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.
Every year the eventing community comes together to celebrate the hard work and accomplishments of its members at the United States Eventing Association (USEA) Annual Meeting & Convention Year End Awards Ceremony. Led by Master of Ceremonies Jim Wofford, the awards ceremony is one of the most anticipated events of Convention and gives eventers the opportunity to celebrate their successes with their family and friends.
Over the previous decade, the number of upper level event horses that remain at the highest levels of the sport for extended periods of time has anecdotally been dwindling. Also, it is rare to see horses return to represent the U.S. on international teams. This discussion features statistics provided by the USEA and EquiRatings to strengthen our understanding of this issue and perspectives from coaches, trainers, riders, grooms, and veterinary professionals on the possible reasons and solutions.
For 60 years the members of the USEA have been coming together to discuss the business of the Association and make important decisions to keep the sport of eventing thriving in America. The USEA Annual Meeting & Convention has turned into four days full of meetings and more, but the Annual Meeting remains the backbone.
The focus of this presentation is mindfulness practice, how it ties into the core principles of mindset, fitness, nutrition, and community, and how these topics foster optimal performance in and out of the saddle. As equestrians, we invest a lot of time and energy making sure that our horses are in their best shape to compete and in doing so we often sweep our own needs to the side.