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].
Horses have always been a part of Mike Smallwood’s life, thanks to his mom. Growing up, he dabbled in every discipline from jumpers to western but eventually when he was older, a friend introduced him to eventing. Now, he is fully immersed in the eventing community. These days, Smallwood stays occupied riding Prada, his Thoroughbred mare, running Woodstock Equestrian Park, and serving as a volunteer firefighter and chief at Carol Manor Fire Company. While he now rides mostly for pleasure, he still attends as many events as he can, spectating, visiting his wonderful girlfriend, Alex Ambelang, and volunteering.
Alex Ambelang Photo.
With that being said, Smallwood’s start in volunteering was a bit unorthodox compared to most. He began working on an ambulance and standby crew at the Maryland Horse Trials and he loved it so much that he eventually took over the role of safety coordinator there. Since then, Smallwood truly has done it all. From safety coordinator, jump judge, announcer, jump crew, control, and volunteer briefer, to trailer mechanic, truck mechanic, golf cart mechanic, course builder, landscaper, parking guru, cook, bartender, and many more. At both recognized and unrecognized competitions, he has filled about every role that a volunteer could.
However, Smallwood admits that the safety coordinator role and jump judge roles are his favorites. He quickly adds, “I will fill whatever role is needed”. Those there at the events he attends are quick to interject that Smallwood is always one of the first to arrive and the last to leave every day, no matter if it is a smaller schooling show or an international event. The one thing Smallwood tries to stay away from? Scribe. He attributes that to his handwriting, but we know if an event were to need one, Smallwood would be the first to volunteer.
Cheryl Sherman Photo.
After all that, he was hooked and this year Smallwood attended more events at many different venues volunteering and assisting the events which led him to receive the 2017 USEA Volunteer of the Year award! He logged 221 hours and one minute of volunteer time throughout 2017, which is tracked by the EventingVolunteers.com website, and is calculated using all of the recognized events participating in the program. When the hours were tallied, Smallwood won by a landslide.
When asked about what his favorite part of eventing is, Smallwood is quick to responds with “the people” and he adds that he really “cherishes the great friendships that he has made over the years.” He also is very quick to thank those around him who make is possible for him to be so involved in volunteering and in the sport. Smallwood explained, “I would like to thank Carolyn Mackintosh, Gena Cindric, and Alex Ambelang for their support through the year in particular as well as my fellow volunteers.” While he did receive the award this year, Smallwood feels that all his fellow volunteers should be honored as, “they all work so hard to help support the community and keep these events running.”
Alex Ambelang Photo.
This past month, Smallwood was lucky enough to travel to Long Beach, California, for the USEA Annual Meeting and Convention to accept his award in person. When asked about his experience at his first USEA convention, Smallwood said, “It was a great experience and I really enjoyed being able to speak with and get to know the incredible group of eventing community members that were there. It really made for a fun time and I can’t wait to hopefully attend another!” At the USEA Year End Awards Ceremony he was honored with a $1,000 check, a custom “USEA Volunteer of the Year” jacket, and a crystal trophy. Smallwood would also like to especially thank Sunsprite Warmbloods for sponsoring the Eventing Volunteers program and covering the cost for every USEA recognized event. It was an honor well deserved!
Those who know Smallwood are quick to point out his dedication and passion for volunteering and for the sport. He always goes out of his way to help others and has been places at the drop of a hat time and time again to fill in wherever needed. It is easy to tell how passionate he is when you speak to him and he leaves a lasting impact wherever he goes. In fact, he has inspired countless other volunteers to come to the events, which is just a testament to the impact that he has made within the community. He is already planning his schedule for next year and is hoping to go to even more events in 2018, so be sure to be on the lookout for him and if you do see him, give him a big thank you because eventing wouldn’t be the same without him.
Do you know someone who should be recognized as Volunteer of the Month? We are looking for our next feature. Email your tips to [email protected].