Michelle Wadley has had the horse bug since she could remember. “My mom swears my first word was 'horse,' way back when I was two years old,” she recalled. The rider now owns a horse of her own, and through volunteering for the USEA, she has grown her knowledge and love for eventing.
Wadley began riding at the young age of five in Fayetteville, Arkansas, at a local hunter/jumper barn. After moving between Arkansas and Texas, Wadley gained experience in the western, eventing, and Arabian disciplines. Although tough at times, she always found a way to keep the equestrian world a part of her life.
“I was one of those people that did a little bit of everything just based on what was there and what I could do in the area where I lived,” explained Wadley. “In the end, it gave me a lot of experience with many different types of riding and different types of horses.”
Wadley took some time off from riding while in college, but she continued studying and reading about horses. Practical Horseman Magazine was one of Wadley’s go-to's to keep her up-to-date. When she did return to horses after getting married, she jumped right back into her favorite discipline: eventing.
“I think eventers are the best horse people in the world, and we have to be because we have three different types of riding that we do,” she said. “I meet so many cool people wherever I go, and I’m just blown away by how great they are.”
After a bad horse-related accident in 2005, Wadley went through a period of time where she was unable to ride. Inspired by her mother, who often volunteered for different organizations, she decided that it was her duty to give back, and she began volunteering at events. “My motto has always been, ‘if I can’t ride, I’m going to volunteer,’” said Wadley.
Wadley emphasizes how crucial volunteers are and how fun, interesting, and educational it can be to work at an event. “For me, it’s a really great opportunity to meet other horse people, especially other eventers, and get to know where they are from and what they are about,” she described. “The people are just amazing in eventing, and for me, that’s what drives me. It’s the chance to give back to my sport and also to meet all the wonderful people that are out there.”
Besides connecting with other people, volunteers can observe and learn from the riders who are competing. “If you just go and scribe for a couple of hours or volunteer in the warm-up, or jump judge, you are going to learn so much about eventing and the way it functions,” explained Wadley.
Wadley couldn’t decide between being a scribe and a cross-country jump judge in terms of a favorite volunteer position. “I really love to scribe because it gives you an inside view of what dressage judges are looking for,” she commented. About jump judging, Wadley said, “I’m an eventer, we love cross-country, that’s why we do what we do, and it’s super fun being out there and watching the horses. I am endlessly amazed at the things these horses do and the intelligence that they have.”
Wadley is also very involved in Area V and inspiring other adult amateurs to begin volunteering. “I know every event that I work at is desperate for volunteers,” she mentioned. “I know it’s not just the [events] I’m volunteering at; it’s across the country. I think that we need to somehow make people understand not just how important it is, but how cool it is too.”
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.
The USEA would like to thank Sunsprite Warmbloods for sponsoring the Volunteer Incentive Program.
Whether you are a rider preparing for a move-up or a trainer looking to ensure your training program is well-rounded, the soon-to-be released USEA Eventing Handbook by the Levels is the go-to guide to assist you in navigating key decisions. Lucky enough, attendees of the 2022 USEA Instructors’ Certification Program (ICP) Symposium at Barnstaple South Farm in Ocala, Florida on February 8-9 will be the first people outside of the those involved in its creation to access this passion project that the ICP Committee has put two years of research and hard work into developing.
In 2021 Cynthia Smith recorded 536 hours and 59 minutes of volunteer time, setting the standard with the most amount of volunteer hours recorded in a single year since the creation of the USEA Volunteer Incentive Program in 2016. The record-breaking number of volunteer time earned Smith the 2021 USEA Volunteer of the Year title.
Tamie Smith’s year has been nothing short of action-packed as she packed up all 25 of her competition horses and made her way to the East Coast for the first part of the year before hopping on a jet to Tokyo where she served as the U.S. team reserve for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She then stayed overseas and competed abroad for a little while before returning home to the West Coast. While this year has been full of opportunities to show, her aspirations are bigger than just competition. The 2021 Bates USEA Lady Rider of the Year has been full steam ahead chasing goals in both her riding career as well as in her impact on the sport’s future.
Get to know each United States Eventing Association (USEA) Areas a little better in this new series, Meet the Areas! This month’s feature is USEA Area I which is comprised of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Founded in the 1960s, Area I was the birthplace of the United States Combined Training Association (USCTA) which was founded in 1959 and would later evolve into the USEA in 2001. In 2021 just under 800 members made up the membership count in Area I.