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Youth Equine Service Scholarship

Funded by
user profile avatar
Cathy Thacker
2 winners, $500 each
Application Deadline
May 1, 2024
Winners Announced
Jun 1, 2024
Education Level
Recent scholarship winners
Eligibility Requirements
Has volunteered with a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization
Loves working with horses

Many non-profit Equine organizations would not be able to function or thrive without the support of their volunteers. 

Volunteering for a cause you’re passionate about not only helps the organization, but also allows you to foster your interests and advance your skills. Service work can instill skills such as time management, flexibility, cooperation, and selflessness, all of which can help you in your future endeavors.

This scholarship seeks to reward students who love working with horses and giving back to the community.

Any current student who loves working with horses and has experience working with a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization may apply for this scholarship. 

To apply, tell us what you’ve learned about yourself by doing volunteer work.

Selection Criteria:
Ambition, Need, Boldest Profile
Published October 7, 2023
Essay Topic

What has your volunteer service taught you about yourself?

400–600 words

Winning Applications

Sophia Soto
William Penn-Griffin School for the ArtsOak Ridge, NC
For as long as I can remember, horses have held a tender place in my heart. From my experiences, I have come to appreciate the Arabic proverb proclaiming, “The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse’s ears.” Graceful yet powerful, horses are central to my joy and identity. There is rarely a time when a horse's calming and intuitive nature has not been the perfect tonic for what is troubling me. When I am around a horse, I feel centered, present, and at peace. Over the past six years, I have worked with horses at Circle C Equestrian Center, a Girl Scout Barn in Sophia, NC. I began attending as a summer camper, and from the first day, I felt at home. I learned and progressed in my horsemanship skills until, in the fall of 2019, I became a Riding Instructor in Training, a volunteer position requiring time, training, and a strong work ethic. Looking back at my first RIIT training in 2019, I recall being so nervous that the barn director had to talk me out of my car! Like a newborn foal, I was unsure and unsteady. But soon, thanks to my experiences caring for and learning from the herd, I found my footing and the confidence to stand tall and run free. I am proud of my over 350 service hours at Circle C Equestrian Center, where I can use my passion for horses to lead, educate, and mentor others. With their unique ability to connect with humans, horses are the conduit through which I serve my community. Equines are also how I gained courage, confidence, character, and a deeper understanding of myself. The Barn was the first time I made part of my identity something other than academics. Previously, much of my self-worth was invested in my academic performance; the mere thought of getting a B was akin to ripping off part of my body. Because of my experiences at Circle C, I no longer defined myself by grades and learned to consider myself holistically. I realized that I am a multifaceted person who deserves more than to be defined merely by some letters on a report card. My coworkers did not care if I did poorly on a calculus quiz, and the horses certainly were indifferent. The most significant and unexpected effect of working at Circle C was discovering a love of working with and teaching children. Previously, I had detested the idea of being near children for any length of time, let alone trying to teach them. I was stuck in the mindset of “I’m here for the horses, not the kids.” However, their innocence, eagerness to learn, and tenacity soon grew on me. My initial disgust had turned to delight, and I knew I wanted to be a father when I grew up so that I may experience the adventure of nurturing the next generation every day. The lessons from volunteering have followed me through other parts of my life. Applying the horsemanship skills I acquired at Circle C, such as patience, communication, and leadership, has made everything smoother. For instance, I used my communication skills to negotiate in the student government, my patience to lead group projects, and my leadership to manage different activities. The ability to cooperate with others I may disagree with and synthesize plans and perspectives are beneficial traits that have already paid massive dividends. I have my volunteering to thank for my growth.
Emily Strange
University of California-BerkeleyFolsom, CA
My early life revolved around horses. Posters of different horses lined the walls of my bedroom, my youtube history was filled with gorgeous prancing ponies and magnificent mustangs. You really couldn’t get me to talk about anything else. I was, as one would say, the quintessential horse girl. I spent all day at the barn, working off my lessons by mucking stalls, babysitting pay clients’ children, or anything that anyone needed done. I genuinely thought that this was enough to continue riding. It wasn’t until I was 16 when my mom sat me down and discussed with me that we no longer could afford for me to ride. She explained to me that she had been cutting back everywhere she could, but our finances finally reached a point where horses had to go too. I was devastated. I felt a part of my identity had been taken away. I understood why this