It was only recently that John Bandrofchak became involved in the eventing community - seven years, in fact. It all began when he decided he wanted to begin working with animals. After finding his way to a local equine therapy farm, his passion for horses and volunteering grew. The center was always looking for volunteers and while Bandrofchak started as a side walker, he quickly began to groom and tack up the horses as well in addition to his leading and side walking. Bandrofchak fondly remembers his days at the therapy center, which is also where one of the instructors suggested he should continue to do something with horses and lead him to where he is today.
After working at the center, Bandrofchak, originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, found his way to eventer Susan Moessner’s Paragon Farms Equestrian Center, where he groomed for about a year and a half. Moessner introduced Bandrofchak to the sport of eventing, at which point, “I was hooked,” he explained. “She taught me so much. The people and horses were also so amazing and I met so many wonderful volunteers at the shows I attended with Susan,” he added. Bandrofchak found the culture exciting, riveting, and overall so welcoming.
When Moessner’s horse became sidelined unexpectedly, Bandrofchak wanted to continue to be involved at the events and thus turned to volunteering. He explained, “I had met so many amazing people already who were volunteering while at the events and the shows were always looking for people to volunteer so I decided it was the perfect thing to do.” To escape the frigid temperatures of Michigan, Bandrofchak moved to Lincolnton, Georgia, and got his feet wet volunteering at Pine Top, one of the longest-running events in Area III, five years ago. In fact, he made a week out of it and after volunteering there, volunteered at Full Gallop on Wednesday in Aiken, South Carolina, as well. He hasn’t slowed down since!
From there, it has been one event after another for Bandrofchak. “I just love the horses and love the people. It keeps me coming back from more and I can’t get enough,” he said. While he started in the typical volunteer roles such as jump judging and warm-up stewarding, it was at Pine Top that they introduced him to announcing. “I was down at Pine Top and I got to announce some show jumping. They said I was a great announcer so I decided to keep doing it! Now, I announce at the Kentucky Horse Park for May Daze and Champagne Run, at Sporting Days Farm, and at Paradise,” he detailed.
While he loves to announce, his true passion lies with show jump warm-up stewarding. He admitted, “I love that it is very fast-paced because every 90 seconds another horse is going in. Plus, I get to talk to everyone several times while watching everyone prepare and jump,” he said. So far Bandrofchak has added volunteering at the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) three times, warm-up stewarding at the FEI World Equestrian Games, and working at numerous other venues to his ever-growing volunteer resume, in addition to volunteering at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event for five years. “One of my favorites has to be Plantation Field,” he added. He even started cross-country at this year’s AEC in Kentucky and entered scores after running the dressage warm-up at the recent Hagyard Midsouth Three-Day Event in Kentucky as well. You could say he’s seen a lot and done it all however, Bandrofchak shows no signs of slowing down.
Now, Bandrofchak has turned his focus to adding FEI Steward to his resume alongside his volunteer work. He is attending the Virginia Horse Trials to apprentice this weekend and hopes to obtain his license next year. This is in addition to the control work he has been doing at the Stable View Academy Horse Trials and at Cobblestone Farms in Dexter, Michigan. Whatever the sport or show needs, Bandrofchak is always the first person to step up to lend a helping hand and he always does it with a smile on his face.
Not many volunteers have the resume that Bandrofchak does but what really sets him apart further is his contagious passion and positive attitude no matter what he is doing. We spoke with many of his fellow volunteers and two things were consistent, they all wish more people were like him and that he embodies everything a volunteer should be. While Bandrofchak simply does it because “I love the people and horses and simply just have so much fun,” his impact stretches far and wide. He truly has become one of the most recognizable volunteers on the East Coast and there aren’t many events that he hasn’t attended. It is no surprise that he is in the top 10 on the All-Time Volunteer Leaderboard for the Volunteer Incentive Program, something that he is so deserving of.
We are thrilled to feature Bandrofchak as this month’s Volunteer of the Month and hope everyone gives him both a big congratulations and a big thank you when you see him next as eventing would not be the same without him!
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.
US Equestrian is pleased to announce the dates and location for the 2022 USEF Young Rider Eventing Championship. This championship will take place at the Tryon International Three-Day Event November 10-13 in Mill Spring, N.C.
Sidnee Milner and My Valentine did not become partners out of sheer coincidence. The pony and rider combination that took home the 2021 SmartPak USEA Pony of the Year award were a product of the thoughtfulness and generosity of family friend and trainer Tawn Edwards. Milner was, at the time, a young and inexperienced child rider looking for a partner to teach her the ropes of eventing; My Valentine was a well-seasoned eventing pony who knew the job of advancing young riders well and was looking for her next partner. Over their three-year relationship, the duo have accumulated various ribbons and accolades together with 2021 being the most impressive of their seasons thus far.
Updated January 18, 2022: The 2023 Eventing Calendar webinar, originally scheduled to be held on Wednesday, January 19, 2022 at 4:00 p.m. EST, has been postponed and will be rescheduled with an additional commmunication in the coming weeks.