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Bonnie Kibbie

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A Real-Talk Salute to Our Sport’s Volunteers

Bonnie Kibbie, a Volunteer Coordinator for Plantation Field H.T., shared this message on Facebook following their June event last weekend, and kindly allowed us to share here on EN. Many thanks to Bonnie and all the volunteers out there whose generous giving of time and effort truly makes the sport of eventing possible!

Photo via the Plantation Field Volunteers Facebook page.

Real talk: just spent 14 hours at a horse show we weren’t sure we’d have enough volunteers for, but once again this horse community pulled through and not only was the day not a disaster, it went pretty darn well. Still came home bone tired and with pregnancy cankles you wouldn’t believe, to the most pathetic exorcist puking toddler with a fever and the knowledge we’re going to get up to do the same thing all over again tomorrow. I was exhausted and a little overwhelmed just thinking about it all, until I checked my text messages.

Recruiting volunteers is tough; it’s a lot to ask of people — it’s a tiring day in often unpredictable weather, it’s a big time commitment for a precious weekend day, and, especially if you’re new to it, it’s a lot of information to take in and execute well. We try to make the day easier by feeding our volunteers, letting them know we appreciate them, and offering incentives when we can thanks to our amazing sponsors … but let’s be real. No one spends nine hours in the blazing sun and dust or pouring rain for a t-shirt and a sandwich, or even a gift card.

They do it because they love the sport and love the animals (or, OK, sometimes because their competing significant other made them) and they just want to be there. For the ones who also compete it’s a great way to give back to a sport that directly benefits them (and we love, love, LOVE when our riders volunteer!), but so many volunteers are not eventers, and some aren’t even riders. It always blows my mind how willing people are to give up so much time for a sport they may not have known anything about before they showed up to volunteer.

Anyway, when I checked my phone tonight I had this text from a volunteer who joined us for the first time today. She spent nine hours on course, called in her fences (yes, she had multiple at one point) like a boss, and I’m not entirely sure she even took a bathroom break (kidding, we encourage all our volunteers to take potty breaks!). And SHE thanked US for LETTING her be a part of today!

Louder for the people in the back: *She* thanked *us* for LETTING HER be a part of a horse trials. I almost cried.

RIDERS, IF YOU ARE NOT SMILING AT AND THANKING EVERY SINGLE VOLUNTEER YOU COME ACROSS AT AN EVENT I WANT YOU TO GO HOME AND RE-EVALUATE WHO YOU ARE AS A PERSON. Because you sure don’t deserve to be an eventer. These happy, willing, wonderful people show up and do the best they can so YOU can go out and have fun.

Thankfully we also have some pretty awesome competitors at our events and I like to think our volunteers are treated well by those showing, but for anyone competing it’s easy to overlook how much others are doing for you when you’re wrapped up in your own day. And competitors really can’t afford to overlook it, because if those people weren’t there, the competitors wouldn’t be either. Events don’t run without these incredible people. Period.

If you didn’t make it through the emotional ramblings of this overtired, pregnant and hormonal volunteer coordinator, my point is … thank a volunteer. Or better yet, BE a volunteer! We’ve got the very best team around and we’d love to have you on it. #besteventever#bestvolunteersever #plantationfield #beavolunteer #becauseofSeema

Are you doing your part? Visit eventingvolunteers.com, a connection point between volunteers and event organizers, to get involved. Here are six USEA events that could use a helping hand this week!

Because of Seema

Seema and Henry at our wedding in New Orleans, May 2010. Seema and Henry at our wedding in New Orleans, May 2010.

Seema would be so mad at me right now. Instead of going for a run or riding my horse, I’m sitting here shedding tears and writing about her. She would hate that! She would brush it off and tell me to get my ass outside. But for once, I’m not going to listen to her advice. I want to tell you what I know because of Seema.

I didn’t know Seema the longest, and I certainly didn’t know her the best, but she has had a profound impact on my life, and I still have not begun to comprehend a world without her in it. I met Seema through my husband, Jeff, who knew her well from when they both lived and rode in Michigan.

