It always helps to see a warm and friendly face when heading to warm up for that all-important test or jump round. In this series, the United States Evening Association (USEA) is partnering with Athletux to feature those around us who help make these events happen, the volunteers. Without them horse shows and programs could not succeed, and these volunteers go above and beyond to make sure every rider feels comfortable and confident. Do you know a volunteer who should be nominated as Volunteer of the Month? We are looking for our next feature. Email your tips to [email protected].
Every year thousands and thousands of people converge on the Kentucky Horse Park at the end of April to witness what is the biggest event every year in North America. The Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event brings together people from all walks of life to experience Eventing at the highest level. It also brings together world-class horses from the United States and beyond. While the horse and rider combinations are competing for prize money and the spectators watch in awe the entire weekend, there is one group of people that makes the event a huge success every year: the volunteers. This month we are excited to bring you a Volunteers of Kentucky column to pay tribute to those special people that make this event happen year after year.
We started our week by interviewing a very special group of girls. While the members of the ground jury may change from year to year, one thing remains the same - there will always be two smiling faces from the local Pony Club opening and closing the dressage ring before and after every ride. It is a huge honor for these kids and their eyes light up when they realize they get to suddenly be up close and personal with all of the incredible horses and riders. It has also become a tradition for some riders to stop and shake their hands, let them give their horses a pat, and even sometimes strike up the small conversation. We wanted to sit down with Emma Largent, Kimberly Petty, Larkyn Hendren, and Annsley Hollond to see what it was like to earn one of the most special volunteer position roles and how their experience went.
Emma quickly pointed out how much fun they had been having and Kimberly added, “It is cool being up close with world-class horses and athletes and we get to wear the headsets, which is really cool to be able to learn too. I was able to learn a lot about rhythm just from listening.” Larkyn followed up with, “It is pretty fun and I really have learned so much like about stretchy circles and all of the elements of the test.” For Annsley it was a cool experience because “It has just been an awesome year. When I was three years old I started to ride and I just fell in love with it. This has just been so much fun!”
These girls got so excited and had so much fun doing their jobs. Who knows? Maybe one day we will see them trot into the arena and greet Pony Clubbers just like them on their way out.
The day that takes the largest number of volunteers to put on is cross-country day. During the competition, you may notice there are another group of riders who ride outside the ropes. These volunteers are called outriders and we stopped to talk to Katherine Pottorof in between horses galloping by to learn more about what her job entails and what it was like to be an outrider.
“We are crowd control and safety. We warn people that horses are coming and we blow the whistle which also alerts the crossing guards and jump judges too,” she explained. “This is my second year as an outrider. My coach has been an outrider for 15 years and she told me about it and I love it.”
It takes a special horse to be an outrider. They have to stand and walk all day and tolerate lots of people, small children, and many items that some horses may take offense too. Katherine’s horse was more than up for the job!
Another group of volunteers acts as crowd control but from the ground. Volunteers Fiona Kanis and Olivia Williams were members of the on-foot crowd control group and took a moment to chat with us about their job in between ensuring no spectator was too close to the galloping lane.
“I have been going to the LRK3DE for seven years and this is my second year as a volunteer. I really like being able to give back because I have been coming here for so long and I love it,” Fiona explained. “Now, I get to be a little more up close and personal with the behind the scenes stuff which is so fun!” Olivia agreed and jokingly added, “This is my first year here and I like it because you get to help people make sure they don’t get run over and that’s a good thing!”
Our next stop was with mother-daughter jump judge duo Buffie Clippinger and Bonnie Simmons and crowd control member Robin Koehler. There are a group of jump judges placed at every fence with someone videoing, someone tracking the time, someone checking the footing, and someone recording what happens at the fence on paper as well. There is also a crowd control member placed with them to keep people off the ropes and keep the jump judge’s sight line clear.
For Buffie, this was her 22nd year while mom Bonnie estimated she had been doing it for around 26. Bonnie pointed out, “If you love horses this is the place to be!” They travel from Ohio and it normally takes them about three and a half to four hours to travel just to volunteer. Dedication to the sport and the event! Robin also chimed in and added, “What’s not to love about the riders, the horses, the weather, the friendships? I mean it is a terrific day, probably the best day of the year!”
The last volunteer we caught up with was Tony Wiliams, a dedicated crossing guard who loves to volunteer because “It gives something back to the community to support what is a valuable resource for Kentucky.” He also added with a chuckle, “I also go because my wife hauls me along.”
As you can tell, a wide array of volunteers made this event happen and we truly would not be able to do it without them. Whether it is the LRK3DE or a starter horse trial in your hometown, this sport would not be possible without the people who come out every weekend and volunteer. So let’s send a huge thank you to all those who volunteered last weekend and every weekend. We wouldn’t be able to do it without you!
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.
Lynn Klisavage got her start teaching riding lessons on Barber’s Point Naval Air Base on O’ahu, Hawaii in the 1960s. When she was in her early 20s, she and her family relocated to Colorado Springs, Colorado, and it was there that Klisavage became the Director of the Air Force Academy Stables.
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