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].
Bonnie Kibbie is one of the most dedicated and passionate vets and volunteers that you will meet. She not only dedicates both her professional time and free time to horses and the sport of eventing, but she also volunteers and is married to a course designer, making eventing a family affair. However, Bonnie didn’t originally come from a horsey family. Neither of her parents rode, but Bonnie quickly took a liking to horses and with her parents' support, she began riding at a saddle seat barn in her middle school years. After that, Bonnie was hooked and eventually her equestrian pursuits lead her to the sport of eventing. She continued riding throughout her time at college in Virginia and it was during that time that she decided to pursue a career in veterinary medicine, even if it meant putting her riding on hold for a little bit.
While she was attending vet school, she just so happened to meet fellow eventer, Jeff Kibbie, and the rest, they say, is history. Jeff is a prominent course builder and designer and Bonnie explained that, after going to events with him, she began to get involved in the volunteering side of the sport. She added, “I would volunteer at lot at the shows that I would attend with him and once I graduated from vet school, my roles expanded and I started to serve as the vet at them as well.” Bonnie fondly remembers the first show she first worked, the Middle Tennessee Pony Club Horse Trials, and she was quick to add that “my love and passion for the sport only grew when my roles as a volunteer expanded.”
Bonnie with her husband, Jeff, and son, Eli at an event. Heather Koch Photo.
After she began to work the events as a vet, her other roles grew as well. Since that time, she has held just about every single role that a volunteer could, which has ranged from setting up flowers prior to the event to cross-country jump judging, control, and everything in between. Her favorite volunteer role? Perhaps cross-country control, because, “you’re busy all the time and really know what is going on everywhere,” she explained. Bonnie also voiced that, “it is actually a dream of mine to run an event one day after I have seen everything that goes into putting on an event.” While she may not be hosting an event of her own right now, it doesn’t stop Bonnie from working behind the scenes at every event that she can attend to help them be the best that she can.
However, her goals don’t stop there. Currently, Bonnie is working on obtaining her small ”r” license in order to begin her career as a judge as well. Judging is the last role that Bonnie has not held at an event and she is eager to gain her qualifications to begin officiating at events. It will add to the many different things that Bonnie does to give back to the sport.
Now more than ever, Bonnie is involved on so many different levels in the sport. Not only did she begin competing again with her husband’s wonderful horse, Loki, whom she completed her first Preliminary level event on, but she is now the co-chair of the USEA Volunteer Committee, which was formed two years ago at the USEA Annual Meeting and Convention. Bonnie explained that, “this was all in part because of Seema Sonnad and her wonderful dedication to the sport and to volunteering.” Seema was Bonnie’s neighbor, landlord, amazing friend, and role model. “Seema would always manage to do it all, ride, compete, and volunteer, and she was truly a champion of the sport and of volunteering, which is definitely a part of her legacy that I want to try and live by,” added Bonnie.
Holly Covey Photo.
During her time as co-chair, Bonnie has seen the committee grow from the ground up to what it is today. Together with her co-chair, Holly Covey, they have lead many new initiatives and projects. However, Bonnie is quick to point out that they would not have been able to do it without the help of their phenomenal committee members. Over the past two years, the committee has implemented the volunteer leaderboard, received multiple education and safety grants, and begun creating videos to educate current and future volunteers, all with incredible success. Bonnie, Holly, and their committee members are excited to not only debut their new video this year, but they are also excited to have a new project in the works, a complete overhaul of the volunteer section of the USEA website. Bonnie detailed one other exciting goal which is, “for each area to come up with rewards and incentives for their volunteers so it is not only a national program, but also an area program as well, and to make more resources available to organizers for their volunteers.” Overall, Bonnie’s main goal is to ensure volunteers are having the absolute best experience possible because events don’t run without them and she wants to be sure that, “we are treating them the best we can.”
When asked why she loves the sport so much Bonnie explained, “it has given me so much and the horses are absolutely amazing. Cross-country always seems like an easy answer but what these animals do for us amazes me and I just never get tired of it. However, the people are a very close second.” When you speak with her, it is easy to see how much passion she has for the sport. Not only is working with horses and eventers her day job as a veterinarian, but she fills her free time by working at events, volunteering, and riding.
At the end of the day, Bonnie is someone who consistently goes above and beyond and those who know her are quick to point out how her dedication and passion for the sport are infectious. They express how lucky they feel to have her at events and praise her commitment and work ethic. She goes out of her way to help others and is always there to lend a hand when needed, as a vet, volunteer, or friend. While 2017 was filled with so many incredible things for Bonnie, such as the birth of her and Jeff’s first son, 2018 is already shaping up to be just as exciting. Bonnie is already preparing her schedule so be sure to be on the lookout for her at events and if you do see her, give her a big thank you because eventing wouldn’t 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].