This year’s volunteer of the month, Melissa Rundt, wasn’t always involved in the horse community. She didn’t grow up around horses or even ride as a child. It wasn’t until her son was diagnosed with a mild form of Tourette syndrome at 8 years of age that she decided to start him in therapeutic riding lessons to help with some of his symptoms. He began at the age of 10 and by age 12, he had become more advanced and began to ride more frequently as well as at a higher level. Rundt recalled one day at school, “His principal mentioned she knew of a student on an equestrian scholarship. He thought that was the coolest thing!” The rest, as they say, is history as from then on her son was hooked.
With his interest in riding at an all-time high, they moved barns and discovered eventing. At his first schooling show, which just happened to be at Pine Top Farm, Rundt was approached by the organizer due to their lack of an in-gate steward. “They explained the job to me and basically said I just had to open the gate for every horse and rider to go in. I thought it sounded easy enough so I stood outside in the rain and opened the gate all day while my son competed,” she explained. The next time they had a show Rundt was right back helping and thus her passion for volunteering was born.
Rundt continued to cheer on her son, who competed his horse through Novice before getting out of eventing when he went off to and graduated from college. Even with her son no longer riding, Rundt’s passion for the sport grew. After many years of wearing both the mom and volunteer hat, she now had even more time to volunteer with her son off at school. She would volunteer at every show with one of her favorite venues being Pine Top Farm in Thomson, Georgia. “I have volunteered there for every show in the last 13 years. I can’t believe I have already been going that long,” she said.
When we asked her about the volunteer positions she has held, she chucked a bit and said, “I have pretty much done it all. My favorite is most definitely jump judging and acting as a steward. I have a loud voice that carries and I like to think I’m nice but also good at standing my ground.” She added, “The one thing I am not good at is scribing because I just talk too much.”
Even with the hour drive, she is sure to always be there to steward all three dressage rings and help with whatever is needed at Pine Top. Now, she also serves as their volunteer coordinator as well and while she is unable to fill both a steward role and the volunteer coordinator role at the same time, “I do miss my friends though since it's the same crew minus me and visit often in an 'official' capacity,” she laughed. Eventually, Rundt’s friends began joining her and she spoke to the excitement of a horse show weekend because, “I knew I was going to get to see my friends volunteering and my friends competing,” she said. They all became a family and would make weekends out of it often bringing their campers to stay at the venues all weekend long.
While Pine Top’s schedule is busy, it doesn’t stop her from lending time to other venues as well. She now runs the VIP website for both Full Gallop Farm and Paradise Farm and volunteers there whenever she can. The VIP program is something that inspired Rundt and she hopes that by running the website and pushing the program at shows and on social media, she can inspire more people to get involved.
Now Rundt has taken on a new project all on her own. After finishing the year as the volunteer with the most hours in Area III, it is her goal to help all of the volunteers feel more appreciated. She plans to reach out to all organizers in Area III to gain their backing to put together prize packages for the top 10 volunteers in Area III at the end of the year. With support already from at least three venues, she is well on her way to garnering the support she needs to make it happen. This is just another way in which Rundt wants to try to give back to all the volunteers who work so hard to make this sport happen.
Rundt’s passion and excitement for the sport are incredible. When asked why she loved eventing, Rundt quickly responded and said, “The excitement, the horses, the volunteers, the competitors - everything! They have all become my friends and I would do anything from standing outside in the pouring rain or even in the snow because I love it so much.”
It is people like Rundt that make this sport possible. Eventing would not happen if it weren’t for the volunteers who dedicate their time to not only volunteer week in and week out but also to help make the sport better, volunteers like Rundt. She feels so grateful to be able to work with so many other amazing volunteers and while she is quick to give credit to them, they are quick to give it right back. Rundt is more than deserving of this year’s volunteer of the month nomination and we can’t thank her enough for all that she does!
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.
On this episode of the Equiratings Eventing Podcast, show host Nicole Brown talks to Pan American Games gold medalist and U.S. team stalwart Boyd Martin about his career to date, highs and lows, and coming back from injury.
On Monday, March 8 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern, USEF will host a member webinar providing updates on the impacts of the case of EHV-1 (neurological) reported in Ocala, Florida. This case is similar in nature, but unrelated to the neurological strain of EHV-1 impacting Valencia (ESP) and other European countries.
As competitors rise through the levels, they often see the costs associated with competition rise and, unfortunately for most organizers, this can’t be avoided. With fewer competitors requiring more jumps, officials, footing management, etc., the expenses for running higher levels – especially FEI – are greater than lower levels.
Our sport is going to present you with many amazing opportunities, and some equally amazing challenges. While you’re sure to enjoy the opportunities, it sometimes takes a little more effort to enjoy the challenges. Contrary to the common misconception (from non-equestrians) that our sport is easy, it’s actually one of the hardest and most demanding sports of all!