Bub and Janet Dillon used to race sailboats, and when their daughter, Olivia, was old enough to tag along, she would accompany her parents on sailboat races. For Olivia’s birthday one year, Bub and Janet rented out the “Pony Pavilion” where Olivia met an old pony named Lightning. “Olivia roped that poor pony the whole day,” Bub recalled. “After that, Janet found a trainer to teach Olivia to ride and then came a leased horse, then a bought and paid for horse, then tack, garments, trailer, truck to haul the trailer, vet bills, farrier costs, board, and my sailing budget went by the wayside and I followed my girl with tears in my eyes.”
Olivia started out taking hunter/jumper lessons but eventually made the switch to eventing. Bub recalled that one of her first events was at Pine Top Farm, and he and Janet became involved as volunteers right from the beginning. “I think we understood from the very first show that it takes a village to put on a successful show and we wanted to be a part of it,” Janet said.
“Dressage is the great mystery in eventing and I thought the best way to understand dressage was to scribe for some of the judges so I could gather a little intel and help my daughter when she came out of the ring in tears,” Bub continued. “Well, I volunteered as a scribe and was able to learn a little about that aspect of the sport, but could never use it as I had hoped! . . . We also are usually at the events on Sunday so we thought it would be fun to jump judge for cross-country.”
Janet volunteers her time as Pine Top Farm’s dressage steward, and also jump judges on cross-country. “I really enjoy dressage stewarding because it gives me the opportunity to interact with the riders and get to know them,” she said. “We see many of the same riders, from beginners to advanced, return to Pine Top each year.”
Bub loves working the start box on cross-country for a similar reason. “I get to interact with a lot of the riders prior to them taking off on what many consider the most exciting portion of the entire weekend!” he said. “There are smiles on some faces, nerves on a lot, and the various game faces are extremely interesting to read. And there are also the moms and some dads that need a little reassurance. It’s all very interesting. Also, the cold beer at the end of the day ain’t bad either!”
“Eventers are some of the nicest people I have met,” Bub observed. “Like in golf, they are in competition with each other, but really it’s you and your partner against the various courses. So, the eventers tend to be very supportive of all the riders they know. That is not something you see in other sports enough. Another thing is that there is not an age limit to the riders in this sport so they can play into their 70s and 80s."
Bub is always encouraging the next generation to get involved in the sport as a volunteer. “I talk to the younger riders whenever I can about volunteering, particularly as a scribe,” he said. “Where else can you have alone time with a judge for five, six, sometimes seven hours and bounce questions off of them? It really is a great way to take the mystery out of dressage.”
Janet’s favorite part about volunteering is not only getting to interact with the competitors but watching how they interact with each other and the other attendees at a competition. “I love the interaction with everyone involved, from organizers and other volunteers to the riders and their grooms,” she said. “Eventers are so supportive of each other. Sure, they are competitive, but the encouragement and respect riders have for their peers is amazing.”
“I have to say that our involvement in eventing, and particularly my daughter’s involvement, taught her about responsibility and problem solving and helped her maturing process tremendously,” Bub concluded. “There is something about seeing your 15-year-old climb aboard a horse and suddenly mature to around age 30 as she gets to the start box. I have not been around a sport quite like it.”
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.
Have you ever wondered why your horse isn’t performing at their best? Get ready to learn about the many facets that can contribute to lameness and poor performance in sport horses from equine orthopedics expert, Dr. Sue Dyson! The United States Eventing Association (USEA) is pleased to announce that Dr. Dyson will be the keynote speaker at the 2022 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention in Savannah, GA this December 7-11.
Rosie Smith’s rose gold accented helmet matched her perfectly tidy bun of red hair as she took the third spot in the USEA Training Rider Championship at the 2022 USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nurena Feeds. Every little detail came together while aboard her trusted partner of nine years: the 20-year-old Connemara Irish Draught named Seamus (by Corrcullen, RID). But Smith’s first jump, back when she was only 15 years old, wasn’t with an English saddle.
Lisa Pragg is a busy woman, but between her normal day job and competing her own 19-year-old Thoroughbred Impeccable she still prioritizes time to volunteer - both at horse trials and as a volunteer firefighter. Pragg understands the importance that volunteers play in the eventing community and makes sure to give whatever time she can back as a fair gesture.
Attention USEA members! Registration for the 2022 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention is now open! The convention will be held in person on December 7-11, 2022 at the Hyatt Regency Savannah Hotel in Savannah, Georgia.