Jerry and Lynne Buell met at Asbury University in Kentucky where Lynne was a member of the first class in the Equine program in 1978. Lynne had started taking riding lessons while in high school in Florida – first Western, then English – and Jerry is a preacher's son from northeastern Ohio. “One of our parsonages was on 10 acres with a barn, and some people boarded their horses there. My siblings and I would ride bareback in the pasture,” Jerry recalled.
Both are horse lovers, but neither had ever competed or knew much of anything about eventing when Lynne started volunteering at the Rocking Horse Stables Horse Trials in 2011. Their only experience with eventing was as attendees at the cross-country day of the 1978 World Three-Day Event Championships at the Kentucky Horse Park as part of Lynne’s college classes, before they even really knew what eventing was.
They were living in Florida and a teaching colleague of Jerry’s at Mt. Dora High School asked Lynne if she would be interested in volunteering as a cross-country jump judge for the day at Rocking Horse. “I started by myself,” said Lynne. “The next winter I said to Jerry, ‘Why don’t you just come out with me?’ and he said that he thought it sounded boring! I was doing jump judging for cross-country, and he said, ‘Okay, I’ll come out.’ He sat in the truck and he watched and the more he watched he said, ‘Well, what can I do?’ and I said, ‘Well, I’m not going to put you on the radio, but you can mark off if they clear the jump or not.’ That was in 2012, and we’ve been doing it together since then.”
Jerry confirmed, “Lynne asked me if I wanted to do it, and I thought it would be rather boring . . . was I wrong!”
Since that winter in 2012, Jerry and Lynne have traveled all over Florida to volunteer as jump judges, working as a team. “We loved it so much that I started researching and found out about the Florida Horse Park – we’ve been volunteering there since 2013,” said Lynne. “A friend of ours who is also a volunteer started one down in Groveland – Three Lakes – so we do that one too.”
“We’ve also volunteered at Red Hills International, we’ve done Grand Oaks, we’ve done the Ocala Jockey Club, and we’ve done Majestic Oaks,” said Jerry. Lynne added that they’ve narrowed it down to Rocking Horse, Three Lakes, and the Florida Horse Park as the places they like to regularly volunteer the most. “We have found the group at Rocking Horse, out of all the ones we’ve been to, to be the best run,” Jerry said.
Jerry and Lynne have stuck to cross-country jump judging – their favorite volunteer activity. “We enjoy watching the teamwork of rider and horse, as both adjust to the obstacle,” Jerry said. “There is a beauty that exists in seeing a 1,000-pound animal, with a rider on its back, clear a jump. It is the most strenuous of the three eventing disciplines. And it requires the judge to do much more than sit in a chair and radio into Control that the jump was cleared. The safety of horse and rider is utmost in our day, and sometimes quick and accurate communication is necessary.”
Jerry spent five years working as a police officer and uses that training to maintain safety when he’s volunteering at an event. He said it’s come in handy during emergency situations. “I’m just one of those people, I want to be able to help,” he said, reflecting on the times when he and Lynne have been on site during an accident. “It’s a rough sport.”
“We both love horses, although we have never owned a horse,” Jerry mused. “They are one of God's most incredible animals, having the ability to think and react quickly. And horse people are, for the most part, an incredible group of people. When I taught high school, I found my kids that worked with animals, especially horses, to be more mature and disciplined. Having an animal to care for, and then competing with that animal, demands a devotion to duty that so many other students do not get. I enjoy the relationship, even as just a volunteer, that I have with the riders, especially the younger ones.”
Jerry and Lynne said they’re both excited to get back to volunteering, as they haven’t had the chance since before the COVID-19 pandemic hit earlier this year. “We’re so excited for the season to start back up again,” Jerry said. Lynne explained that they bought a new camper just for traveling to events so they can go and make a weekend out of it.
“After a day of eventing out in the field, judging and all of the other stuff a good judge does without being asked, we are dog tired!” said Jerry. “When you do your job well, at the end of the day, there is a joyful exhaustion. That is why we will grill, either on our Smokey Joe or directly over a fire, and then enjoy a Maker’s Mark or Woodford Reserve under the stars, even when it is cold!”
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.
It is the eventing programs like Lee Ann Zobbe’s program in Area VIII that help keep the sport alive. In addition to teaching students how to ride, Zobbe the manager and coach at Come Again Farm, also teaches her students how to volunteer. Whether her students are 11 years old or 70 years old, volunteering is an integral part of her program located in Sheridan, Indiana.
US Equestrian is pleased to announce the addition of two new 2021 dates for the Adequan®/USEF Eventing Youth Team Challenge (YTC):
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This year’s pre-Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event USEA Official Podcast isn’t a traditional preview show, but rather Host Nicole Brown and the team of Max Corcoran, Rob Burk, and Diarm Byrne are discussing their favorite Kentucky memories as everyone gets giddy for the 2021 event!