OYES: Optimum Youth Equestrian Scholarship

Optimum Youth Equestrian Scholarship

The mission of the Optimum Youth Equestrian Scholarship is to provide opportunities for youth aged 17-27 from marginalized communities to become involved or stay involved in horse sports through financial awards and mentorship focusing on not only horsemanship and equestrian pursuits, but also career planning and education. We believe that opportunities for riding, training, and showing are not easily attainable to individuals facing socioeconomic and accessibility hurdles as well as overt and passive discrimination based upon their race, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Together we seek to bridge this gap through the sharing of knowledge, opportunities, and solidarity.

Application Guidelines

All applicants will receive mentorship focused on not only equine pursuits, but also on career planning, higher education, overcoming obstacles to training and riding and solidarity in facing discrimination in and out of the horse world. One applicant will receive a $600 scholarship to be used for the awardee’s pursuit of equestrian activities.

All young equestrians aged 17-27 who are facing challenges in becoming involved or staying involved in horse sports are encouraged to apply. The application essay can be in typewritten or in video format and should include the following: 

  1. Tell us about yourself! How did you get involved with riding? What are your current riding goals?
  2. What are your future dreams and plans? How far along are you in pursuing these goals?
  3. What challenges have you overcome to be involved with riding (i.e., financial, logistical, social challenges, difficulties with your physical or mental health, etc.)? 
  4.  Include a budget outline that includes, for instance, the cost of lessons, showing fees, etc. Be as detailed as possible, i.e., if you plan to use the funds for showing or training, where will you show, or who will you train with?
  5. To assist with matching you to a mentor and to potentially facilitate job or internship opportunities, please list:
    • your hometown or where you plan to be working, studying or riding
    • if applicable, where you are attending college or considering applying
    • your current or hopeful area of study
    • your current or hopeful profession
    • which areas of riding or horsemanship are you most interested in learning more about or seeking connections to

Applications are now open! The deadline for the Summer 2021 award is July 15th. We recommend drafting your essay and budget before completing the application form. Page limit 2-3 pages double spaced. Maximum length for video submissions is 5 minutes.

After the application deadline, the scholarship board will review the applications and select one awardee based on the clarity of the applicant’s goals and proposed use of the funding. The award winner will be announced by August 16th and all applicants will receive notifications of their matching mentor(s) by the same date with instructions on how to contact and schedule a virtual meeting with a mentor. Applicants are welcome to reapply in future award cycles.  

Download application here

Shaquilla Blake
I am the author of theblackequestrian.com which is an online blog created to chronicle my journey as a black adult beginner rider chasing my dream of becoming a showjumper. I began riding in the summer of 2018. In the past two years I have been a working student and a consistent lesson student. I bought my dream horse, a 5-year-old off the track Thoroughbred named Bear in February of 2020 and we are growing together to make our debut in the hunter and jumper ring. As a rider of colour in a predominantly white sport, I use my blog and social media platforms to highlight and uplift other riders of colour as well as to touch on ways to encourage more diversity and inclusion in the equestrian community.
Mandy Collier
Equine Massage Therapist
I am a mental health researcher by day and an equine massage therapist by night. Horses have been an all-consuming passion for as long as I can remember but riding lessons and horse shows were hard to come by until I joined the University of Pittsburgh’s equestrian team in college. This opportunity was a wonderful springboard into the equestrian life and through my connections on the team, I found the barn where I would meet my heart horse, Charlie Brown. I hope to act as a conduit for other passionate young equestrians to find opportunities that enable a joyful, passionate life full of aspirations and, of course, horses.
Jacqueline Ely
Professional Rider and Trainer
I began competing with horses at a young age in 4-H and then with the intercollegiate equestrian team at Indiana University of Pennsylvania where I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Dietetics and Nutrition. I continue to start young horses under saddle and re-train problem horses through my business, Ely Equine LLC. I develop all of my own competition horses from the ground up, often raising or buying youngsters to bring along. I enjoy riding all disciplines and any breed of horse. My main passion however is Dressage and Working Equitation. I feel we never know enough and can always gain more tools for our toolbox when working with horses.
About Our Mentors

All applicants will be matched with at least one mentor who will be asked to meet virtually with the youth applicant at least once. Ongoing communication will be up to the mentor and the applicant to decide upon, but our goal is that within these meetings, mentors can provide perspective on career choices, share resources and ideas to help further that applicant’s riding goals, or even connect applicants with potential opportunities within the mentor’s circle– opening doors for connections that lead to internships, jobs, or meetings with helpful horse people from the applicant’s area.

To date, we have enlisted dozens of mentors from a variety of riding backgrounds and a wide range of professions. Our mentors have competed or trained in eventing, dressage, hunters, jumpers, and even working equitation. We have amateurs and professionals alike who have started young horses and retrained off the track Thoroughbreds. The horsemanship skills range from running a backyard farm, to showing on a budget, to managing an equine business. With mentors from most major cities across the US and a wide variety of colleges and universities, we hope that these connections will open doors for the applicants and provide opportunities for young professionals.

A few of our mentors have careers within the horse industry, but most are ambitious amateurs who have chosen careers that will help fund their riding and competition plans. Our mentors’ careers encompass nurses, doctors, lawyers, scientists, researchers, programmers, engineers, entrepreneurs, authors, yoga and pilates teachers, vet techs, photographers, farriers, trainers and more. The mentors have joined the program because all of us believe the horses have given us so much: it is time to give back and help others find the empowerment of being a horse person.

Interested in becoming a mentor? Contact us to learn more!

About Our Donors

The winter 2021 award cycle is funded through Optimum Equine, Never Knock Goods, Dreamers & Schemers, and individual private donors. Interested in becoming a donor? Give directly via paypal.me/OYESequestrian or contact us to arrange a private or business-sponsored donation of which 100% will go directly into the scholarship award.

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