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!
Do you know someone who should be recognized as a Volunteer of the Month? We are looking for our next feature. Email your tips to [email protected]
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