Unsung Heroes: Spotlighting the Longtime Volunteer Crew at Virginia Horse Center

Eventing truly wouldn’t be possible without all the amazing volunteers who ensure the shows run smoothly for us riders. They volunteer because they love our sport and the horses. Today, we’re highlighting a few volunteers at the Virginia Horse Center! Want to sign up to help out during the VHC’s May Event next weekend (May 23-26)? There are still plenty of openings to sign up for, which you can view here.

Diane and Art as fence judges at the World Equestrian Games at Tryon in 2018. Photo courtesy of Diane and Art Bird.

Diane and Art Bird have been volunteering at the Virginia Horse Center for over 25 years. They now live and volunteer in Aiken, but continue to travel back to the center a few times a year to pitch in for certain events.

They trail ride and take care of their four horses now, but both have been involved with horses for most of their lives. “We don’t event,” Art says, “but we’re eventing groupies,” Diane says.

Most of the time, Diane works the start box on cross country, and Art can be found scoring in the office or as a fence judge on cross country. “We do whatever anybody needs when we go to volunteer at an event,” Art says.

Diane loves working the start box, trying to keep riders calm before they go out on cross country. “I really love eventers; they’re really nice people and they treat their horses well,” she says.
Diane and Art have been married for 50 years and volunteering has been a major part of their lives together. “It’s been good for both of us. It’s fun because we both get up really early in the morning and we both get home really late– we’re both really tired, so we’re in it together,” Diane says.

Dennis doing his thing at the Virginia Horse Center. Photo courtesy of Dennis Bussey

Dennis Bussey moved to Lexington, VA two years ago, discovered the Virginia Horse Center and became a frequent spectator at their events. He leads the James River Hikers group and already enjoys outdoor activities, so adding horse shows to his calendar was nothing but fitting.

“The Virginia Horse Center, to me, is a magical wonderland because almost every weekend there is some kind of an event that has to do with horses,” Dennis says.

While Dennis was asking the office staff about the following week’s events, they mentioned that they needed volunteers for an eventing show that weekend. “I thought to myself, you can promise that nobody wants Dennis Bussey to be a volunteer– and anything having to do with judging horses because I don’t know anything about it,” he says.

After being promised that he would receive training and could practice using the walkie talkie before going out to be a fence judge on cross country, Dennis decided to volunteer. “I went out and it was a real hoot to do this thing!”

Dennis was a fence judge at an event, and one horse stood out to him, so he pulled out his phone to take a video. He later learned that the rider he got on video was the one and only Phillip Dutton. After telling some of his friends that he had recorded an Olympian, he recruited them to volunteer at the Virginia Horse Center as well.

Dennis not only loves watching the horse and rider pairs on cross country, but he also has a passion for getting to know them. He frequents the stables at the Virginia Horse Center and enjoys asking people about their horses.

“These people that have horses and come here to participate in all these things – they love their horses,” Dennis says.

Dennis getting to know one of the horses stabled at the Virginia Horse Center. Photo courtesy of Dennis Bussey.
Dennis getting to know one of the horses stabled at the Virginia Horse Center. Photo courtesy of Dennis Bussey.

Dennis, Diane, and Art are just a few volunteers out of the many that make this sport go round. They understand how much goes into volunteering and how important it is to have volunteers at these events.

“If there weren’t volunteers, they couldn’t do it,” Diane says. “We love investing our time because we really like the people and beautiful horses. It’s just amazing what the horses will do for us.”

Diane and Art love the welcoming community that volunteering has provided them and says that everyone should volunteer at least once. “I think some people are a little bit afraid that they don’t know enough, but they’ll be trained at the briefings and the experienced volunteers will help them,” Diane says.

Not to mention, if you are a rider, you can learn a lot from volunteering– watching (and hearing what judges have to say if you volunteer as a dressage scribe) is one of the best ways to learn!

“I would encourage people to come and try it. I think they’ll like it,” Diane says.

Next time you’re at an event, don’t forget to thank the volunteers; we could not do this without them! Better yet, volunteer at an event yourself– you never know what you might learn!

If you would like to volunteer at the Virginia Horse Center Eventing May Recognized HT, click here.

5 1 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments