CHAMPION OF EQUINE SERVICE PATH CERTIFICATION SCHOLARSHIP
Therapeutic Riding has captivated Emily since she was seven years old. Years later, when she donated her own horse, Cash, to become a therapeutic horse, it re-centered her life around therapeutic riding. For both humans and horses alike, Emily has been an avid volunteer for the Camelot Center Therapeutic Riding Program
for nearly eleven years.
Making miracles happen - One Student at a Time, the Camelot Center is dedicated to enriching the lives of children and adults suffering physical, mental, emotional, and learning disabilities through therapeutic riding. Emily's willingness to volunteer at a moments' notice has made Emily one of the Camelot Center's most valuable volunteers. In 2018, Emily became the barn manager for the program, delegating work, such as feed, exercise, and turnout, wherever necessary to ensure the well being of the horses. Emily assists with appointments with the farriers and veterinarians, gaining more and more responsibility of the horses every day.
Emily's commitment to Camelot has helped her keep her head up during some hard times, allowing her to truly flourish as a woman. "Horses have helped me through a lot of hard times, being bullied in school and struggling with serious anxiety," said Emily. "The barn has always been my favorite place to go. I believe horses have made me a better person. They have taught me a lot of important life lessons and I think the biggest one is not to judge a book by its cover. They have truly impacted my life in more ways than one," said Emily, "but watching what they can do for other people that have a different way of communicating is the best thing to be able to witness in person."
Through her years of volunteering, Emily has seen a lot of different riders that all have lots of different struggles. "Each time I watch their first encounter with a horse it amazes me. Horses have a way of communicating calmness to us without ever having to say a word. "
"Emily has a great love for our horses and our riders, said Deborah Annette Meeker, Emily's supervisor. "The care and dedication that she demonstrates has been a tremendous asset to The Camelot Center." The EQUUS Foundation PATH Certification scholarship is getting Emily ever closer to achieving her childhood dream of becoming a therapeutic riding instructor.
Champion of Equine Service Academic Scholarship
Horses had not been a focal point for Emilie for quite some time when she found Rising Starr Horse Rescue
in early 2020. She had finished high school and had decided to take a gap year before college, feeling that her life had no direction or purpose and not knowing where to turn. Once she began volunteering, however, she rekindled her childhood dream to become a horse trainer, and has since been loving the opportunities Rising Starr gives her.
Rising Starr Horse Rescue is dedicated to saving America's horses from cruelty or slaughter and providing them with a second chance at life. While some of the horses arrive ready to be handled, some arrive fearful as a result of the abuse they experienced and these horses can be dangerous to inexperienced volunteers.
When Emilie first arrived, the staff and experienced volunteers at Rising Starr spent time training her, and when the pandemic hit, they had to close the barn to the public and only retained five volunteers and the staff. "I do not understand why but I was so grateful to be one of the volunteers that was allowed to continue working during the pandemic," said Emilie. Emilie became "Head of Herd", or in other words, a trusted volunteer responsible for the well-being of the horses and was eventually able to care for all thirty horses. She was responsible for feeding, turning out, grooming, and tacking up horses.
When the barn re-opened to the public in September 2020, Emilie was also tasked with teaching the new volunteers, a responsibility that gave Emilie a sense of pride and purpose. Training the new volunteers "gave me the confidence to step up to the plate, to take any challenge head-on, and to be unapologetically myself," said Emilie.
With this newfound confidence, Emilie grew close to one of the more difficult horses, a Thoroughbred named Drew. The two would spend countless hours together, teaching each other what it means to trust and to have purpose. The gelding has since been adopted by a family, but Emilie will never forget her time with Drew and the bond they formed which can never be broken.
"Emilie is a inspiration and a positive role model for our younger volunteers," said Kelly Stackpole, Executive Director at Rising Starr. "Emilie works hard to improve herself and our horses daily and her positive attitude is infectious. She will succeed in anything she chooses to do."
Through volunteering and her experience with Drew, Emilie found purpose and joy. "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." Emilie is currently enrolled at the University of Connecticut and and plans to pursue a Bachelor's degree in Animal Sciences. She hopes she will be able one day to be a horse trainer and "keep doing what she loves."
Champion of Equine Service Academic Scholarship
For Lily Stidham, horses have been her passion since she can remember. Being able to volunteer at Stirrups n' Strides Therapeutic Riding Center
since 2017 has allowed her to diversify her equine experience.
Lily had decided that she wanted her career to be involved with horses even before graduating high school. She had ridden on and off when she was younger. "I wanted to turn my love for horses into how I would make my living," said Lily, who will be finishing up at the University of Florida in December with a Bachelors degree in Animal Sciences, specializing in Equine. This is the third scholarship award that Lily has received from the EQUUS Foundation to assist her in the pursuit of her undergraduate degree.
Lily has always found time to volunteer at Stirrups n' Strides, which provides therapeutic horseback riding and driving to individuals with physical, mental and emotional challenges, and has gained more responsibilites along the way. In addition to serving as a horse leader and side walker, and horse care duties including grooming, bathing and exercising the horses, Lily is a Mentor and serves as a role model and teacher for some of the less experienced volunteers. "Lily will step up every time she is needed and has become one of our most valued volunteers," said Betty Gray, Lily's supervisor.
"Volunteering gives me a way to see and interact with horses to further fuel my passion for them," said Lily. Although she has never had a horse of her own, volunteering has provided Lily with the education and experiences to prepare her for the day that she has her own horse to love and care for.
"Just being around [horses] makes me smile, which, though a seemingly small thing, might be the greatest impact they have had on me," said Lily. "Even if I have my own horses someday and am working in the industry, nothing will quite compare to volunteering and the rewards it gives not only to those I am helping, but to me too. I am grateful for the opportunities I have had, I hope to continue to serve as a volunteer throughout my life."