Regina Cristo grew up on a horse farm in downstate New York. “My dad loved horses as a kid, so we were raised with horses at our home,” Cristo explained. “We had ponies and were involved with Pony Club and 4-H, and had horses for trail riding in our rural area.” Cristo rode all through her childhood, high school, and college, even riding for her college’s equestrian team. Then, she took a hiatus from riding to raise her four sons as a stay-at-home mom.
Then, Cristo was diagnosed with cancer. When she had beaten cancer, she decided she needed to ride again. “It started with some lessons, half leasing a horse, then buying a green but wonderful Draft cross [named Wallace], and my eventing life started!” she said. “We did mostly lower level eventing and competing in Area I, and even went to the [USEA American Eventing Championships] one year. It was a fun few years, but unlike most eventers, my favorite part was the dressage portion of eventing.”
So, Cristo sold her event horse to a friend and bought her first dressage horse. Over the course of the last 10 years, she has earned her USDF bronze and silver medals and she’s currently working on her gold medal. She is also a USDF "L" graduate with distinction and judges at dressage schooling shows. “I sit on several volunteer committees for USDF, and USEF, and am especially proud to be a member of the USEF High Performance Dressage Committee for our U.S. Para Dressage riders and a team selector for International competitions such as the Olympics and World Games,” she said. “I am also a volunteer for The Dressage Foundation.”
While Cristo was raising her four boys, she did a lot of volunteering for their various sports and clubs. “When I started riding again, it was an easy segue into volunteering with horses and riders,” she said. “I joined my local USDF group member organization (GMO), and several years later became the president of the club, and was involved with many aspects of volunteering, from organizing recognized horse trials and dressage shows, clinics, and member activities. There were many great volunteers in our club, and we all worked hard to have successful events in our area. I really enjoy making things happen, and my volunteering broadened out from there to other groups such as USEF and USDF.”
Even though her own riding focuses on pure dressage these days, Cristo still volunteers her time for horse trials in Area I. As you can imagine, given her love for the dressage phase, Cristo’s favorite volunteer position at an event is dressage stewarding. “My home barn is Larkin Hill in North Chatham, New York, and they hold two or three recognized horse trials each year,” she said. “They run three dressage rings at each event and I can always be found there!”
“I have one great volunteer helping me, she feeds the horses from the warm-up rings to me at the competition rings, and it works like a machine,” Cristo elaborated. “We have been working together for several years now, and are both proud to get a couple hundred horses, in three rings, all day, and on time! Most riders are really nice and grateful for what we do, and that is appreciated.”
Cristo shared that one of her favorite parts of volunteering is meeting all the different people and hearing their stories. “Most everyone loves their horses, from super fancy to the fabulous school horse and everything in between,” she said. “I especially love to see young people and amateurs out competing and try to offer a positive word as they head into the ring. As a competitor myself, sometimes a small gesture by a volunteer really makes a difference. I have always found eventers to be fun, hard-working, and appreciative!”
“I encourage anyone interested in volunteering at an event, but might be hesitant to do a big recognized one, to start volunteering at a schooling show to get a taste of it,” she advised. “There are many opportunities out there. Reach out to farms and barns in your area and check out their websites. I can guarantee your request to volunteer will be received enthusiastically. There are many jobs before, during, and after an event that need to be done. Every job will be appreciated by an organizer, volunteer coordinator, and competitors.”
“I find volunteering fun, educational, and sometimes very interesting!” Cristo concluded. “You meet some really nice people and you help your local equestrian community operate. I've been on both sides of volunteering, trying to get enough help for events and being there for my local events. It's really amazing how so many people step up to volunteer to make events happen – there is always a job for everyone, big and small. Organizers appreciate any and all volunteers, without them there would be no events!”
About the USEA Volunteer Incentive Program
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.