Nov 01, 2016

Don Trotter: USEA's Volunteer of the Month Presented by Athletux

By Mikaela Kantorowski - Athletux Equine
Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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 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 December feature. Email your tips to [email protected]

The Volunteer of the Month for November is Don Trotter, a ring steward who goes out of his way to make sure every rider feels relaxed and positive in a sometimes chaotic warm up.

Originally, Don worked for the United Nations however after retirement his wife, Pamela Duffy, introduced him to performance horses. Pam has a background in horses and was a National Champion Show Jumper from Mexico. Don explains, “I had no previous experience with horses other than admiring their nobility, but now that I have been around them for a while, boy did they get under my skin and now they’ve even made their way into my spinal fluid.”

Together, Don and Pam own Sunsprite Warmbloods, where they breed horses in six breed registries. Many of their horses grow up to compete at the top levels of the sport and currently there are 15 Sunsprite homebreds registered with the USEA. Whether they are competing at the lower levels with a young rider or blossoming at the top levels with a professional, each horse was raised with the best care thanks to Don and his wife. They enjoy watching their "kids" and the Sunsprite team of riders and get such an exciting feeling that there are times when they can hardly contain themselves. Don takes pride in his work, he obtained his double PhD in Botany and Geology and mainly handles the feed and soil aspects at Sunsprite. He is extremely qualified and will let no detail go by the wayside, a trait he carries over into his volunteering.

Photo by Sherry Stewart.

On top of helping riders and breeding horses Don can always be found by the warm up. No, not just watching his horses go, but acting as ring steward. “As a horse show husband, I frequently found myself bored beyond belief at shows. I had nothing to do and often found myself hanging out at our rider's barns,” he said. Then finally in 2009 Don was offered a job he couldn’t refuse: ring steward. He enjoyed volunteering so much that he reached out to event organizer and friend, Robert Kellerhouse, asking if he could try out a few other volunteer positions. Kellerhouse let Don experiment with different jobs from cross country control to jump judge but he always found his way back to ring steward, his favorite.

Since Don and his wife follow their horses and their riders to various shows in Area VI and VII, it was only a matter of time before he began to volunteer more at each event he attended. Now he travels up and down the west coast to volunteer and has stewarded at almost every venue in Area VI. He’s even had the privilege of stewarding the American Eventing Championships and the Event at Rebecca Farm. He brings a comfortable presence and joy to his job and everyone from professionals to amateurs enjoy seeing Don when they come to check in or exit the arena.

Don says, “One of the coolest things is when riders come back after an amazing ride and tell me all about how great their horse was out on course. I can just see and feel their joy. It's incredible.”

Moreover, Don says his satisfaction with the job is simple, “If my presence in warm-up makes a rider more relaxed or an organizer more confident the show will run on time, then I'm doing my job to contribute to the sport of Eventing. That's rewarding to me.” His presence is calming and nice to find in a sometimes crowded and hectic warm up. Many riders are notoriously tense before competition and you can bet Don will be there with a subtle joke to make them laugh or a few kind words to relieve any nerves. Either way, riders always have nothing but positive things to say about Don and some say they may be lost without him in warm up.

When asked what his favorite part of Eventing is Don says, “that’s easy, it’s the people.” Both Don and his wife have made so many lasting friendships and in his eyes, “Eventers are the best horse people.”

Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Ring Stewarding has blossomed into a true passion for Don and he has met, in his words, “many truly magnificent people in warm-up.” These are people who've since invited Pam and Don to their weddings, shared their life experiences with and have become dear friends. This truly shows how much of an impact Don has made not only on each and every warm up ring but also the sport and community. It is not often that you find such a dedicated volunteer who will continuously go out of their way to make riders feel comfortable. Expect to continue to see Don in warm up making sure things run smoothly and relieving any stress and when you do, give him a huge thank you because warm up would not be the same without him.

About the USEA Volunteer Incentive Program

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 (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.

Oct 02, 2022 Profile

Change of Rein: Rosie Smith's Journey from Reining to the #2022AEC

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.

Oct 01, 2022 Volunteers

The VIP Volunteer: Lisa Pragg

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.

Sep 30, 2022 Convention

Registration is Now Open for the 2022 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention in Savannah, Georgia!

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.

Sep 30, 2022 News

USEA Names Athletes for Inaugural EA21 National Camp

The United States Eventing Association (USEA) is proud to announce the selected Young Rider athletes for the Emerging Athletes 21 Program (EA21) national camp, now that the EA21 regional clinics have concluded. Twelve riders were accepted into each of the five regional EA21 clinics, taught by USEA Eventing Coaches Program (ECP) instructors, and now riders have been selected from the regional clinics to participate in the inaugural EA21 national camp this winter.

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