The Champions program, sponsored by Ariat International, rewards volunteerism on behalf of horse welfare with scholarships for volunteers to help further their undergraduate and graduate education and to assist those pursuing certification as a therapeutic horsemanship instructor.
Emilie McCann and Lily Stidham will receive the 2021 EQUUS Foundation Champion of Equine Service Academic Scholarship to further their academic education at an institution of higher learning. Emily Jones will receive the 2021 Champion of Equine Service PATH Certification Scholarship presented by Lessons in TR to cover the certification exam fee.
Despite the significant restrictions on volunteer opportunities resulting from COVID-19, these individuals made it a priority to continue to volunteer and overcome these new barriers. “Access to horses has become more challenging – never mind when there is a pandemic keeping us at home,” said Lynn Coakley, EQUUS Foundation President. “The dedication of incredible volunteers all over the country speaks to the importance of the horse-human bond in people’s lives. During this time of continued uncertainty, I am thrilled that so many volunteers like this year’s recipients were able to find joy and purpose in working with horses.”
Emilie McCann with Drew, a rescue horse at Rising Starr Horse Rescue awaiting his next chapter
Emilie found Rising Starr Horse Rescue (RSHR) during a college gap year, and her time spent there quickly became the highlight of her days. Through her volunteer work, she gained invaluable experience and learned about the handling, care, training, and rehabilitation of rescue horses. At RSHR, Emilie was given the opportunity to work with Drew, one of two Thoroughbreds rescued in January 2020. Under the guidance of RSHR’s trainers, her work with Drew became one of the most rewarding experiences of her life, and rekindled her dream of someday becoming a horse trainer.
“Working with rescues is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had, and it has given me confidence and direction. I want to do this for the rest of my life, and I could not be more grateful to Rising Starr for providing me with the opportunity to learn and grow.” READ MORE . . .
Lily Stidnam and Bodi, one of the therapy horses at Stirrups n’ Strides
No matter if Lily Stidham is on the ground or in the saddle, being around horses always makes her smile. Lily, a senior at the University of Florida (UF) pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Animal Sciences specializing in Equines, plans to graduate this December. At UF, she has had the opportunity to participate in the Equestrian Club, as an undergraduate teaching assistant, in equine research, and in training a weanling and yearling.
Outside of school, she spends her time volunteering at Stirrups n’ Strides Therapeutic Riding Center, where she is able to apply her equestrian knowledge and skills through working as a barn hand, and riding. Lily began volunteering at Stirrups n’ Strides in 2017. In addition to getting the horses ready and interacting with riders in both the veterans and special needs programs, she has also had the opportunity to ride some of the horses and mentor new volunteers. After Lily graduates, she hopes to work in the horse industry. Being able to help others as they work and care for horses is one of the most rewarding parts of her volunteer work, and she hopes to be able to carry that into her future career. READ MORE . . .
Emily Jones with her horse, Cash (left), and his best friend Levi (right), both therapy horses at the Camelot Center
Emily Jones has wanted to become a therapeutic riding instructor since she was seven years old. As a child, she loved horses. Her first introduction to the Camelot Center Therapeutic Riding Program came when she started taking lessons there. Years later, when a stall became available, she donated her own horse, Cash, to Camelot to become a therapy horse.
“I have been a volunteer [at Camelot] for over a decade and I have loved every second of it,” said Emily. “Horses have helped me through a lot of hard times, being bullied in school and struggling with serious anxiety. I am eager to become a Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor (CTRI) – this is something I have dreamt about since my childhood. I am so thankful for this opportunity, because of this I will be able to change and impact many lives.” READ MORE . . .