She was a “horse world” friend who became much more than that. My first introduction to Seema was over a good glass of wine (is there any other kind, in Seema’s world?), but I didn’t really come to know her until she offered, with the generosity that was so characteristic of Seema, to let Jeff and me live in her house in Philadelphia while I was in vet school.

As Seema and Henry’s neighbors and tenants, Jeff and I learned many things. The terms of our extremely generous rental agreement included the use of our living room for Monday night ballroom dance lessons, which I frequently watched and, on several occasions, in which Jeff and I participated. Because of Seema, we learned to ballroom dance for our wedding.

While we were neighbors, Seema showed me the best routes to run in Philly, the spots to avoid, and encouraged me, by word and example, to run my first half marathon. She introduced me to the fact that there are people (herself included) with the goal of running such races in every state, and she was well on her way to becoming a member of that prestigious club. Because of Seema, I have run three half marathons and have 47 to go.

The basement of our rental home included an impressive collection of Henry’s movies and Seema’s paperbacks. There must have been thousands of books there! One weekend Jeff and I helped her sort through and re-home many of them, and I was just amazed. She was a voracious reader and she remembered the plots of every book I held up for her that weekend. I was dismayed at myself — I couldn’t remember the last book I had read that wasn’t a textbook or something for work, and I vowed to change that. Because of Seema, I read for pleasure.

When I received my white coat in vet school, my family all came to town for the ceremony and to celebrate. I was proud to have Seema in the audience with them and happy that they all enjoyed the restaurant Seema had recommended, a delicious Center City BYO.

For the occasion she brought “Henry wine” (not be confused with “pony wine,” which was still nicer wine than anything else I’d had in my life before meeting Seema and Henry), and we had one of the loveliest evenings I can remember. Because of Seema, I know that life is too short to drink bad wine or eat bad food!

In the years after graduation, as I navigated the changes in my career and personal life, Seema was always in the back of my mind, and she was always happy to offer advice if I was doubting my choices. She managed to have a full career and an even fuller personal life, and the balance and success she achieved in both are what I have and will continue to strive for. Because of Seema, I learned to work hard and play harder.

From the time I have known Seema, she has been the ultimate volunteer. Capable, cool under pressure, sharp as a tack and always with a smile on her face, she could run a warm-up ring, an in-gate or a cross country control radio better than anyone around, and she did so regularly. As a competitor, I never considered volunteering for events at which I was showing, but Seema showed me that it could be, and was, done, and that every little bit helps. Because of Seema, I will always volunteer.

Last winter around the holidays, I walked into the tack room at Blue Hill and Seema was wearing a big, fuzzy, very colorful hat. It looked warm, super soft, and, honestly, a little ridiculous, but so, just, Seema. I loved it, and I told her so. She smiled and thanked me and we went about our business — me getting ready to ride, her finishing up.

As she was leaving, she told me she left Christmas presents for me, Jeff and Rusty (Seema would never forget a four-legged!) in the tack room and buzzed out in her sassy Fiat before I could even finish saying thank you. Seema was never one to enjoy being fussed over for her generosity.

Wouldn’t you know that in my bag was the same fuzzy hat? Mine had more blues and greens than the orange and pink hers sported, but the character was there, and it kept a smile on my face all winter long. Because of Seema, I know that kindness and generosity don’t have to cost much, but they are what mean the most to people.

There are so many things in my life that are because of Seema.

Because of Seema, I know that chocolate is best left unadulterated.

Because of Seema, I know that a new friend is only a smile away wherever I go.

Because of Seema, I always carry a tea bag with me when I travel.

Because of Seema, I firmly believe that you can never have too many pairs of TOMS.

Because of Seema, I put extra cardamom in my Christmas cookies.

Because of Seema, I know that if you have a goal or a vision, the details will work themselves out.

Because of Seema, I learned that it’s best to have a dog biscuit in your pocket at all times, just in case.

Because of Seema, I know that life is just too short, so make the most of it.

Like I said, I know I didn’t know her the best or the longest, but I feel so lucky to have known her at all. I’m sure that for every Seema story of my own, there are hundreds of thousands of others like it. Please share your own stories of how your life is different … because of Seema.