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Wed, 2016-03-16 15:01

A Volunteer's Bucket List

Bit Check is one of the many volunteer positions available. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

USEA President-Elect Carol Kozlowski has made it her mission to experience every facet of eventing. She has competed at the upper and lower levels, obtained her “r” and judged dressage, been a trainer and coach, organized events and most recently become a volunteer extraordinaire. To expand her knowledge and skill set in yet another area of eventing, Kozlowski started a “bucket list” of sorts to try out every volunteer position.

She started on this volunteer track when she was working to become a dressage judge. “When I worked on my ‘r’ I scribed a lot,” Kozlowski said. “It can give you a better understanding of how to ride a test.” Since then, she has worn many different hats in the volunteer community stepping in wherever help is needed.

Kozlowski at the Waredaca's Training Three-Day Last Fall. Photo.  

Kozlowski recently crossed off a last looming entry on her bucket list of volunteering: scoring. “I never thought I’d end up in scoring,” Kozlowski recalled, admitting she wouldn’t have picked this position initially. “It was very helpful and even exciting and interesting in its own way.” She even got to experience what many would consider one of the biggest headaches in scoring: posting tests without recording the scores. “The scorer, who has been doing this for a very long time, just started picking up and putting down papers. He said ‘I’ve never done that before.’ He had just put out half a division’s dressage test scores without recording them.” Kozlowski described the rest of her day as chaotic as the scoring team set out to recover the missing results. She hunted around the show grounds, called and texted riders. “It was an interesting exercise shifting into plan C and then plan D to keep things going,” she joked. Despite lessons learned, Kozlowski admitted scoring is a job she may not want to try again. “It was just as grueling and head-achy as I thought,” she said. “If I had a takeaway it’s that there’s so much more that goes into running these events than riders know.”

Now that her bucket list is practically complete, Kozlowski thinks she’s learned something from each role she’s played. Being a Stewart or running the start box at cross-country are very interactive positions as you will see every single competitor of the event. One of the most educational volunteer opportunities, according to Kozlowski, is fence judging. “Jump judging is fascinating. I watch. I listen. I always learn,” Kozlowski explained. Being a forever student of the sport, she uses fence judging as an opportunity to analyze and learn from each rider on course. “It’s so educational to watch 200 horses jump, and [each ride] is never the same. As a trainer, I like to think through why things are happening the way they are,” she described.

Fence judging is another great opportunity to learn more about the sport. 

This December, Kozlowski will become the next USEA President and she wants to experience every part of the sport before then. “I have this odd fascination with immersing myself in all the different aspects. My bucket list is giving me a healthy, well-rounded experience,” she explained. “As I step into the Presidency, I think it’s going to give me credibility when I say ‘I understand your issues.’” Kozlowski also has plans to pursue an increased emphasis on volunteerism during her presidency and will include professional riders in this push she says. “I know they are running their own businesses, but I think there’s more that the upper level riders can do. They support these events by bringing students, and that supports financially, but it’s not just the financial support it’s the moral support that events need,” she continued. “I know they’re competitive, but in a way this is an equally important part of that picture. At the end of the day it’s about giving back.”

Kozlowski has been managing volunteering along with competing, but realizes many events survive due to the full-time returning volunteers. “They just keep showing up week after week. Those people are the true heroes [who] are really worthy of recognition. It’s the people who the organizers go to time and time again are really the people who need a big pat on the back.” She encourages anyone with a stake in the sport to get out there and volunteer regardless of how you think you can contribute. “Contact an organizer! There are plenty of jobs that don’t involve any knowledge with eventing or horses. Volunteer Coordinators are very sensitive to make sure you’re comfortable and trained,” Kozlowski detailed. “There aren’t any excuses. Everybody can find some way to contribute. At the end of the day I really think in a sport like ours that so reliant on volunteer force that the competitors owe it to give back at some point.”

Kozlowki teamed up with volunteer enthusiasts Holly Covey and Bonnie Kibbie to introduce a Volunteer Program to the USEA Board of Governors at the 2015 Annual Meeting. The Board voted and approved the new Volunteer Incentives Program, which is currently creating a formal proposal for the new program's layout and functionality. Click here to read more about the groups four main components to this program and to learn how you can get involved. Check out omnibus listings near you for volunteer opportunities. 



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