland Horse Trials, is full of high praise for Leihy and told us time and time again how grateful she is to have someone like Leihy on her volunteer roster. People like Leihy truly make this sport possible and chances are if you ride in Area II you have seen Leihy behind the scenes. She may have even given you a ride at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event in the golf cart she mans. Leihy does it all with a smile and passion that is hard to come by. She is more than deserving of this month’s nomination and we can’t thank her enough for all that she does!
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).