had to happen, but that didn’t change how I felt about it. When I turned 20, I scraped together enough money for a car. And with that, came the ability for me to consider horses again. Unfortunately, my finances couldn’t carry the burden of lessons either, but I was determined to be around them somehow. That’s when I discovered Giant Steps, a therapeutic riding center near me who was in need of volunteers. This was my first experience with volunteering for something that was just my decision. I wasn’t forced to do it for school, I didn’t do it with a group of people, it was just mine. And it changed my life. The people I met through this program were some of the kindest people I had ever known, both the riders and the trainers. I still remember a moment where one of the riders almost fell off, but I caught them before they hit the ground. I felt so proud of the work that I was doing that I knew that I only wanted to do something with my life that made me feel this way. Eventually, my life fully took me away from horses (though I’m fully determined to get back to it once I finish my education), but I’m still firmly rooted in the things I learned through that work. I spent a year volunteering for an advocacy organization, and I work now for a non-profit helping with grants. And after school, my plan is to continue working in the non-profit space. I want to use the tools I've learned to make the world a better place than I found it. And I hope one day to return to Giant Steps as a volunteer.
Savannah Lambert
Wesleyan Christian AcademyHigh Point, NC
A Passionate Sacrifice Volunteering has become a passion of mine within the last five years, aiding special needs children and adults, while also caring for the equine community. Over the years, I have discovered that volunteering not only brings joy to children, but also to myself. After several volunteer opportunities, I plan to pursue volunteer work throughout college and adulthood. This community service has transformed me into the person I am today, living not only for myself, but for others. Horsepower Therapeutic Learning Center is a non-profit organization in which children and adults with special needs bond with horses and volunteers. Beginning lessons at the age of twelve, I immediately fell in love with the equine community, but also the kind people that surrounded the location. The following year, I decided to join Horsepower as a volunteer. I met a young girl who struggles with several rare diseases and muteness, allotting a challenge for me to care for a rider who could not fully communicate with me. She also wrestles with dehydration; however, her mother informed me after the camp that her doctor had documented the child’s highest hydration levels. Not only was her family pleased with me as the girl’s volunteer, but they decided to have me continue to care for the child during regular class sessions. To this day, I continue to impact the child’s life as she influences mine. After each riding lesson, she walks away with a smile, leaving me with self-confidence knowing that I have changed a life. While volunteering at Horsepower, I not only have gained experience with children, but I have learned numerous details regarding horses. Before coming to Horsepower, I knew an insufficient amount of information about horse anatomy, the time required and care of horses, and their ability to emotionally connect with individuals. One horse at the non-profit organization, named Sunshine, has worked with a rider for many years. Sunshine has always remained kind and gentle with the riders and receives numerous compliments and love. After seeing the work Sunshine and other horses do for riders, I have adored horses and the act of volunteering. In addition to Horsepower, another non-profit organization titled iCanSwim, aids children with special needs to conquer demanding tasks in the water. As a volunteer, my job is to protect the swimmer from water hazards, but also to encourage them stroke by stroke. One swimmer enthusiastically entered the aquatic center daily ready to interact with me. As I encouraged her, she mostly wanted to play games and know how proud I was of her. The child consistently desired a hug from her swim buddy and even wrote a note on the last day, thanking me for my service. iCanShine enhanced my volunteer proficiency from the equine community to the natatorium, expanding my experience with children and guiding others. An anonymous author once stated, “Helping one person might not change the whole world, but it could change the world for one person.” I live by this mantra today, seeking opportunities to abet suffering human beings. Volunteering has altered my life in more ways than one, including a possible career in Recreational Therapy, plans to continue volunteerism throughout college and adulthood, and the reward of joy and confidence. I choose to live each day knowing I have positively transformed an individual’s life, sacrificing my time to impact the community.
Savannah Price
Manhattan High School West/East CampusManhattan, KS
