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].
For Tayler Owen, horses were always a part of life. Owen is Texas-born-and-raised and she began riding at the age of six under the guidance of a very special trainer, Alyce Hinkle. Hinkle was very active in the eventing community and is a very well-known figure in Area V. She not only was involved in coaching the next generation, but she also spearheaded the Area V Young Rider program for many years. Owen reflected, “I grew up in a household of riders and evented my whole life.” Even after taking a break after receiving her degree from Texas Christian University to, in her words, “figure out what I wanted to do in life,” Owen was drawn back into the sport.
Photo courtesy of Tayler Owen.
While her return was under sad and difficult consequences as Hinkle sadly passed away in 2011, it gave Owen the reason she needed to return to the sport that had given her so much while she was young. She wanted to carry on Hinkle’s legacy, which involved volunteering whenever she could. While she had always tried to volunteer at any event she attended when competing, it was in the years after her return, that she immersed herself in the community.
For Owen, she was always drawn to the Young Rider program. While it was also because of Hinkle’s legacy, Owen always enjoyed working with the program and it was then that she was offered her biggest volunteer role yet, that of Area V Young Rider Program Coordinator. Owen knew there was no better opportunity and no better legacy to follow and jumped at the chance to try and make even half the impact on these young riders that was made on her while she was growing up. Thus, a new coordinator was born, and a fantastic one at that, according to the young riders involved in her program.
US Equestrian/Taylor Pence Photo courtesy of Tayler Owen.
In only her second year at the helm, Owen not only grew the program exponentially, but she also developed the program to further include more of the younger, lower-level riders. To develop the lower-level side of the program has been a goal of Owen’s ever since she took on the role, and so far she has succeeded on both the lower-level and upper-level front. Owen has brought in more riders to the program than ever before and she also added in new programs, like monthly team challenges at various events, to keep things exciting for riders of all levels. She finds it keeps the kids motivated as well - another bonus. Combining this with adding in more educational opportunities and clinics has made the program more exciting than ever before.
While admitting that trying to compete at the lower levels herself whilst running the program is time consuming, Owen still tries to continue to volunteer whenever she can and includes the young riders in her efforts as well. She feels volunteering is so important and wants to be sure her young riders feel the same. Just recently at Meadowcreek, Owen reached out to the organizer and asked, “What do you need?” When he responded and said they needed help setting up show jumping, Owen immediately grabbed some of her young riders and got to work. She wants them to feel like she is right there with them no matter what and it is this dedication to giving back and to her young riders that has made such an impact.
Photo courtesy of Tayler Owen.
When asked what her favorite part of the sport is, Owen was quick to respond and explained, “The relaxation, the camaraderie, the togetherness, all of it is so incredible.” She added, “I just really enjoy how in the event world everyone is here for everyone and everyone has open arms.” It has been all these reasons and more that keep Owen coming back. The sport has made such an impact on her life and now she hopes to be able to continue to do so for others.
It is easy to see how much of an impact Owen has made on the community already. She is a recognizable figure in Area V and one that people continue to turn to for support and advice. Without Owen, many feel the Young Rider program may have fallen apart and everyone agrees that without her support, it would not be where it is today. To take on such an incredibly difficult volunteer role is hard but Owen was able to do it with grace and style. Now, she looks to the future. Owen shows no signs of slowing down from volunteering or competing so be sure to look out for her as she balances both and when you do see her, give her a huge thank you because eventing would not be the same without her!
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].