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].
Suzanne Adams grew up as a self-proclaimed barn rat. While her passion for horses may have been ill-advised by her parents, Adams was not discouraged. She explained, “If you're a Harry Potter fan, you'll understand that a horse to my parents was like magic to the Dursleys.” Nevertheless, Adams was persistent and she would find horses in backyard barns that weren’t being ridden and ask the owners to work for them in exchange for riding. It was the start of a long and endearing passion for horses and eventually the sport of eventing, which lead her to where she is today - a revered member of the eventing community and this month’s USEA Volunteer of the Month.
As a volunteer, Adams goes above and beyond. She has filled just about every role a volunteer possibly could, except for being a dressage scribe. “My handwriting is horrible and I think I'd spend too much time watching then scribing. Plus, I don't want to ruin someone's scoring,” she said jokingly.
Adams had been a part of the Area I eventing community for years but she did let us in on a little secret - she had actually always wanted to be the Adult Rider Coordinator. Adams began to volunteer internally within Area I by writing for their quarterly newsletter, Optimum Minutes, for two years or so until the position finally was offered to her in November 2014.
From there, she hit the ground running. While there was a learning curve, Adams was smart in that, “I used suggestions from the other Area AR Coordinators and modified the programs to accommodate our region.” Adams quickly learned that just because one thing works in another area didn’t mean it would work in Area I.
Adams also wanted to get to know her members too. After all, they would be the one benefitting from the programs so she chatted with everyone she ran into or rode with. "I chatted with everyone from the folks at my barn to those stabled near me at competitions and those that I trailered with. They listened to ideas and offered suggestions for programs,” she explained.
When asked why she loves the sport of eventing, Admas was quick to say, “Everything!” She expanded, “Eventing is a great humbler. We train so hard for the chance to get a ribbon and there are a million ways to lose. Maybe we're a little masochistic...just maybe.“ Adams also added, “When I have a good dressage test or lesson, I think that's it, this is all I need! Then I jump and think nothing beats this.” Finally, Adams stated, “The most amazing thing is when we sail across the 'scariest' jump on the course and the joy explodes in my body and we gallop away - just me and my horse conquering heroes - no one but us. THAT makes everything alright.”
It is people like this that make the sport what it is and the Adult Riders of Area I would have to agree, the sport would not very different if she weren’t involved. One special member noted she would not have even become involved if it weren’t for Adams. She said, “I never signed up to be in the Adult Rider program before her because it really only meant some clinics that I usually couldn't go to or some amateur rider award I wasn't eligible for.” That all changed when Adams took over. The Adult Rider added, “One year I got an invite to join this "Virtual Team" with the Adult Rider program. It sounded interesting so I joined up. You are put on a team of seven random people and get points for things like volunteering or winning a ribbon.” This competition goes all season long and then at the end of the year, the top three teams get some great prizes. It is programs like this that Adams has spearheaded that have grown the program exponentially.
As the Area I Adult Rider Coordinator, Adams also makes sure that volunteering is a part of their program to encourage people to do so until they want to do it themselves. Now there is often no longer a shortage of volunteers at events because of the incentive and excitement surrounding the program.
Ann Grenier, a fellow Area I Adult rider, added, “The amount of work she does on these programs is phenomenal! Before each event, she posts a list on our Facebook page about who from each team is competing so we know who to cheer on. Within a day or two after the events, she figures out who placed, who volunteered, and who had to scratch (because you also get points for entering) and calculates the current team rankings.”
But her work doesn’t stop there. Grenier explained, “She even threw in some fun contests like "best selfie" which will earn your team a few more points in addition to separate team competitions at some of the popular events and wine socials where we can meet all the other Adult Riders.“ All Area I Adult Riders agree, Adams is the best thing that has happened to the program and while a little birdie tells us the Young Rider program has tried to steal her, the Adult Riders sure aren’t going to let her go!
If you were to speak with Adams, you would immediately sense her passion and excitement for the sport and what she does. Adam’s goal is to have the type of program that will be sustainable for her successor and beyond, but that doesn’t mean she is going to step down any time soon. It is clear she loves the position and the program’s members! She has enjoyed bringing Area I together and through her experiences both as a competitor and as a volunteer, she has been able to build a program that everyone, both competitor and non-competitor, loves.
Both the eventing community and Area I are lucky to have someone like Adams as a member and she is more than deserving of this month’s nomination. It is people like Adams that we cannot salute enough or praise enough. She makes this sport happen and everyone in the Eventing community should be grateful for all that she does. Join us in thanking Adams from the bottom of our hearts. Eventing would not be the same without you!
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.
Interested in tapping into the audience of three-day eventing? Consider partnering with the United States Eventing Association (USEA) in 2022! The USEA is a non-profit 501 C (3), which serves as the national association for the Olympic equestrian sport of three-day eventing.
Whether you are a rider preparing for a move-up or a trainer looking to ensure your training program is well-rounded, the soon-to-be released USEA Eventing Handbook by the Levels is the go-to guide to assist you in navigating key decisions. Lucky enough, attendees of the 2022 USEA Instructors’ Certification Program (ICP) Symposium at Barnstaple South Farm in Ocala, Florida on February 8-9 will be the first people outside of the those involved in its creation to access this passion project that the ICP Committee has put two years of research and hard work into developing.
In 2021 Cynthia Smith recorded 536 hours and 59 minutes of volunteer time, setting the standard with the most amount of volunteer hours recorded in a single year since the creation of the USEA Volunteer Incentive Program in 2016. The record-breaking number of volunteer time earned Smith the 2021 USEA Volunteer of the Year title.
Tamie Smith’s year has been nothing short of action-packed as she packed up all 25 of her competition horses and made her way to the East Coast for the first part of the year before hopping on a jet to Tokyo where she served as the U.S. team reserve for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She then stayed overseas and competed abroad for a little while before returning home to the West Coast. While this year has been full of opportunities to show, her aspirations are bigger than just competition. The 2021 Bates USEA Lady Rider of the Year has been full steam ahead chasing goals in both her riding career as well as in her impact on the sport’s future.