Seventeen-year-old Casper Cole grew up with horses. From the time she was just a little girl, she would sit on her mother’s horse and be led around on the lead line. From there she graduated to taking lessons at a local barn where she learned to ride and began to compete in small 4-H shows. All the while, Cole was watching videos of cross-country on YouTube and dreaming about competing in eventing.
When she was 12 years old, Cole’s parents bought her first horse, a mare named Lainey. Together, Cole and Lainey went on all sorts of adventures together, riding together during the more favorable summer months in Vermont and competing in local 4-H competitions. Cole and Lainey had plans to compete in their first horse trials this summer, but Lainey unfortunately passed away due to complications from colic in February. Luckily, there was a horse at Cole’s farm who needed someone to ride her, and so now Cole and the 13.3-hand pony named Arianna are looking forward to competing in their first event.
It wasn’t until last summer that Cole even became involved in the eventing community. Although she had always been curious about eventing and wanted to learn more, she’d never had the chance to compete before, and she thought volunteering would be a great way to learn about the sport. So, she went looking for volunteer opportunities in her area and found them at the Green Mountain Horse Association in South Woodstock, Vermont. “I was looking for things to do last summer and I was looking online for horse shows to volunteer at and I found GMHA,” she explained. “I signed up, and at the first one I was a jump judge for cross-country at a water crossing. I thought, ‘Hey, this is cool!’ It was a gloomy day, but I had a lot of fun and I wanted to sign up for more!”
Cole got hooked on her first taste of volunteering and kept going back to GMHA for more all summer – even volunteering at dressage shows and combined driving events as well, just for the chance to help out and spend time around the horses. “She’s always willing to help with our disciplines involving all our horse trials, dressage, and driving/combined driving shows,” shared Jill Bogert, Events Manager at the Green Mountain Horse Association.
Aside from jump judging, which Cole said is her favorite volunteer position for eventing because she gets to watch the horses galloping around on course, Cole as also been a dressage warm-up steward and show jumping steward. She said she really wants to try dressage scribing, but wants to give it a try first at a smaller event so she can get the hang of it before trying it at a larger competition. “I wanted to start with a smaller show with lower levels so I could learn how to do it, and I was hoping to do that this summer but everything got out of whack [because of COVID-19] so I don’t know when it’ll happen,” she said. “I really like cross-country jump judging though, that’s the most fun!”
“I feel like it’s nice to know what goes on behind the scenes,” Cole said. “It really helps me appreciate all the people who help shows run smoothly. It’s really fun to see how everything works because when you’re showing you don’t get to see everything that’s going on. When you’re volunteering, especially when you volunteer in different positions throughout the show, [you get to] see all the different things that are going on.”
Cole said that getting a taste of eventing through volunteering has only made her more excited to try it herself. “Especially cross-country!”
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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