For Janice Holmes, volunteering is only one of the many hats she has donned over her life-long career in the equestrian industry. From a young age, she knew her purpose was in the equine industry. A rider from the age of 8, Holmes started her profession as a hunter trainer in the early part of her riding career but didn’t find the sport of eventing until a chance adventure with a friend when she was in her thirties.
“A friend of mine was jump judging at what is now the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event back in 1986,” explained Holmes. “I tagged along but knew nothing about the sport. The next thing I knew, I was also volunteering as a jump judge the following year, and I was then asked to run the showjumping warm-up following that.”
Holmes, who is now in her sixties, may have been thrown into the deep end of the sport, but she was immediately fascinated with the eventing mindset and way of life.
“When I went to my first horse trials, I was amazed by how friendly, inviting, and encouraging all of the competitors were,” she added. “Event riders are totally different from most competitors in the sport.”
The initial spark was enough to spur Holmes into switching industries, and she went on to be the head trainer and manager of her own large boarding and training operation, Holmestead Stables, for over 30 years. Holmes kept herself busy, boarding close to 20 horses at any given time and teaching upwards of 60 lessons per week. Despite a full schedule, Holmes still found time to become involved as a volunteer in their eventing community.
“I always encouraged the students I had at my farm to volunteer and that was a big part of our involvement at events rather than just competing,” said Holmes. “As a barn, we would all pick one fence that we would act as a jump judge at every event we were at. Typically riders would jump judge for a level above what they were competing at. I also produced combined tests at our home farm, and there the students learned how to do the scoring, bit checks, and set jumps for show jumping, etc. We’ve just always been volunteer-oriented.”
For Holmes, the benefit of volunteering goes beyond giving back to the community. Having dedicated her whole life to the sport, Holmes has been intimately involved in every facet and has seen it from every viewpoint.
“I have been involved as a competitor, a coach, an organizer, a volunteer, and an official,” she stated. “Having the knowledge of how all of those elements work and how they work together really allows me to see the overall picture.”
Holmes recently retired and relocated to Aiken, South Carolina, where she can, of course, often be found participating at a local event as a volunteer or as a judge.
“I received my small 'r' judges license about 12 years ago, so if I am not volunteering I am usually judging or vice versa,” she detailed. “Being new to this area, I figured the best way to get to know my new eventing community was to start volunteering!”
According to Holmes, her time spent as a volunteer has had a significant impact on both her time as a coach and as a judge/official. Some of the forms of volunteer work she enjoys the most are jump judging, scribing, and working the showjumping warm-up.
“Working the show jumping warm-up is fun for me because you are able to meet each one of the riders, and actually see that they are normal, typically very kind, people,” she said. “I think most learning, especially as a competitor or trainer, can be done volunteering as a scribe or jump judge. For example, when I jump judge on the cross country course, I am able to take what I saw at home and apply it to my students on why something didn’t work and how it would be corrected. It also exposes you to some of the best riders in the world and you are able to watch how they bring along a horse through the levels.”
“Scribing is another fantastic way to learn because you are right there with the judge,” she continued. “If a competitor wishes to really learn what the judges are looking for in the dressage arena, they should scribe, and as a judge, I can say firsthand that it is difficult to find a good scribe.”
She decided to pursue her own judging license following several years as the vice president and president of the MidSouth Eventing and Dressage Association.
“The Association had its own recognizing officials program, and I was the co-chair of that committee during my time as the vice president and president,” said Holmes. “I have always had an interest in judging dating back to my high school days when I was part of the winning team in the 4-H horse judging contest. To me, it seemed like a no-brainer to also obtain my license with USEF.”
Holmes’ many different hats have allowed her to see the overall picture of the community with unique clarity that not many have. She takes her knowledge of each role with her into whatever role she is participating in that day and hopes that others will see the benefit as well.
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 to learn more about the USEA Volunteer Incentive Program.
Are you interested in competing in the sport of eventing but aren’t quite sure how to get started? Do you have a horse that is looking for a new career? Consider participating in a USEA New Event Horse (NEH) competition in 2023! The USEA NEH Program was created to be an introduction to the sport of eventing for both horse and rider, and the 2023 NEH Calendar is now available here.
Will Coleman had a huge 2022 with his string of horses, including a team silver medal at the FEI World Eventing Championship in Italy on Off The Record and top four-star placings with Chin Tonic HS, but it was Dondante whose consistency paid off to earn the Standlee Premium Western Forage USEA Horse of the Year title.
Julie Murray has loved horses since she could breathe, so when her daughters showed an interest in Pony Club and then eventing, she was thrilled to go along for the ride.
Murray started volunteering at the Fallbrook Pony Club near her home in Fallbrook, California, serving as an intermediate district commissioner.
Please always remain vigilant when it comes to sending any personal communications via email or text. Every year we receive reports of members and leaders of our sport receiving phishing attempts both online and by phone. These are often communications disguised as being sent from USEA staff or other leaders. As the years go on, the phishing attempts appear to be more directed and tailored.