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].
While Diane Bird was always involved with horses, Art Bird didn’t quite know what he was getting himself into when her married her. Now, this dynamic duo is one of the most active in the sport when it comes to volunteering and both Diane and Art are sitting in the top five on the USEA Volunteer of the Year Leaderboard. The leaderboard is measured in hours and the couple sure has tallied up quite a few. They currently sit at 180.5 hours each for the year. That is the equivalent of 20 nine-hour days of volunteering for each of them! We were so excited to sit down with Diane as she explained a little more about the couple’s history and their involvement in the eventing community.
When asked about her background in horses, Diane explained, “I had a horse growing up and while I sold him when I went to college, I jumped back into the equestrian community when I was 35.” She added, “My husband was never into horses until me.” While Diane didn’t know what eventing was in her younger years, it was at the Devon Horse Show that she first noticed an ad in the program involving eventing. It just so happened that the ad featured one of the all-time greats, Bruce Davidson, and was for his Chesterland farm. The couple decided to give it a look and quickly realized how much they loved it! After watching Karen Stives at the Olympics on TV, they were really hooked.
While the couple took trips to multiple World Equestrian Games and did some grooming in and around the New Jersey/Pennsylvania area, they wound up moving to Virginia. It just so happened they were right down the road from the Virginia Horse Center (VHC). After becoming close with both Penny and Brian Ross, organizers of the Virginia Horse Trials for 25 years, they became even more involved. This included logging more volunteer hours at the many various events on site at the VHC. While they worked at shows of all kinds, eventing still held a special place in their hearts as their favorite. Diane fondly remembers volunteering at the first eventing competition at the VHC in 1989.
Since then Art and Diane have relocated again, but this time to another horse hub: Aiken, South Carolina. Aiken, a mecca for eventing, has made it possible for them to volunteer even more. While the VHC holds a special place in their hearts, Diane was quick to point out that, “All of the venues are our favorite and we couldn’t pick just one!” There are so many events happening that over the winter, the couple is volunteering almost every weekend and during the other months they try and volunteer at least once a month. Even if they have to travel, these two love to volunteer. Diane exclaimed, “We will probably be out there volunteering with our walkers one day!”
Over the years Diane and Art have held just about every job possible (except bit check, Diane explained). Their favorite has to be cross-country starting and jump judging, although Art has recently taken up scoring as well, which Diane said he has really enjoyed. Besides their normal roles, Diane and Art are quick to offer a helping hand wherever needed and it makes them favorites of organizers in both Area II and Area III.
We asked Diane what keeps them coming back for more and Diane quickly pointed out, “The people, of course. The organizers, the competitors, the people! We have made an awfully lot of really good friends throughout our time volunteering and have worked shows everywhere. Everyone is just so incredible and we really love the sport.” It is easy to hear the passion in her voice when she talks about the amount of volunteering they both have done over the years. The eventing community is lucky to have them around!
They truly have made an impact and the Birds show no signs of slowing down any time soon! Be sure to be on the lookout for them at events all up and down the east coast. You never know where you are going to spot them but the next time you do, be sure to give them a big thank you for all they have done for the sport! If it weren’t for volunteers like them continuously helping, it would not be possible for these events to run every weekend. Way to go Diane and Art!
Do you know someone who should be recognized as a Volunteer of the Month? We are looking for our next feature. Email your tips to [email protected]
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