History of a sort was made at Sunday night's Maryland Combined Training Association awards ceremony.
When the awards were given to volunteers who have contributed beyond the call of duty to the organization, it was the first time that anyone knew of that a computer had received an award from a horse organization.
"Beep's name is engraved on the award right under mine," said Sykesville resident, rider, ace volunteer and fellow winner John Snyder,with a laugh.
Snyder and his wife, Cher, began volunteering theirtime, talent and services in 1979 when they were attending MCTA's Jenny Camp event and an announcement was made that volunteers were needed to help pick up the course markers on the cross country course.
Beep's services were volunteered a few years later when John Snyder brought home the IBM PC. The pile of bits and bytes was christened Beep by Cher because "beep" was all that Beep could say.
"(MCTA organizer) Kathy (Tucker-Slaterback) had been keeping all the membership records since the year one using a manual system," John recalls. "Shewas very happy when Beep took it over."
When John first made up the MCTA roster on the computer, he added Beep's name where the names of members' children would normally go, which is how Beep qualified for its part of the award.
John qualified not just for doing the computer work but also for years of acting as jump judge, outrider and a scorer, among other positions.
"This award is given to those whohelp consistently over the years," said Tucker-Slaterback, who notedthat John Snyder is "wonderful at scoring an event."
Combined training events consist of three phases: dressage, cross country (jumping) and stadium (jumping). Scoring each of the three phases is complicated, and getting the final result can be a Byzantine experience. If scheduling a combined training event is a nightmare, scoring one is anightmare under full flak attack.
"Scoring is challenging," admits John Snyder. "Everything has to be done quickly and everything is going on simultaneously. But when it's over it's rewarding to know that you did it, and you get immediate feedback from the competitors."
The Snyders' philosophy is to get the final scores from the three phases posted as quickly as possible so people can get their horses loaded and go home. This takes a lot of manpower, especially at such big events as Jackson's Hole and Jenny Camp.
"The secret is having lots of good people working on scoring who don't know anything about horses or eventing, and who don't know any of the people involved," said Cher with a laugh. "That way they don't have any idea of what is going on; they just crunch those numbers and get the scores out. We recruit non-horsy family members and people John works with (at his jobas a computer programmer at DISC Inc. in Owings Mills)."
The Snyders also note that having good outriders and good runners who get thescores back to the scorers is key.
Cher earned her volunteer award in 1984, the first year the MCTA gave such an award to "unsung heroes," Tucker-Slaterback said.
Although they have built a great dealof their reputations as great volunteers on their ability as scorers, John's favorite job is outriding, and Cher also enjoys marking the course and penalty zones each year at the Jackson's Hole event in Upperco.
"Everyone thinks that is a difficult job," Cher says, "but Ilove going out there every springtime and being among the birds and trees and flowers and doing the mowing and weed-eating and getting the course marked and ready."
John and Cher began their competitive careers in combined training sharing a horse named Toby, who competedat the Novice level. (Toby has since gone on to greener pastures in the sky.)
Currently Cher and her Hanoverian-Thoroughbred cross Ganymede compete solely in dressage, an effort which totally mystifies John, who sees dressage as something you have to get through to get tothe jumping phases of combined training.
"Cher is too modest to tell you this, but she just won the first level championship and was reserve champion at training level with Ganymede," John says proudly.
John does not have a horse suitable for combined training, but he is on the lookout for one.
"I want to find a horse to do some fox hunting with," John says. "That's really like doing just the fun partof combined training."
As much as they like riding and competing,it is really the people that bring the Snyders back time and again to volunteer at an MCTA event.
"We have consistently worked with great people at MCTA," says Cher. "It is easy to help when you work with great people; eventers are such nice people, we found them to be a really super group right from the beginning."
John also says that he enjoys his volunteer work with MCTA because "it is completely different from my indoor office job. I enjoy hanging around with people who have no interest in computers."
But everyone in MCTA is interested in Beep.
Tiffany Hill of New Windsor also was honored at the Maryland Combined Training Association award dinner.
She and her horse, Aloysius, were champions of the junior training division, and Aloysius was named reserved champion Horse of the Year.