It always helps to see a warm and friendly face when heading to warm up for that all-important test or jump round. In this series, the United States Evening Association (USEA) is partnering with Athletux to feature those around us who help make these events happen, the volunteers. Without them horse shows and programs could not succeed, and these volunteers go above and beyond to make sure every rider feels comfortable and confident. Do you know a volunteer who should be nominated as Volunteer of the Month? We are looking for our next feature. Email your tips to [email protected].
From the moment Paige Ervin’s parents took her for a pony ride at Wheaton Park Stables when she was five, horses were all that she could think about. For Ervin, she was hooked right then and there. After she was enrolled in lessons at the Potomac Horse Center, her passion for horses was solidified. According to Ervin, “I begged for a pony pretty much every day thereafter,” and even made a bet with her father for her first pony. “My father made a bet with me that if I got straight As on my report card he would get me a pony. I went for tutoring before and after school for my entire 5th-grade year and came home with straight As,” she said with a laugh. Shortly thereafter Ervin won the bet and “Tina” became a member of the family. She was lucky enough to board her at a wonderful barn named Butler School. There they introduced her to eventing which lead to a passion that is still very much alive today.
While she has always enjoyed being a member of the eventing community, it wasn’t until shoulder surgery went horribly wrong that she began to volunteer more and more. “ I was having a routine shoulder surgery that went horribly wrong and left me with two spinal cord stimulators to manage the chronic pain disease it triggered,” she explained. “I was unable to work due to complications from the surgery and was going stir crazy sitting at home. I also became incredibly depressed and had come to the realization that I would never be able to ride again,” Ervin added. So what did she do? She figured out a way to stay just as involved in the community and give back to the sport that had given so much to her.
It was then that Ervin started volunteering “to get my horse fix in vicariously through everyone else,” she said. Volunteering was also her distraction from the chronic pain she was experiencing constantly. For Ervin, cheering the competitors on and watching them evolve with their riding and horses was so special and rewarding as she continued to volunteer although being back on top of a horse hasn’t slowed down her volunteering either. While eventing may not be in her future and she may have had to switch out cross-country adrenaline for a dressage tiara, her heart will always lie with the sport and her story is inspiring. Even when she could barely stand it, Ervin was still out volunteering and doing whatever she could for the sport.
For Ervin, volunteering has become a way of life. “I have done everything from cross-country jump judging to dressage stewarding, bit check, dressage warm-up stewarding, and more. Once I was asked to drive the golf cart, but that offer hasn’t come up again - I like to go fast,” she said with a laugh. She was quick to point out that cross-country jump judging was her favorite though. “It’s thrilling, you personally get to participate, and you get to learn so much about the rules that even some competitors don’t know about. Who doesn’t love a walkie talkie,” she added. Ervin is the epitome of what it means to be a dedicated volunteer by filling whatever position she can wherever she is needed.
You can just hear the excitement and passion in Ervin’s voice when she talks about volunteering and eventing. Why? “I love the unconditional support the equestrian community has for each other. Complete strangers will come out of the woodwork just to help you succeed or in a time of need. Plus men and women compete on an even playing field across the board. It doesn’t get any better than that,” she said. Ervin truly has dedicated more of her life to eventing even if she may not be able to ride out of the startbox ever again.
Ervin did credit one of our previous nominations, Mike Smallwood, and his volunteering for inspiring her as well. She also looks up to all of the volunteers around the country and while she would love to win the overall USEA Volunteer Award one year, she also pointed out that, “No one will ever come close to Mike Smallwood in volunteering as well as the other amazing volunteers around the country.” While she may not have won, Ervin has been in the top five every year for volunteer hours - quite an impressive feat.
In the Area II community, Ervin is known for her video recording and for what she calls her emotional cross-country support kittens. Ervin added, “I’ve been fostering and bottle feeding kittens and I like to think they help calm nerves one nervous rider connection at a time.” Check out international eventer Colleen Rutledge's husband, Brian, and his emotional support kitten at Great Meadow a few weekends ago. If you spot Ervin at an Area II event, chances are the kittens are hidden somewhere nearby!
It is people like Ervin that make this sport possible. When she gets in the saddle she wears her dressage tiara but don’t be fooled, her heart lies with eventing and volunteering. Ervin is looking forward to taking on the world with her new mount, an 18.3 hand 4 year-old gelding she calls Walt, and to continuing to volunteer. 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. Ervin is inspiring and really reminds us why we all should do everything we can to give back to this sport that we all love. Ervin 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.
The United States Eventing Association (USEA) is pleased to announce the addition of the Modified Rider division beginning at the 2023 USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC), presented by Nutrena Feeds. The USEA AEC will move back to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky August 29–September 3, 2023.
Are you interested in competing in the sport of eventing but aren’t quite sure how to get started? Do you have a horse that is looking for a new career? Consider participating in a USEA New Event Horse (NEH) competition in 2023! The USEA NEH Program was created to be an introduction to the sport of eventing for both horse and rider, and the 2023 NEH Calendar is now available here.
Will Coleman had a huge 2022 with his string of horses, including a team silver medal at the FEI World Eventing Championship in Italy on Off The Record and top four-star placings with Chin Tonic HS, but it was Dondante whose consistency paid off to earn the Standlee Premium Western Forage USEA Horse of the Year title.
Julie Murray has loved horses since she could breathe, so when her daughters showed an interest in Pony Club and then eventing, she was thrilled to go along for the ride.
Murray started volunteering at the Fallbrook Pony Club near her home in Fallbrook, California, serving as an intermediate district commissioner.