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.
United States Eventing Association (USEA) members at the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention were in for a treat on Friday as the U.S. Eventing Team was on hand to discuss their accomplishments this year at the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile.
“Test the best without hurting the rest,” said show jumping course designer Chris Barnard as he and fellow designer Marc Donovan led a lively discussion for nearly 50 participants at the Show Jumping Seminar on the first day of the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention.
This afternoon, USEA President Louise “Lou” Leslie welcomed U.S. Eventing Association (USEA) Board of Governors members, USEA staff, and USEA Annual Meeting & Convention attendees to the first of two Board meetings which will take place during this year’s Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, with the teaser that 2024 is going to be full of initiatives for more opportunities to access the eventing experience, some of which attendees might get first wind of during this year’s gathering. The 2023 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention takes place Dec. 7-10 at the Marriott St. Louis Grand Hotel.
Welcome to the Show Me state and to Area IV USEA members! The 2023 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention kicks of tomorrow and features four full days of educational seminars, committee meetings, and social gatherings all with one aim—to bring the eventing community together to continue to improve upon and celebrate the sport that we all love. This year’s Convention takes place in St. Louis, Missouri, at the Marriott St. Louis Grand in downtown St. Louis from Dec. 7-10, and we have rounded up everything you need to know to make the most of your time in the heartland.