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].
Beth Stoker has been around horses for almost her entire life. She began riding as a teenager in the hunter and jumper rings but when a judge told her, “Your horse will never do well in the hunter world,” she made the switch to eventing. The rest, they say, is history. She later took that same horse up to the Intermediate level and they experienced many exciting moments in the eventing world together. Stoker also traveled to England and spent two and a half years there at a riding school as a working student. There she learned more about horsemanship and the behind-the-scenes aspects of the sport. After taking and passing her British Horse Society Intermediate Instructor’s exam, Stoker returned to the states to use her new knowledge to coach others.
It was then that she was asked to organize the show jumping phase at the exact horse trials, the Heritage Park Horse Trials, that Stoker grew up showing at all those years ago. Stoker feels that Heritage Park “is where all my volunteering began." Stoker loved the challenge of presenting a course that made riders think, but also provided a positive experience to horses and riders of all levels. She also decorated the course with the help of other volunteers to ensure it looked well presented for all the competitors.
She is now the organizer and secretary of the Heritage Park Horse Trials, both on a volunteer basis. Things truly came full circle for Stoker and the community could not have been more grateful to have someone like her at the helm of the events. Although she has filled just about every volunteer role there is, to this day Stoker say designing and running the show jumping phase and scoring are her two favorite volunteer positions.
Stoker and B.B. King competing at the Heritage Park Horse Trials. Photo courtesy of Beth Stoker.
Stoker truly is a jack of all trades. This is her 18th year working at Heritage Park. However, Stoker explained, “I can’t believe it has been that long!” She truly is one of the important pieces, but admits the sport of eventing requires a village of volunteers to keep the recognized and schooling events going year after year.
The horse park not only runs USEA events throughout the year but they also host six to seven schooling shows throughout the summer and Stoker is a part of all of them. Whether she is scoring in the booth or acting as the secretary and scheduling ride times, Stoker is always around to lend a hand wherever is needed and she does it with a smile on her face that displays her passion for the sport that is unparalleled. She has also recently begun to volunteer her services for other Area IV events as well. Over the past few years she has helped score at the Mill Creek Pony Club Horse Trials in May and tries to make it to the Windmere Run Horse Trial in October to help where needed, and she has loved every minute of it.
Not only does Stoker volunteer at Heritage Park and other events, she also does volunteer work outside of the USEA events as well. She is President of the local non-profit Mid-America Combined Training Association. She currently volunteers as the treasurer of Area IV. She is a former Area Chair and has also held many other roles on the committee including the role of Organizer Representative. With more and more events popping up, it was paramount to have someone in this role who is not only personable but also organized and knows exactly what is going on. Stoker fit this role perfectly and those on the committee are so grateful and honored to have her on the committee in various roles year after year.
Stoker competing at the 2002 Fox River Valley Pony Club Horse Trials aboard Finnegan. Xpress Photography Photo courtesy of Beth Stoker.
When you speak with Stoker it is easy to see that she continuously goes above and beyond in the community and her passion for volunteering shines through in everything she does. When you ask what her favorite part of the sport and favorite part of volunteering is, she quickly responded, “I love seeing the smiles on people’s faces when they are out there having fun. It’s a really great feeling realizing you had a little impact of making that smile happen,” and while she doesn’t ride as much anymore, it has not slowed her down one bit as she continues to do more and more for the sport of eventing.
At every event she attends and organizes, Stoker’s passion for eventing and sheer love of the sport spreads throughout the events and beyond. Those who know her strive to be more like her and even those who just meet her in passing are blown away by her drive and supreme dedication. She is one of Area IV’s longest active volunteers and has made a huge impact in the community. Those in the area are quick to credit her with making these events happen and both fellow volunteers and competitors alike have nothing but amazing things to say about Stoker. She is more than worthy of this month’s nomination and if you happen to see her at one of the many events held in Area IV in the future, be sure to give her a huge thank you because the eventing community would not be the same without her.
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.
On this episode of the Equiratings Eventing Podcast, show host Nicole Brown talks to Pan American Games gold medalist and U.S. team stalwart Boyd Martin about his career to date, highs and lows, and coming back from injury.
On Monday, March 8 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern, USEF will host a member webinar providing updates on the impacts of the case of EHV-1 (neurological) reported in Ocala, Florida. This case is similar in nature, but unrelated to the neurological strain of EHV-1 impacting Valencia (ESP) and other European countries.
As competitors rise through the levels, they often see the costs associated with competition rise and, unfortunately for most organizers, this can’t be avoided. With fewer competitors requiring more jumps, officials, footing management, etc., the expenses for running higher levels – especially FEI – are greater than lower levels.
Our sport is going to present you with many amazing opportunities, and some equally amazing challenges. While you’re sure to enjoy the opportunities, it sometimes takes a little more effort to enjoy the challenges. Contrary to the common misconception (from non-equestrians) that our sport is easy, it’s actually one of the hardest and most demanding sports of all!