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 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 and programs 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 next feature. Email your tips to [email protected].
Jessie Quinlan hasn’t always been involved in the eventing community. She grew up a typical horse-obsessed girl and was always asking her parents for riding lessons no matter what special occasion it was. Birthdays? Riding lessons. Christmas presents? Riding lessons. Any way Quinlan could find a way to get back on the horse as a little girl she would. However, those lessons never involved eventing and didn’t even involve jumping. In fact, Quinlan didn’t even know what eventing was until she began to attend college at Meredith Manor Equine College in West Virginia after earning her Associate's degree in Texas.
It was there at Meredith Manor where Quinlan was in the middle of her studies in 2010 when she saw an ad on the school bulletin board regarding volunteering at an event in Kentucky for crowd control. The event just so happened to be the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event and, of course, was the biggest event in the United States. She fondly remembers her first trip to Kentucky to volunteer. “I had class on Friday so I left late and got to the Horse Park late, around 10:00 p.m. I pitched my tent but it started to absolutely pour so I ended up sleeping in my truck. Great start to the weekend,” she laughed.
While many people may have thrown in the towel right there, it didn’t stop Quinlan from enjoying her weekend. “It was cold and wet the next morning but that didn’t deter me and I got up bright and early to meet up with everyone who I didn’t really know. I had so much fun volunteering and the people were so amazing,” she said. It was that fateful weekend that Quinlan became hooked on volunteering and the sport of eventing.
When the volunteer coordinator position for the event became available at the Manor, Quinlan jumped at the chance. She quickly reached out to Karen Kallmeyer with the crowd control portion of the volunteers at the Kentucky Three-Day Event and said, “I will give you a group of people, let me know how many you need,” and her group was born. Quinlan started talking to everyone at the Manor and in her first year, she had about 45 people just from the school - a huge number!
Quinlan is quick to give credit to Kallmeyer for giving her direction and quick to thank all her volunteers who have stuck by her side for all those years and continue to come out every year to volunteer. Now, her group gets bigger and bigger. “Everyone in my group is alumni as I like to call them as they have all volunteered with me before. It is a family reunion of sorts and the horses that we watch are just amazing too,” she said.
One of her special volunteers, Abbey Tanner, shared these heartfelt words with us when she nominated Quinlan. “I've been volunteering for crowd control on cross-country day with Jessie for the past five years and my daughter started with me when she was only nine. She is incredibly passionate about horses and this event means the world to her,” she detailed. “Jessie has cemented herself in with the folks planning and the organizing volunteers at The Kentucky Horse Park. They trust her to step up and take on the task before she's even asked. They know she will see a need and make a plan to fix any issue.”
Finally, Tanner added, “She has a loyal group that comes every year from at least five different states. We come on Thursday and camp in the primitive camping area until Sunday. As volunteers go, she's one of the best. Jessie Quinlan deserves this nomination for all the work she does for LRK3DE, and the work she does outside in the equestrian community.” It truly is touching to see how much of an impact she has made on the community and beyond.
When asked why she now loves the sport so much, she quickly answered, “I want to be a part of anything horses. I love watching horses jump and cross-country is fantastic. The athletic ability is amazing and the people you meet there are second to none.” Quinlan’s passion for horses and the sport is so evident and just by speaking with her, you can hear how much volunteering means to her.
She explained, “For me, volunteering is just giving back to the horse world because it has given so much to me. I’m not in it for the money and I just love being around these animals and meeting all of these amazing people.”
After graduating from Meredith Manor, Quinlan took the plunge and set up her own business with the help of a friend in Guysville, Ohio. The farm, named Dutch Pines Equine, is located 45 minutes outside of Parkersburg and opened five years ago. She went from two horses to now an entire farm full and she spends her days volunteering in all ways and forms.
We would be remiss if we didn’t include all of her other volunteering efforts, which include bringing school groups to the farm to learn more about horses including children with disabilities and creating a horse camp over the summer specifically for children with disabilities. Her camp has become so popular that people come from all over and this year they will be doing two four-week sessions with 10 kids in each session. It takes a huge amount of work and dedication, but Quinlan absolutely loves it. Her biggest reward? “Seeing the kids smile,” she said.
It is evident Quinlan is a very special person in the horse community. Whether she is organizing volunteers for the “Best Weekend All Year” or simply bringing a group of school children out to her farm, she will do whatever she can to give back to the community. Quinlan is more than deserving of this month’s nomination and we couldn’t be more thankful to have someone like Quinlan in the horse community and in the sport. Thank you for all that you do!
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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