“Volunteers are the backbone of our sport because if we had to pay every person that’s needed to run an event, the entry fee would be up to $2,000 a horse.” Christina Gray explained. “It’s astronomical the number of volunteers that are needed to do this sport but it’s what makes the sport so great.” A show secretary extraordinaire and a newly minted FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) volunteer, Gray has been on both sides of the volunteer curtain.
Gray’s events fully embrace the United States Eventing Association (USEA) Volunteer Incentive Program (VIP) and their online management system, EventingVolunteers.com. The growing popularity of the VIP program, which is only three years old, can be seen in the numbers. In 2017, 71 events and 631 volunteers were registered and now 114 events and 1,796 volunteers are using EventingVolunteers.com.
As a show secretary, Gray interacts with riders, officials, volunteers, owners, and spectators on a daily basis. “Everyone’s friendly and everyone’s cheering for each other. You see other [equestrian] sports where everyone’s paid, and it loses that family feel.” The family feel can be felt across the country as four-star event rider Sharon White, USEA CEO Rob Burk, and U.S. Eventing Hall of Fame member David O’Connnor have all been spotted volunteering their time to better the sport. “A lot of the volunteers are local but most the time it’s from the community itself. You’ll have riders that are riding in the morning and volunteering in the afternoon."
Emphasis on volunteer treatment, Gray pointed out a mistake events can make that leave a bad taste in a volunteer’s mouth, both figuratively and literally. “You can fail as an event by not providing adequate food for your volunteers who are giving up their time to help you."
“I think every volunteer likes a different thing. Personally, I like scribing because you get to learn a lot from the judge’s perspective. Jump judging is one of the larger needs and at bigger events you need more volunteers - jump judges at every jump, spectator control, crossing guards, etc. When I was working with Rolex [Kentucky Three-Day Event], we would have over 1,000 volunteers."
Show jumping warmup can be stressful, the start box on a fired-up horse can be stressful, dancing in the sandbox can be stressful; eventing can be a nerve-racking experience for any rider at any level and volunteers can have an impact on the high-stress environment. Gray explained, “As a volunteer, make sure that you’re friendly with the competitors because a lot of the times the riders are stressed and anxious so you need to remain happy and have a smile on your face."
Nations united in Tryon N.C., not just to compete against one another at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games, but to lend a helping hand on cross-country day. “What was interesting about WEG was the volunteer I worked with was from England. She has volunteered with her husband at every Olympics and every World Equestrian Games. They both flew over and have always enjoyed volunteering at the big events. Now, I have a place to stay whenever I go to England,” said a smiling Gray.
“I was fortunate enough to work with Shelley Page, the eventing discipline manager for WEG 2018 and she had a need for someone to video the cross-country. The reason for video on cross-country was to see if the horse’s shoulders go between the flags. [If questioned] they have an instant replay where officials can easily review it.”
“For me it was super exciting because I got to watch cross-country and was lucky to be videoing the notorious fence 10ABCDEFG. It was fun, and I got to meet a lot of great people. The best part about it was running into people from all over the country that were there just to watch.”
Whether it’s a big or small event, Gray has run into multiple international volunteers. “At Twin Rivers this April we had people from Australia who were passing through and happened to stop and volunteer just because they wanted to see the horse show.”
“Volunteers have many different qualities and it’s about finding the right job and what you enjoy doing.” Find the right fit on EventingVolunteers.com and compete for the chance to win the year-end USEA Volunteer of the Year award!
About the Volunteer Incentive Program
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 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, trophies, a top ten USEA Volunteer leaderboard, and a Volunteer of the Year award which is given to the volunteer who accumulates 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.
A relentless rain didn’t put a damper on the first horse inspection at the 2019 Dutta Corp Fair Hill International Three-Day Event in Elkton, Md. The CCI3*-L presented first in front of the ground jury of Helen Brettell (GBR) and Valerie Vizcarrondo Pride (USA) and all 62 horses were accepted to start the competition. C Me Fly ridden by Colleen Rutledge and Jos UFO De Quidam ridden by Heather Jane Morris were both sent to the hold, but were accepted upon reinspection. Lasse 73 ridden by Jennifer Salinger was asked to jog twice, but was accepted after the second pass down the lane.
The USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) East and West Coast Championships will take place this weekend on opposite sides of the country. On Thursday and Friday, October 17 and 18, the East Coast Championships will take place at Fair Hill International in Elkton, Maryland. Then on Sunday, October 20, the West Coast Championships will run at the Fresno County Horse Park (FCHP) in Fresno, California.
Rutledge Farm is thrilled to welcome back two-time Olympic gold medalist Phillip Dutton to host his second eventing clinic as a part of the Rutledge Farm Sessions clinic series. Since 2017, Rutledge Farm has been dedicated to bringing premier educational opportunities to Middleburg, Virginia to support the development of the sport at all levels and for multiple disciplines, including eventing, show jumping, dressage, and equitation.
Experience the 2019 USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Championships through the judge's eyes! The USEA will be hosting YEH judging seminars during the 2019 USEA YEH Championships. The seminars will be led by the world-renowned judge and co-chair of the YEH Committee Marilyn Payne. All interested parties are welcome to attend.