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 by volunteering at the Fallbrook Pony Club near her home in Fallbrook, California, serving as an intermediate district commissioner.
Living in California, where multi-day horse trials are the norm, Murray couldn’t sit idly when her daughters, Shelby Murray and Sedona Murray, started competing, so she began volunteering at venues like Galway Downs, Woodside, Fresno, and Twin Rivers.
“As we all know, volunteers aren’t that plentiful, unfortunately, at least here on the West Coast,” she said. “I’ve always volunteered wherever I’m at. Instead of sitting there doing nothing, I always feel like many hands make light work, and I was hoping that would be the case with eventing. I’m a helper. That’s what I am. I see a need, I fill the need, and I want to make sure that everyone is able to ride when they want to and how they want to, including my kids.”
Julie logged 136 volunteer hours in 2022 via the USEA’s Volunteer Incentive Program (VIP), and has 430 lifetime hours recorded through the app, although she estimates she has two to three times more hours to her name than that from before Area VI events started using the VIP app.
When Julie had her daughters, she was determined to give them more opportunities to ride than she had growing up, and she's fostered a sense of volunteerism in them as they've grown up.
Both daughters were working students for advanced rider Erin Kellerhouse, and Julie started helping Kellerhouse and her husband, Robert Kellerhouse, at their events at Galway Downs and Woodside.
Julie, 52, has competed at the intro level and has hopes to make it to beginner novice with her rescue horse Bravo, an Azteca gelding, even though their progress might be a bit slow. “I got him because I’m old, and my back isn’t the best,” she said. “He’s so comfortable, like a cloud. His dressage movements will be amazing, and he’s a cute little jumper. But I’m a mom, and I also have some property and take care of property management, so I’m always doing something for a few weeks a month, and then he sits.”
At events, Julie enjoys being a score runner for dressage because she gets some exercise and also enjoys score running for cross-country with her son, Jayden Murray, who’s not a rider but likes volunteering.
“He enjoys coming to do that with me because you usually need two people—one to hold the sheets, and we’re both watching to make sure we don’t ruin a ride for somebody in the golf cart,” she said. Her husband, Edward Murray, will often bring Julie her own golf cart from home.
While Julie will usually say “yes” to any job, she avoids show jumping steward, “because it’s just so fast paced and so many people want to get in, and everyone has an excuse. It’s hard to say no to some people and not be rude. I try not to be rude.”
Julie encourages both Sedona, who’s taking a break from eventing right now, and Shelby to volunteer whenever they can, even if they’re competing.
“I always make sure my kids know the value of a dollar, the value of giving back,” she said. “They did Girl Scouts. [Shelby] just went to Italy after she saved money since she was in kindergarten, and I went with her and [Sedona]. We made it a big family girl adventure. And she earned it. You have to teach kids the value of a dollar, the value of giving back and the value of the sport because it doesn’t happen unless everyone pitches in.”
Julie encourages everyone to volunteer, even trainers. She was impressed to see advanced rider and trainer Barbara Crabo volunteer last fall.
“Very few trainers volunteer, and I get it, they’re busy,” she said. “But in a three-day show, you can volunteer for two hours. That goes to show everyone else in your barn that if you give two hours, it’s not that big of a deal.”
“My daughter [Shelby] shows two horses and still has time to volunteer,” she continued. “Everyone should give. If everyone gives, then it’s not a burden on any one person. I give it freely, and I love doing it, but volunteer coordinators, I see their frustration, I see them being stressed, and it shouldn’t be. I’ll go into the barn aisles and ask people, ‘Can you volunteer? We need you. Cross-country will not run until someone volunteers.’ It’s been that bad where it’s the morning of, and we don’t have people and have to ask.”
Julie’s closing in on her bronze medal for 500 hours, which she’ll likely achieve in 2023. She was the top volunteer for the Area VI in 2022. She’s hoping to get back at it soon after the rain stops threatening California events this winter.
“It’s always nice to be recognized and have your name as no. 1,” she said. “It went so unnoticed for so many years that it’s nice to see me there finally, but that’s not why I do it. I don’t do it for the people who make money on the sport, I do it because I become friends with the volunteer coordinators, and they’re desperate for people,” she said.
“I don’t do it for the recognition, I do it because I know there’s a lot of people who love the sport, and us eventers don’t have the money that the jumpers have,” she continued. “In order to keep it cost effective, we have to have people volunteer. That’s just the way it goes. Not everyone can volunteer a bunch like me, and I get it, but it’s just to help say thank you to everyone who does and make it known.”
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.
The United States Eventing Association (USEA) is pleased to announce the addition of the Modified Rider division beginning at the 2023 USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC), presented by Nutrena Feeds. The USEA AEC will move back to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky August 29–September 3, 2023.
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.
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.