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].
Joan Mayfield has been a part of the eventing community for longer than a majority of the USEA’s current members have been alive. While she started taking “up-down” lessons as a teenager, she didn’t get her first horse until she graduated from college. She then started eventing in the 1970s, back when it was called combined training and you started at Training level if you couldn’t find a Pre-Training division. It just so happened that there was a college student who evented at the barn where Mayfield kept her horse. Thus, she was introduced to the sport and her love of eventing was ignited.
While she sadly and unexpectedly lost her horse to a pasture accident, she ended up finding a 5-year-old Thoroughbred standing out alone on a rural farm after he had been thrown off the bush track. According to Mayfield, “He was a real prize!” That same college student helped Mayfield go pick up the horse (it took them three hours to load) and they then made a deal. Mayfield would take them both to shows in her old truck and horse trailer and the friend would help Mayfield introduce her horse to the sport. Not having any facilities with schooling opportunities, she taught them the sport using gymnastics. Mayfield explained, “It was a three-hour drive to the nearest event and I really had no clue what eventing entailed. I didn’t know the rules and I kind of flew by the seat of my pants, but it was fun!”
She eventually moved to Bloomington, Indiana and raised her family there where her two daughters started out riding bareback in the fields. They rode in the local 4-H program and dabbled in everything from jumping to reining, contesting, and trail classes. “We would go do what I call extreme trail riding, here in the Hoosier National Forests and the Deam Wilderness Area, in Southern Indiana (it really puts a seat on a rider and legs up a horse!) and we would volunteer together at the Hoosier Horse Park events,” she added. It was awesome mother-daughter time spent together.
Her youngest daughter finished college and Mayfield had a young homebred horse turning five, ready to start their eventing career together, so some more serious event world time became inevitable. “I’d say I probably have about 22 years of experience volunteering at events and 10 of those also with combined driving. It kept me involved and learning,” she said.
Mayfield took us through a normal weekend volunteering. “I’ve been doing the cross-country decorating for quite a few years and because it helps me learn the courses it’s easier for me to do the fence judging assignments. I know what is where and where certain people would be best utilized.” Last year she helped flag in the sideways pouring rain all day, “We were soaked!”
She enjoys co-organizing the cross-country as she explained, “It has become a huge undertaking!” She also has spent lots of time scribing, jump judging, and even scoring back in the old days on a calculator, although her favorite “may have to be the cross-country warm up, because it keeps you on your toes all day,” she added.
She fondly remembers her first year doing the fence assignments. “I put a nice older couple at a simple jump in the shade! Afterwards I learned they had 38 years of experience, judging Rolex, the Olympics, and the WEG. We get a good laugh about that every year. Now I keep a record of experience, for the next person.” Mayfield always gets a good chuckle when remembering the funny stories she has. She has quite a few!
Over the years, Mayfield has become a huge presence at events, not only in Indiana, but all over Area VIII. She has learned a lot along the way and one tip she has for coordinators out there is, “Always do a practice hold with your judges. I go around at the early morning radio call and actually do a walk through with my hold fence judges because some are only doing it once a year, like taxes, and that is the rider’s score and you can never be too careful.” She has so much advice to give and so much wisdom. The eventing community truly is lucky to have her.
When asked what her favorite part of the sport was, Mayfield quickly responded with, “The people. It’s like going to Kentucky in April, and it becomes the annual pilgrimage . . . I say it’s my fantasy life.” Mayfield has passion in her voice when she talks about the sport and about volunteering. Her goal always is to “make it fun for people to come back each year and learn more jobs!”
"Back when I used to compete, I never saw or noticed the volunteers," Mayfield reflected. "I lived too far away from an event to even know about being able to volunteer and learn so much. And I was riding a nutty little horse - I don't even remember seeing any fence judges. Now it's all I see - the village."
Mayfield and her daughter, Dorie, who has been IEA's volunteer coordinator for many years, have worked well together as a team. Next time you’re at an event in Area VIII be sure to be on the lookout for her and when you do, give her a huge thank you because eventing wouldn’t be the same without her! Oh, and ask her about the time a tiny bird took out a horse and rider on cross-county. It’s a good story!
Do you know someone who should be recognized as a Volunteer of the Month? We are looking for our next feature. Email your tips to [email protected]
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