BY IZZY FEINSTEIN
Starting in 2016, the USHJA Foundation Gochman Family Grant has awarded grants to three deserving junior riders, giving them an incredible opportunity to attend educational activities and compete on a qualified pony at U.S. Pony Finals. The winners of the 2018 USHJA Foundation Gochman Family Grant are Ryder Richardson of Parker, Colorado, Sydney Spevak of Henrico, Virginia, and Olivia Elmore of McDonough, Georgia.
“I have NEVER ever felt so much gratitude and happiness in my whole life,” said Ryder Richardson about finding out he was one of the winners. “This was the second year that I applied for the Grant. I wasn’t sure if there had been a change.” Richardson first learned about the Grant when he came across a YouTube video by 2016 winner, Matthew Bravo. “I remember thinking what an incredible experience and what a wonderful, life-changing gift that it is to this deserving kid,” Ryder recalls. Learning about the Grant inspired Richardson to start his own non-profit to help find funding for kids that would like to learn how to ride and would otherwise not be able to do so.
Richardson is 12 years old and has been riding for almost 5 years. In 2014, he suffered a bad head injury that kept him sidelined for a while. After making a full recovery, Ryder has been competing in the Modified Children’s Jumpers on his pony, RR Cool Play. He will be showing in the Large Regulars and USEF Pony Medal on a pony graciously supplied to him through the Grant at 2018 U.S. Pony Finals. His goal for Pony Finals is to “try hard, give [his] pony a good ride, attend all over the clinics and further [his] horsemanship education, and meet great people.”
Sydney Spevak is in her last junior year at 18 years old (USEF show age 17) and has been riding for 14 years. She currently shows in the Thoroughbred and Children’s hunters on her horse, Serendipity. This will be Spevak’s first time at U.S. Pony Finals and at the Kentucky Horse Park, and she is “super excited to experience the Pony Finals magic in person!” Sydney will be competing in either the Large Regular or Large Green division, and is most excited to show in the Walnut Ring and make new friends and memories. Her goal for Pony Finals is to “enjoy every moment and ride to the best of [her] ability.”
“It was no doubt one of the best feelings of my life,” Olivia Elmore recalls about finding out she won the USHJA Foundation Gochman Grant. Olivia is 16 years old (USEF show age 15) and has been riding for 12 years. She currently owns three horses- JAG Lord of the Dance who she used to compete in the Medium Greens, Crusador Z who she competes in the Junior Hunters, and Henry, who she rides for fun. Elmore first learned about the Grant from her friend in 2017, and had the chance to apply in 2018. When asked about what she is most excited to experience at Pony Finals Elmore responded, “I’m really excited to show in the Walnut Ring! I also can’t wait to meet the other winners of the grant and see a lot of great people!” Olivia is still unsure of what division she will be showing in at Pony Finals, however, she already has goals set. “My goal is to live every minute to the fullest. This is a once in a lifetime experience, and I can never thank the Gochman family and the USHJA Foundation enough for this. I am so incredibly grateful!”
Look for Ryder, Sydney, and Olivia in person and on the USEF Network livestream at this year’s 2018 USEF Pony Finals presented by Collecting Gaits Farm. Learn more about the USHJA Foundation’s other grants and programs on www.ushjafoundation.com