Juniors Helping Juniors: The Long Island Junior Professional Horsemen’s Association

BY TPH INTERN ANNIE BIRMINGHAM

The Professional Horsemen’s Association of America (PHA) was first founded in Watertown, Connecticut in 1936. Today, the PHA consists of 16 nationwide chapters across America with upwards of 900 professional members. Their purpose is to aid members of the horse community in need, providing financial assistance for continuing education through multiple scholarship funds, and promoting the education of horse care and protection within the industry.

The Professional Horsemen’s Association of America

The Long Island branch also boasts a junior committee, compromised of 85 members and their own separate board. When the Long Island horse community suffered the loss of 22 year old Rebecca Weissbard last September, after a tragic accident at HITS Saugerties, the junior committee vowed to honor her memory to the best of their abilities. With the help of the junior board, I proposed the idea for the annual “Becca Weissbard Award”. We created a scholarship essay contest, asking all participants, “What does horsemanship mean to you?”. The juniors fundraised to support the award through the sale of saddle pads, t-shirts, horse treats, and raffle tickets for an auction made possible through countless donations and volunteers. The Weissbard family was kind enough to review all of the applications and select the first winner and runner-up of the award.

The Junior PHA Fundraising Table at the 2017 Long Island PHA Horse Show.

On May 15th, 2017 at the annual Long Island PHA Horse Show at Wolffer Estates Stables, Eric and Lynne Weissbard, Becca’s parents, selected the winners from 10 final applicants. Myself and Sam Koeppel, president and vice president of the junior committee, joined the Weissbard’s to present the award before the $10,000 Snowman Classic (aptly named after the Long Island natives Harry DeLeyer and Snowman), which Becca won in 2016. Seraphina Molfetta, one of Becca’s former students, was announced the first winner of the Becca Weissbard Award. Sadie Berkhout was awarded runner-up. Both young equestrians won a $150 scholarship to be used towards lessons, clinics, and/or show fees, to help promote their promising upcoming careers in the equine industry.

(From Left to Right) Sam Koeppel, Annie Birmingham, Sadie Berkhout, Seraphina Molfetta, and Eric Weissbard at Wolffer Estates. Photo: Bruce Smith/ Digital Hoofprints Photography

As a community, we have been fortunate to be able to honor Becca’s memory by helping others. We are hard at work for 2018, and looking to expand the scholarship as much as possible to help as many as possible. For any questions and/or donations to help the foundation, please contact [email protected].