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 new 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].
You’d be hard pressed to find someone who gives back more to the sport than Betsy Knight, and it is difficult to put into words what she means to those around her and the community. Knight has filled about every role a volunteer possibly could and the only role she doesn’t fill herself is that of a rider. However, that doesn’t stop her and, even with her sometimes-crazy work schedule as a Clinical Research Analyst, she never misses an event or show, especially when they are at Bascule Farm in Maryland. As a child, she only took about 10 lessons because, during the final lesson, her horse spooked and she fell off. After that, Knight decided riding wasn’t for her but then as luck would have it, good friend, and May's Volunteer of the Month, Carol Rowan convinced her otherwise.
When Knight and Rowan became good friends with a couple who ran a stable for trail rides, she began to ride more and regain her confidence around the horses. When the couple had to move away, Rowan was quick to jump at the opportunity to own a horse of her own and convinced Knight to buy one of the horses as well. From there, she never looked back and was introduced to the sport of eventing thanks to rider Gail Fox. When Fox became pregnant with triplets, Knight, along with Rowan, looked for a new facility to keep their horses at and came across Bascule Farm, which is where they are today and where Knight does much of her volunteering.
Everyone at Bascule Farm has a deep respect and admiration for Knight. Julie Hagen, owner of Bascule Farm, said Knight has been “instrumental in the farm’s success” and called Knight the “volunteer that everyone should strive to emulate.” If there is a show going on at Bascule, you can bet she is there and most likely sitting in the secretary’s seat. From schooling shows in the winter, to dozens of other events throughout the year, she rarely misses a competition. She will do whatever she can to help, often taking on the role of show secretary and organizing the entire thing! Knight greatly enjoys manipulating the schedule and, after years of experience, has figured out a system that works for everyone. What started as organizing the entries for just her local stable has blossomed into something much bigger and Hagen is eternally grateful for everything she does.
Of course, her work doesn’t stop there. She also volunteers at many other local shows along with her good friend Rowan. Together they travel to Seneca Valley, Loch Moy, and other Area II events to volunteer, and Knight has done just about everything at these shows. She is a familiar face and many may recognize her from her work in the show jumping arena. She is often found running the show jumping ring, manning the electronic timer or even cross-country jump judging. She is quick to point out that, “running the show jumping is my favorite because you get to watch and really admire all the riders and horses, young or old, amateur or professional.” Even though she enjoys sitting back in the judge’s booth, Knight is always eager to pitch in wherever needed. Whether it be scribing in the dressage phase last minute or helping the secretary, she loves to watch and be around the horses. This is what makes the long hours completely worth it and every one of the events is so grateful for all that Betsy does to help the competition run smoothly and efficiently.
When it comes to the riding, Knight doesn’t sit in the saddle much anymore. In fact, Knight never evented herself. However, even though she didn’t ride, she would always set aside time to volunteer and would make a point to do as much as she could to give back. She even encourages others to volunteer and is a huge fan of the new volunteer incentive program, which she believes will truly aid events in gaining more volunteers. She added, “I think the community realizes you can’t do it without the volunteers and over the last year I have noticed a growing number of people going out of their way to stop and say thank you. Things like that just make it so much more worth it.”
When asked why she loves the sport, Knight replied, “The only time I feel my blood pressure is at a normal level is around the horses. Plus, I just love the sport because it’s the only one in which you compete with an animal. It is truly amazing to see the kind of bond the riders have with their horses. It’s incredible.” It is easy to hear the passion in her voice when asked about the sport. Her dedication to giving back and selflessness is something everyone should truly strive for. As Hagen said, she truly is the epitome of an amazing volunteer.
If you were to ask the eventing community about Knight, you would no doubt only hear wonderful things. Knight is the type of person who you would truly never forget because of her shining personality and dedication to the sport. It is special to see how much of an impact she has made, as she always makes a point to go out of her way to help others, putting everything aside to make sure she can be there to help. Even if she has just spent a long week traveling for her job, if there is an event that weekend you can bet she will be there. Keep an eye out for Knight in show jumping or in the secretary’s booth at Bascule – and when you see her, 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.
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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).