It was by mere accident that David Slagle stumbled upon the horse world and the sport of eventing. "I'm not a horse person," he said, "but I discovered the sport. Really, Elisa Wallace is responsible, as I just happened to be watching YouTube videos and came across her mustang training videos, which led me to her. She posts cross-country helmet cam videos, and I started watching those and thought, 'Man, that looks like fun.' I didn't know anything about the sport. I spent my first few years in Lexington, Kentucky, but I knew about racing, not eventing. And I saw these videos and said, I want to go to one of those events."
In early 2019, the 64-year-old retiree got his first taste of eventing up close and never looked back. "I started researching and attending events in my area as a spectator," he noted, "and I was up in Lexington and went to the Mid-South Pony Club event in the spring of 2019. I met an experienced jump judge up there by the name of Marjorie Hines, and she was very gracious to spend her day teaching me how to be a judge, and she told me that they needed volunteers. So, I read rules, watched videos, and started doing whatever they needed in the summer of 2019. I fell in love with the sport and with the people in the sport. I've been volunteering as much as I can ever since."
Though Slagle lived in Lexington, Kentucky, as a child, he hadn't had much experience with the animals that take up a large portion of his time these days. "I'm not a rider and knew nothing about horses," he admitted, "but I've learned a lot. That's one of the nice things about the sport. Everyone has been very kind in helping me learn and teaching me about the sport and the horses. Because of that, I'm hooked on it at this point."
Slagle now lives in Tennessee and mainly volunteers in Area III, but he also commutes to North Carolina, Virginia, and Kentucky when he can. "I have some venues I go to regularly because they do a good job, have good volunteer coordinators, and are fun events,” he said. “But really, I enjoy all the events I attend; schooling shows just as much as a four-star. If there are good-looking horses and friendly people there, I will enjoy myself.
"I came for the horses, but I stayed for people," Slagle continued. "This is the best group of people I've ever been around. The work ethic and the sportsmanship are what really impress me. From the volunteers to the organizers, the volunteer coordinators, and everyone else I've come in contact with—officials, riders, et cetera—everyone has a good attitude and is very helpful and understanding. It's what keeps me coming back; the people in this sport. I can't say enough good things about them! The riders themselves are so appreciative. I was at an event in Kentucky recently, and I can't count how many riders came up and said, 'Thank you for being out here.' I've volunteered in other sports, and I never had that happen. It was immediately apparent to me that the riders in this sport really appreciate our efforts."
Though he is a "Jack of all trades" at his events, Slagle has a few favorite volunteer jobs that stand out to him. "My initial goal when I started was to cross-country jump judge; I really enjoy that," he explained. "But I've started doing more in the warm-up, especially in the show jumping warm-up, and I really enjoy that because you get to talk to the riders and see the horses up close and personal. I'm happy to do whatever an event may need, but if I had my choice, I would do show jump warm-up one day and the next day cross-country jump judge."
Slagle has been to many events, but he still has a few he'd like to get to, including the iconic Event at Rebecca Farm. “That's on my bucket list,” he said. “It's 2500 miles away for me, but maybe next year. I have to throttle back a little bit, but with that said, as long as I can get out here and be helpful, I'm going to try."
There is no doubt that this VIP Volunteer enjoys his work at the events he attends, and he encourages more people to volunteer if eventing interests them. "I benefit from all of it because I'm retired, and it makes me feel useful again," Slagle said. "This gives me something to do where I feel like I'm contributing. When you get older and retire, you need to find things to do to feel useful. I highly recommend this sport, and I'm glad I was given the opportunity to participate in it, and hopefully, by hearing my story, other people will do the same."
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 (https://useventing.com/support-usea/volunteer) to learn more about the USEA Volunteer Incentive Program.
Registration for the 2023 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention is now open! Join the USEA in St. Louis, Missouri, this Dec. 7-10 for a weekend of mingling with fellow enthusiastic eventers to partake in discussions about the future of the sport. This year’s event will include a keynote address by Dr. Temple Grandin, a world-renowned scientist and author, a celebration of champions at the Annual Awards Dinner, and more! The city of St. Louis also has so many opportunities to sight-see and explore.
The second and final day of competition at the 2023 USEF/USEA Developing Horse Eventing National Championships was all about precision as the 6-year-old CCI2*-S Championship competitors tackled both jumping phases and the 7-year-old CCI3*-S Championship pairs conquered Mogie Bearden-Muller’s cross-country track at Stable View in Aiken, South Carolina.
Equine Network is thrilled to have the support of the United States Eventing Association (USEA) for the third annual Horse Week event brought to you by Boehringer Ingelheim.
It was a busy day at Stable View Oktoberfest in Aiken, South Carolina as all FEI divisions and a few national divisions kicked off their competition weekend, including the 2023 USEF/USEA Developing Horse Eventing National Championships. Both the 6-year-olds and 7-year-olds got their chance to shine down the centerline at the start of the day, with the 7-year-olds also giving their best effort across Michael Vallaincourt’s show jumping track later this afternoon.