10 March 2023
VIP Volunteer: Dick Owen
After working for nearly 30 years as a broadcast engineer and operations manager for the nation’s largest radio network, Westwood One, Richard “Dick” Owen has acquired many of the skills necessary to help run horse trials smoothly. From presidential inaugurations to political conventions to State of the Union addresses, Owen’s friendly and calm demeanor and experience with the logistics of covering major events have served him well in Area III, where he volunteers dozens of weekends a year.
Owen was named the 2022 Area III volunteer of the year, and he also won the US Events Association’s Volunteer Incentive Program Volunteer of the Year for 2022 with 489.5 hours of service.
Originally from Massachusetts, Owen became involved with horses after visiting a local show in Maryland with a friend. Living near Washington, DC, at the time and working constantly, he was stressed and found one day in the country to be just what he needed.
“I said, ‘Why am I not here? It’s a beautiful day, everyone is laughing and having fun. No dramas. I love animals. Everyone was just having fun,’” he recalls.
Inspired by his visit, Owen decided to buy a horse and learn to ride in his 50s. Soon after, she joined an internet chat group about horses and saw a post about the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event requiring volunteers, so she reached out and took her first ride in 1999. She also started volunteering at Fair Hill (Elkton, Maryland) near with home.
After a few years, Owen became the chief transit administrator of a competitor and the owner and butler of a cross-country jumping videographer in Kentucky.
When his horse died in retirement several years ago, Owen and his wife, Carolyn Jones, moved to Daytona Beach, Florida, and Owen hooked up with Emily Holmes at Florida Horse Park in Ocala. He also returned to casual riding and found Quarter Horse through a friend.
“I found that volunteering was a way to meet lots of good people in new areas for me,” she says. “It took me around the state so I could see all these different places. That’s all a side benefit of the fact that I get to watch one of the most incredible sports you can imagine. I just think the ability for this horse and rider to do what they do is absolutely incredible. Watching them and appreciating their athletic ability and seeing the development of the riders is just amazing.”
Owen, 72, loves seeing the development of young and grassroots riders at his local events.
“Volunteering gave me the opportunity to watch these people grow and watch this sport mature in many ways,” he says. “I’m happy to see the progress we’ve made in course design and fragile design and things like that because I’ve seen too many crashes. It’s a great thing to be able to be out there and participate and offer back. I really enjoy doing it. You see the good, the bad, the ugly, and you get the appreciation of the good riders because you see the bad. It makes you appreciate sport more and appreciate how hard it is to succeed in sport.”
Owen is most often found tackling the start or finish of cross-country in Florida events such as Rocking Horse, Three Lakes, Grand Oaks, Majestic Oaks, Ocala, and Barnstaple. He traveled further south to TerraNova and also assisted at Tryon (Mill Spring, North Carolina) in Area II.
“The people I meet I really enjoy,” he said. “It became a big family that I would never have.”
Owen has come up with several innovations in his time as a volunteer, including fan scraps sold by the Land Rover Kentucky Three Day Event during the 2021 event when the COVID-19 pandemic prevented spectators.
“They finally agreed with the idea,” he said. “I put three of my own pieces in there. It’s fun and interesting. It’s my way of trying to help them instead of just being a worker.”
At previous Ocala Jockey Club events and at Tryon, Owen worked as a videographer and helped advance technology from Go Pros and cross-country unmanned cameras to using tablets and training volunteers to make videos.
“We used a tablet, and it worked really well,” he says. “I put together something that said, this is how we are going to do it and with a video. Now we have a very standard practice. Last year we had 27 cameras in the field.”
While he’s shedding his old role with competitor and owner shuttle at Kentucky this year, he’ll still be head videographer.
Owen said the VIP leaderboard wasn’t a goal for him, but he was happy to win. “I really appreciate the VIP Program,” he said. “I wish more places took advantage of it. The fact that you can see what positions are available and choose the position you want and you feel comfortable rather than doing a generic registration, I think such a situation is the way to go.
He encourages everyone to try to volunteer when they can. “I think more people really need to try and get out there and volunteer,” he said. “There is a need for them, and people don’t think they can. They don’t think they have the ability for it. What they don’t realize is, they will be instructed on how to do it, and that is not rocket science. Once you learn the basics of assessing or assisting, there shouldn’t be much difficulty. This is an opportunity that many people need to take advantage of.”
About the USEA Volunteer Incentive Program
Volunteers are the lifeblood of our sport, the unsung heroes and the people who keep this sport alive. In an effort to recognize the dedication, commitment, and hard work put in by volunteers in eventing, USEA established the Volunteer Incentive Program (VIP) in 2015. In 2017, an online management portal was designed for volunteers, organizers, and volunteer coordinators in Eventing Volunteers. com (available as an app for iOS and Android).
Volunteer incentives include national and regional recognition, year-end awards with ribbons, cash prizes, and trophies, the top ten of the USEA Volunteer leaderboard, and the Volunteer of the Year award which is given to the volunteer who tops the leaderboard by accumulating the most volunteer hours during a competitive year. USEA. Click here (https://useeventing.com/support-usea/volunteer) to learn more about the USEA Volunteer Incentive Program.