I, like many students, started volunteering to earn volunteer hours. Last summer, I decided to begin the lofty goal of amassing one hundred volunteer hours, an achievement that would grant me a special certificate to put on my college resume. However, as I volunteered at different places, I discovered a purpose outside of myself and grew so much as a person. I began my journey at Hope Ranch Therapeutic Riding Center, the barn where I also take riding lessons. I had always loved horses, and the community at Hope Ranch was incredibly supportive, so when I heard that they needed volunteers, I jumped at the opportunity. Although most of the work included sweeping or mucking stalls, I didn’t mind. The barn became my safe space - where I felt most at peace. When I was able to volunteer with lessons, I loved being able to help the therapy riders enjoy horses as I do. Volunteering at Hope Ranch taught me patience and mindfulness, as working with horses (and people) forces you to be present in the moment. My positive experience at the ranch inspired me to find other ways to help my community. Once the school year had started, I volunteered as a mentor at the Boys & Girls Club. Every Tuesday, I would go there to lead the program for the kids, which helped me realize the value of forming genuine connections with people. Although the mentees and the other mentors started as strangers, by the end of the program, we had all become close to one another. My problem-solving and communication skills were also tested, as dealing with a rowdy group of elementary schoolers isn't easy. The leadership role I took as a mentor gave me the confidence to pursue other leadership roles and make a larger-scale impact. I became vice president of Youth Impacting Community, a community organization responsible for distributing grant money to non-profits. It was eye-opening to research all the different non-profits and discover all the areas of need within our community. This experience again pushed my problem-solving and communication skills, as I had to work with the other committee members to make difficult decisions. Through volunteering, I have learned so much about myself. I've come a long way since last summer when all I wanted to do was get enough volunteer hours. Focusing on the lessons I had learned and my ability to serve my community made meeting my 100-hour goal easy. However, I'm not stopping there. Next year I will be the president of Youth Impacting Community, a mentor at the Boys & Girls Club, an ambassador for the Flint Hills Volunteer Center, and of course, I will always return to the barn. I will continue to do whatever I can to positively impact my community - never forgetting how much I have learned through volunteering. I am incredibly grateful for my community and all the opportunities I have to make it an even better place.
Jeremy Jones
Pinecrest High SchoolAberdeen, NC
Volunteering at Prancing Horse has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. At first, I wasn’t sure what I signed up for, but I quickly learned what a wonderful service was being offered and I get to be a part of it. I didn’t have much knowledge of horses and never knew how therapeutic they are for people. I never knew how much I would connect with the horses, the children and the other volunteers. Working with the horses has taught me about how similar these beautiful animals are to us. A horse’s mood can reflect our own moods, which then can affect the behavior of the horse. Horses can have bad days, be unmotivated, and irritated. I realized how cooperation and motivation from the volunteers and children could change the mood of a horse. When I am in a good mood, the horse always seems to be in a good mood, and vice versa. Horses are very emotional animals and children can also be very emotional. To get the horse and the children to respond properly, I have to be calm and patient. So much is conveyed through touch of the horse and the texture of the fur for the children that have sensory issues. Working with horses has shown me how to not let little things effect my day and has helped me adapt and respond in a more positive way. Seeing kids come in crying or mad and then leaving happy or more at peace is the most heartwarming feeling. The scenery, the people, and the purpose are the biggest reasons the volunteer work has stuck with me. Being in touch with nature, getting to see and feel the outdoors is a huge factor in why horseback riding is therapeutic, for not only the children, but all that are involved. There are plenty of days that I wake up unmotivated and do not want to go, but I push myself to show up because I know it is important to the kids, and then I leave wondering why I was dreading it. I have never left Prancing Horse unmotivated or unhappy. It is extremely rewarding being a part of something bigger than myself. I love being able to help those less fortunate. I have been diagnosed with anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Tourette’s. This is not something I let many know, nor do I seek sympathy for. I try to keep my struggles to myself, but Prancing Horse has been a big factor in my progression. Just being outside with the horses, and helping the children seems calm and ease my anxiety. My volunteer service has taught me that I can be apart of something bigger and more important than myself. I have realized through working with horses and special needs children at Prancing Horse that I am capable of changing people's days, weeks, or even lives. Seeing the joy that the horses bring to the children, and seeing that I am a part of what made this child smile today, is what has proven to me that I am on the right path. I decided before working with Prancing Horse that I wanted to be a Special Needs teacher. Prancing Horse is one thing that has really helped push me to achieve that dream and has solidified my choice to continue into this career.


When is the scholarship application deadline?

The application deadline is May 1, 2024. Winners will be announced on Jun 1, 2024.

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