USHJA Foundation Gochman Family Grant Makes 3 Riders’ Dreams Come True

2019 USHJA Foundation Gochman Grant recipient Sophia McCoy of Hampstead, Maryland. Photo provided.

Lexington, Ky.—May 13, 2019—The USHJA Foundation is pleased to award the 2019 Gochman Family Grant to Sofia McCoy of Hampstead, Maryland; Eddyn Molden of Middleton, Virginia; and Alexandra van der Woude of Warrenton, Virginia. The grant will provide these three young equestrians with the experience of a lifetime at the 2019 USEF Pony Finals presented by Collecting Gaits Farm, which will be held August 6-11, 2019.

“I am thrilled and feel so fortunate to have been selected for this Gochman Grant. I’m incredibly grateful to the USHJA and the Gochman family for this unbelievable opportunity,” said McCoy. “When they called to tell me, I was in shock and couldn’t stop crying because I was so excited. I can’t wait to get to Kentucky!”

McCoy, 13, has been riding for ten years and recently took reserve champion aboard her pony, Cloud 9, in the Pleasure Pony division at the 2018 Maryland Horse Shows Association Regional Program Championship. Outside of local competition, McCoy qualified for the 2018-2019 Interscholastic Equestrian Association Zone 3 Finals, placing fourth in Future Novice Equitation on the Flat; has ridden in the Washington International Horse Show Shetland Pony Championship Race; and helps with chores at her barn.

“I have been watching the [Pony Finals] live stream since before I could remember, and I always wanted to compete there. When I realized how much it would cost, I decided that I would have to find another way to get there, so when I heard about the Gochman Grant, I knew I had to apply,” said Molden. “I want to thank all the donors of this grant, especially the Gochman Family, for giving the other applicants and me this incredible opportunity to fulfill my life dream. My cheeks are sore from smiling so much.” 

2019 USHJA Foundation Gochman Grant recipient Eddyn Molden of Middleton, Virginia. Photo provided.

Molden, 12, currently competes in the pony hunter divisions, catch riding green and sale ponies at rated competitions. She wrapped up her 2018 season at the Mid-Atlantic Equitation Festival (MAEF), taking reserve champion in the Small Pony Hunter division and winning the MAEF Pony Championship. On top of showing horses, Molden also shows livestock through her county’s 4-H program and participates in Future Farmers of America.

“I can’t believe that I get to go to Pony Finals! I am so excited for this journey, including all the events, the new friends and ponies I will meet and the whole entire adventure,” said Van der Woude. “After the phone call saying I received the Grant, I truly screamed! I am still in shock. Thank you so much to the Gochman Family for making this opportunity possible for me. I can’t wait!”

Van der Woude, 13, began showing in leadline classes at the age of three and is currently showing a large pony, former Gochman Grant recipient Riley Hogan’s My Shooting Star, at USEF-recognized shows in the Children’s Pony Hunter division and local Large Pony Hunter classes. She also foxhunts with the Warrenton Hunt during the off-season, participating in various hunter paces, hunter trials, and hunt night exhibitions associated with the hunts in Virginia.

2019 USHJA Foundation Gochman Grant recipient Alexandra van der Woude of Warrenton, Virginia. Photo provided.

The USHJA Foundation Gochman Family Grant offers each recipient the opportunity to compete at USEF Pony Finals when they may not have otherwise been able to do so. “We are thrilled that the Gochman Grant continues to draw a highly respectable applicant pool. It means so much to see the dedication that so many of the young people have in our sport,” said Becky. “To be able to come to Pony Finals is often a dream come true for these kids and we are so pleased to be a part of that experience.”

The USHJA Foundation will work with the three riders to ensure they have a suitable pony for the event, as well as partner with top trainers Robin Greenwood and Rob Jacobs and others in the sport to provide a variety of educational and inspiring experiences for the grant recipients.

“After multiple rounds, the selection committee and I could not be more excited about these three riders. Their talent, horsemanship, creativity, and writing skills stood out,” said Jacobs. “As I read through these three applications I was able to get a good sense of the strong character these young ladies had. Also, for their ages, these ladies ride beautifully and have great talent. I’m excited for another year of smiles, gratitude and pony love.”

“The Gochman Grant brought out a huge amount of talent this year with almost 50 applicants. We had a hard time picking the top three,” said Greenwood. “I love everything about this Grant and the opportunity it offers these kids. Helping them at Pony Finals reminds me of where we all started. The kids soak up everything we tell them and I get to see Pony Finals through ‘first time’ eyes. It reminds me that we do these because we love horses, kids and teaching and has made the experience the high point of my year.”

In addition to the competitive opportunities offered at the event, the three recipients will participate in various educational activities throughout the fun-filled week and are invited to attend the numerous educational clinics offered by the USHJA during Pony Finals.

This marks the fifth year the USHJA Foundation has provided grants to help riders attend USEF Pony Finals, thanks to the generous support of the Gochman Family. Other grant recipients have included Olivia Elmore (2018), Sydney Spevak (2018), Ryder Richardson (2018), Logan Blake Crouser (2017), Ella Doerr (2017), Olivia deStanley (2017), Judy Dettore (2016), Riley Hogan (2016), Cecillia Machado (2016) and Matthew Bravo (2015).

Each year, the USHJA Foundation Gochman Family Grant is made possible by the generosity of the Gochman Family and is open to current USHJA members under the age of 18 (per USEF rules), who have not previously participated in Pony Finals and who would not be able to attend Pony Finals without the assistance the grant provides. Individuals may only be awarded the grant once. Applications for next year’s grant will open in January 2020. For more information about the grant, visit