October 7, 2010

As the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games wind down, University of Kentucky students continue to do their part to help make the games run smoothly.

The driving force of the games is the volunteer workforce, and 26 UK equine science and management program undergraduate students have helped pull the load between classes.

Most of the students are staffing the Equine Village, which is an epicenter at the games for horse supply vendors, organizations and live demonstrations. Like the competition venues, the village needs a lot of hard-working volunteers to keep it running. One of them is Courtney Zimmerman who is working as a barn steward.

"The World Equestrian Games are a once-in-a-lifetime experience where there is a vast amount of opportunities available," Zimmerman said.  "I wanted to take advantage of the opportunities of meeting new people from all over the world and observing the various equine disciplines. Also as an equine science major, it just kind of seemed like a given to become involved."

In addition, Zimmerman participated in the games' opening ceremonies, serving at a checkpoint along the path between the athlete warm-up area and the main arena.

A few students were chosen to help with large-scale competition events, such as the endurance test. Amy DuKate, a junior in the equine science and management program, helped maintain barriers for team members. DuKate has ridden horses most of her life and has competed in eventing.

"I wanted to see what was new in the horse world... and I definitely learned a lot," DuKate said. "I have been telling people that I met the world."

DuKate said she saw competitors up close as she maintained the perimeter for horses and riders taking water breaks during the event; she ensured no unauthorized people entered and team members did not leave the appointed area.

Although Zimmerman had to juggle her class schedule with her World Equestrian Games duties, she sees her busy schedule as an opportunity to grow.

"I have had to become very good with time management," she said. "I am excited to be a part of such a huge experience. I am also thrilled to see so many people collected in one place to support, cheer and marvel over all of the abilities of the horse."Zimmerman said she thought the opening ceremonies were impressive.

"When you are watching internationally known people, it can be hard to remember that most of these people lead completely normal lives, but if you try to step into their shoes, then you can begin to realize how similar we all are," she said.

Equine Initiative Internship Coordinator Elizabeth LaBonty said she is excited so many students are volunteering for the games.

"To have the (World Equestrian Games) in Lexington provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for UK students to volunteer and be a part of an internationally prestigious event," she said. "It should be inspirational and motivational for them, as they begin to form their own career paths."

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