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].
Sue Funkey of Angels Camp, California, is the epitome of what it means to be a volunteer. She is dedicated, constantly gives back to the sport, and shows up time and time again no matter the conditions to help. We are proud and honored to feature her as this month’s Volunteer of the Month as we highlight all the many ways she contributes to the sport.
Sue began to ride as a teen although it didn’t last long, she admitted, “After two years, my dad got kicked in the face by my lease horse and that ended that. However, the love for horses still continued.”
It would be a bit before Sue got back into horses but as it would turn out, Sue would end up back in the same area as the barn she originally started riding at. “My husband and I had just moved back from Southern California and I said to him, I need to go do something good for myself, I'm going to Webb Ranch, where I started as a kid. I wanted to see if they have any horses for lease and they did. I got one and the fun began,” she said. That was 40 years ago and the rest, they say, is history.
When Sue first started riding, she bought an Appaloosa named Santana. She then detailed how she happened to stumble on the sport of eventing. “We would go from Webb Ranch, through a back gate to Rancho Viejo. I saw riders ride at CTETA (now the Woodside Horse Park) and saw how they had to be balanced. So, when I went to Rancho Viejo, I would trot and canter my horse up and downhill. It was as much conditioning for me as it was him,” she said.
It was then that she got hooked. “We would trot forever, then I learned I could canter and gallop those same hills. It taught me balance and rhythm. The rhythm being the important part. Then when I put these together with a fence in front with an instructor it was easy,” she added.
After coming across more venues and shows, Sue began to volunteer. She enjoyed being more involved in the sport she found by chance but loved by choice. Sue has filled just about every position possible. Her favorite? Being a scribe for dressage or a ring steward. “Being a scribe, you learn something new about what judges look for and being a ring steward, you get to help scared people in the ring and boost their confidence. I'm a cheerleader, I want EVERYONE to do well. I don't care about the level and I see them all as my family,” she explained.
When we asked Sue why she volunteers, she said the answer was easy. “The love of the sport. I am married to eventing. I have never done, nor care to do any other horse sport. Jumpers aren't interesting and have never had the horse for that and dressage is an end to a bigger fence, at least that's how I see it,” she said with a laugh.
One of Sue’s other passions apart from volunteering is putting on clinics for riders with world-class instructors from all over. She has dubbed them the Riding with the Best clinics and rightfully so. So far, she has brought in Lucinda Green, Mark Todd, Mary King, Philip Dutton, and more to California to clinic. Why you may ask? Because no one else has. Sue loves riding with them just as much as any other rider and really enjoys organizing them for others to enjoy as well.
“I want to ride with the best so for me, it is easy to pick up the phone or write them an email and get them to come clinic. Who do you want to ride with? I'll bring them,” she added. Sue truly wants to help the eventing community in any way that she can and those in Area VI are lucky to have such an amazing cheerleader looking for new opportunities and cheering them on when volunteering. Her favorite part of the sport? “I love it all,” she said.
To date, Sue already has almost 24 hours under her belt volunteering in Area VI this year. With the shortened schedule and the late start to the season that they have out west, that is truly something to be honored. It is dedicated volunteers like Sue that make this sport possible. It is those who stumble upon the sport truly by accident that can make the most difference.
Sue cannot encourage people enough to get out there and volunteer to give back. She is already planning her return once it is deemed safe to resume and she is excited to continue to volunteer and enjoy the sport that she loves. We cannot thank Sue enough for all that she does and we are excited to honor her as the Volunteer of the Month.
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.
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