Aug 24, 2021

The VIP Volunteer: Golly Martin

By Meagan DeLisle - USEA Staff
Golly Martin and Kaptain Jak. MGO Photography.

Golly Martin is a lifelong equestrian who got her start in the saddle as a child. Having grown up in Northern Virginia, she had easy access to ample equestrian opportunities and even had the chance to ride during the summers in England. However, when her barn closed during her high school years, she took a break from riding until the itch reignited during college.

“I had a friend I grew up riding within Northern Virginia and although she is a dressage rider, she was riding at an eventing barn in Great Falls,” shared Martin. “That is where I was first introduced to the sport of eventing, and boy was I spoiled to begin eventing in Area II. We literally had six massive shows all within an hour, give or take, of us. I rode a really cool little rescue draft cross and was very involved in the Area II adult scene. I did the summer camps, went cross-country schooling all over with my friends, did a lot of clinics, I was having a grand old time.”

When an opportunity to become a working student for Lesley Grant-Law presented itself, Martin couldn’t turn it down. “At the time I was 28 and engaged, but I had to say yes. So down I went. I packed up my pony and went to Ocala, Florida. There I got thrown into the deep end, so to speak. I had no idea of all of the things I didn't know. I was fortunate to work at a kind place, the Laws were very kind to me. Being in Ocala taught me so much, but most importantly that I wanted to work in a support role within eventing. I had the same dream that we all do growing up, to ride at the Olympics, or what have you, but actually working for someone who had ridden at the highest levels of the sport showed me how much hard work it was going to take. I decided that it wasn't in the cards for me at that point, but that working behind the scenes for someone who rides at that level was a real possibility.”

After her fiance was offered a job in the San Francisco Bay area of California, the Laws directed Martin to ride with James Alliston and Helen Bouscaren [Alliston] which would lead to a once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity as their Business Manager.

“I run their Riding Academy program and help manage their Alliston Equestrian competition team. I've been with them for about six years now. It is a massive business with a lot of moving parts, and I really enjoy it. I own two horses for James and have a third that I ride myself in their training program, one of James' former four-star horses. I give James and Helen a lot, and they give me a lot of support in return. I feel very appreciated and fulfilled with them. It's a perfectly symbiotic relationship, and I'm so lucky to be where I am working behind the scenes for a five-star rider.”

Her work for the Allistons allowed Martin to become very involved in Area VI and when her lease came up two years ago on the horse she was riding, she found herself with nothing to ride and a drive to still be involved in the show circuit. Martin found that volunteering was the right fit!

Golly Martin and Kaptain Jak. Shannon Brinkman Photo.

“I fence judged here and there and had helped as a floater before, running around and doing whatever task needed to be done. Working the dressage warm-up is also great because I do love watching dressage and ‘horse shopping’ as I watch. I love gathering my hours. I was second in Area VI two years ago, and so far I'm first this year, but we have a serious crew of volunteer regulars here so nothing is for certain!”

As Martin balanced her own riding goals, full-time job, and volunteer hours, she found herself presented with a new opportunity. “Woodside was looking for new dressage volunteer coordinators and they asked if I would be interested. I knew all of the other coordinators already from riding at and being around the horse park with the Allistons. I said yes, not really knowing what to expect. I'm a natural administrator and people person, so both of those traits lent marvelously to volunteering and volunteer coordinating. Turns out I enjoy it a lot, too, so now I'm one of the Woodside volunteer coordinators and also one of the Twin Rivers volunteer coordinators.”

But her volunteer work didn’t stop there, Martin has been known to step in last-minute when needed at other Area VI shows, which she loves. “I've been to all of these shows. I've shown at all of these shows, so it's nice to work behind the scenes and volunteer at all of these shows as well. It's also really cool when people who are regulars at one show come to another show to help out.”

When asked why she finds serving as a volunteer so meaningful, Martin shared this sentiment: “Volunteering is the most important part of the sport. The shows literally cannot happen without volunteers giving their time and giving back to the sport. It's a perfect extension of the sport too. It is people selflessly coming together to help each other. Volunteers are out there, in the sun and dust and heat or cold and rain, tirelessly volunteering their time. I also see a lot of non-eventers come to volunteer and even some non-riders! Just local community members who want to be involved, or have a fun day at the horse show with the kids, etc. It makes me really happy to see that.”

She continued, “You also learn so much by volunteering. For example, there is no better way to understand what dressage judges are looking for than to scribe. Or watch a whole division of professionals jump an advanced cross country fence, you can learn so much that way! It's a free masterclass. Plus there really is a variety of volunteering positions. If you prefer pretending you are the ringmaster of a three-ring circus, then I suggest dressage warm-up stewarding. Like herding cats? Show jumping warm-up is for you! Do you want to zip around in a golf cart all day? Try score running.”

In her years as a volunteer and coordinator, Martin truly has done a little bit of it all, but when asked what positions she prefers outside of serving as a coordinator, she shared she enjoys working the cross-country warm-up area. “You get to see literally every single person competing that weekend and exchange a smile and hello with them. I know a lot more people now in Area VI because of doing cross-country warm-up! Competitors don't really get to see me as a coordinator because that is very behind the scenes, but they definitely see me in cross-country warm-up and recognize me outside of the show. I also love that job because that is when people are either at their most nervous, and you can help give them a calm reassuring word, or at their most excited, and you can be there with them for that excitement!”

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 (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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