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.
The gang's all here! Nicole Brown is joined this week by USEA CEO Rob Burk, USEA President Max Corcoran, and Diarm Byrne of EquiRatings to take a look at some of the upcoming highlights for 2021 and make some predictions about exciting things we might see this year.
The Windfall Trophy has been presented each year since 2015 to the stallion who accumulates the most points on the USEA leaderboard in that year. Halimey Go (Askar AA x Hamamelis Go), Christine Turner’s Trakehner stallion, was the first to win the title in 2015 and took it for a second year in 2016 with Buck Davidson in the irons.
The USEA Interscholastic Eventing League (IEL) 2021 Team Challenge calendar is now available! This new program was announced in October 2020 and so far there have been over 60 teams register and 18 team challenges added to the 2021 calendar.