BY DANI SCHNEIDER
Jane DaCosta formed the Metropolitan Equestrian Team with its headquarters in New York City in 2010 with the hopes of transforming the lives of kids by introducing them to the opportunities available within equestrian sports. Since then, Metropolitan Equestrian Team has grown into a nationwide program.
Finding good opportunities for grants and scholarship programs is not an easy task for those that do not have the resources or the proper connections from within, says DaCosta: “It is really important for us to be that guidance counselor to these students and to their parents.”
This year, one of Metropolitan Equestrian Team’s students, Janie Wilder from Clinton, Mississippi, was awarded the Gochman Grant. The Gochman Grant for USEF Pony Finals is made possible by the generosity of Becky and David Gochman and their family. Each year, the USHJA Foundation offers three young pony riders the opportunity of a lifetime to attend and compete at Pony Finals. The grant is not strictly monetary in nature, but rather experience-based. Recipients of the grant are able to compete at Pony Finals and have access to professionals for training, clinics, and more. To be eligible for the grant, riders must show good horsemanship, tenacity, and sportsmanship.
Wilder first learned about Metropolitan Equestrian Team’s Equine Opportunity program through one of her old coaches. While there is no limit as to the number of people who can be invited in to the program, not everyone is accepted. Initially, after sending in an application, MET Staff and Committee members organize an interview with the potential candidate to see if they are a good fit for the program. DaCosta notes that the interview process focuses on the riders goals for the future both in and out of the saddle. MET hones in on what they want to accomplish, where they are in life, what they love about the sport, and what change they want to be for themselves and the world. Currently, there are about 25 students in the Equine Opportunity Program who have access to equestrian programs and educational platforms to further their riding careers.
“I started out not really sure what I wanted to do when I got older and I had no clue about college or even if I was going to have enough money to continue riding,” says Wilder, who’s been part of the Equine Opportunity Program for about two years. She adds that the program has opened up new doors and opportunities for her in the equine world and beyond.
Wilder started riding backyard ponies when she was seven, and began taking on-and-off lessons with multiple trainers. When Wilder was ten, she found Providence Hill Farm, a show barn where she ultimately became a working student.
“I had no idea what being a working student was like,” Wilder says. “Once I gained more experience, I started riding show horses and now I show at A shows with my coaches in the jumpers!” Wilder says she has felt fortunate for the opportunities she’s earned. “It’s taken me a long time to get where I am now. I had to work really hard because I don’t necessarily have the funds to be able to do what I do, but it pays off. I have my own horse now and I get to show in the jumpers and it’s a lot of fun.”
“I’m incredibly proud of Janie and how much she fought physically, emotionally and spiritually to get here,” DaCosta says. “Our organization is very blessed to have Janie and I know that this opportunity that USHJA and the Gochman family has provided is not just, ‘Okay, you guys are going to Pony Finals and it’s over.’ It has created such a world of giving. Janie is an example to our students of, ‘Wow, if she can do it, I can do it,’ and it’s imperative for us to continue to do that after,” DaCosta says. “We are very grateful for the Gochman family and very grateful to USHJA to be able to bring this all together and this organization (MET) is very grateful and blessed for everything that the USHJA does.”
“I’m so grateful for the Gochman family and USHJA for allowing me the opportunity to attend Pony Finals,” says Wilder. “And for Jane for helping me get here.”
*This story was originally published in the August 2021 issue of The Plaid Horse. Click here to read it now and subscribe for issues delivered straight to your door!