Prior to moving to Aiken, South Carolina in the summer of 2019, Kristin Harms Matthews’ involvement with horses was limited to attending the Aiken Steeplechase Events. “At my first Aiken Steeplechase event, we were positioned in front of a jump near the finish line,” Matthews recalled. “While this is a prime spot to watch the races, I witnessed a race where several horses fell, one after another in a chain reaction, over the jump. And although the horses and riders were all fine, I was traumatized for months seeing these creatures crash to the ground. My husband even took me to visit horses near the Training Track stables to help me get over my fear. I could not believe that he was petting their heads and allowing them to nuzzle on his cheek! The horror...”
So, during the summer of 2019, Matthews made the decision to do something about her fear of horses and become more educated about them. She began searching for opportunities to volunteer with horses and learn more about equestrian sports. That’s when she learned about Stable View. “When I learned about Stable View and how they educated volunteers to help with the equestrian events, I volunteered for my first horse trials in June of 2019,” Matthews said.
“I was immediately fascinated with the grace and beauty of horses as they ran the cross-country course,” she continued. “Every month (except four) after that, I have volunteered for Horse Trials and Eventing Academies at Stable View as well as at Bruce's Field, Full Gallop Farm, and Sporting Days. Of course, my favorite volunteer position will always be as a jump judge on the cross-country course.”
“The best part about volunteering in the equestrian community in Aiken is having the opportunity to learn about the horses, the different disciplines in eventing, and meeting competitors of all experience levels,” Matthews shared. “It has been fun watching the growth of competitors from one year to the next and being able to cheer them on by name. The eventing community is unique in that riders and horses are connected on a deeper level than perhaps some other equestrian disciplines. There is a bond that is formed when a rider works with their horse day after day, learning and refining the skills needed to compete successfully (and safely) in the three different disciplines of eventing.”
Matthews’ experience as an eventing volunteer has prompted her to purchase a horse of her very own and she is now training with her mare, Duchess of Skye, to compete in pure dressage. “I cannot imagine life without my Duchess of Skye, my riding instructor, and my responsibility of managing the barn when needed. I no longer fear horses. I have a great respect and appreciation for each horse that I meet. My goal is to participate in a trail riding journey on an Icelandic horse during my return trip to Iceland next summer!”
Matthews concluded, “Thank you for this opportunity to share how volunteering with equestrian eventing has changed my life.”
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.
Following yesterday’s downpour, the temperatures for the final jog this morning were brisk but the CCI5*-L horses remained professional for the last horse inspection leading into show jumping later today. Of the 35 pairs set to move forward with the final phase of competition, only 34 presented to judges Angela Tucker (GBR), Martin Plewa (GER), and Mark Weissbecker after Lisa Marie Fergusson opted not to bring forward her own 15-year-old Welsh/Thoroughbred gelding (Brynarian Brennin x Dream Contessa) Honor Me.
After a jam-packed week, the final day of competition at the Maryland 5 Star is upon us. Riders have shown off their style in the horse inspection, danced their way down the centerline in dressage, and contested some serious obstacles in cross-country up until this point. Now it's time to demonstrate the fitness and accuracy that each horse possesses in the final phase: show jumping.
It was a great day of cross-country riding at the Maryland 5 Star. There were 35 horses who crossed the finish and 11 of those finished double clear. With British, French, New Zealand, Canadian, and American riders coming through the finish flags – it was a true world class competition. The USEA was at the finish to see what the riders thought of the very first Maryland 5 Star cross-country track designed by Ian Stark.
Weren’t able to spend your morning glued to the livestream of the 2021 Maryland 5 Star cross-country? Couldn’t be there in person to trek up the hills? We have you covered with a play-by-play of what happened on Ian Stark’s cross-country course which gave both the designer and the riders many sleepless nights, but ended up riding quite well for the majority of the field.