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.
One of my passions is continuing to be a good student, because I think no matter how old I get, there are multiple reasons learning new things inspires me. First and foremost, it helps me be a better rider and trainer, so my horses benefit. Second, it helps me be a better teacher by exposing me to different ways to have a relationship with a horse or a student.
This month we’re going to begin a three-part series on how to create positive riding experiences by making sure the words you say to yourself and the thoughts you think to yourself are positive. Referred to as self-talk, internal dialogue, or brain babble; the words you say to yourself can have a huge impact on your performance. In fact, your thoughts and voice are actually considered behaviors, and just like how positive physical behaviors (i.e. a balanced transition) can create success, your verbal behaviors can also accomplish the very same thing. So let's spend the next few months talking about how to talk to yourself!
Being spontaneous has paid off for Kevin Keane and Sportsfield Candy. “I bought him on a Wednesday and showed him on a Thursday,” Keane recalls about his first event with his Irish Sport Horse gelding, then 9 years old, at Plantation Field Horse Trials (Unionville, Pennsylvania) in September 2016. “I owned him for part of a day, and the next morning I showed up at a CCI and jogged him up for a two-star, and we went clean and clean and clean.”
THANK YOU to everyone who has already entered the USEF/USEA Recognized CDCTA Spring Horse Trials scheduled for Sunday, April 9 in Berryville, VA. We will continue to take late entries through Friday, March 24 using USEA’s Xentry system. If you still want to come compete, please enter! The late fee has been waived through Friday, March 24.