Five Students Awarded USEF Higher Education Equestrian Scholarship

Photo by Evelyn Szczepanek / ES Equine Photography

Edited Press Release

Lexington, Ky. – US Equestrian (USEF) is pleased to announce the five recipients of the USEF Higher Education Equestrian Scholarships for graduating high-school seniors. Created to support students who are committed to continuing their involvement in equestrian sport while in college through an equestrian-related degree, volunteerism, or internship; riding on an intercollege equestrian team; or other equestrian-related activity, the scholarship awards a $1,000 grant to each recipient to be used towards education expenses at their respective college or university.

The five recipients are:

Kendall Austin (Virginia Beach, Va.) is attending Texas A&M University this fall and is majoring in Biology and Chemistry with the aim of medical or veterinary school in the future. She began competing in horse shows at the age of six and has earned top results in hunter pony and junior hunter divisions at A-circuit hunter jumper shows. Austin overcame a childhood illness with the help of horses, and she will now continue her riding career on Texas A&M’s National Collegiate Equestrian Association team.

“I credit the horses and my relationship with them for all the recovery and success in my life. While still undergoing treatment, I went straight from the 2’9” on my large pony to the 3’6” Juniors on my new horse Bandit, aka ‘Pick Six.’ Like any other athlete, I set goals for myself as a competitive rider. I push myself, and I have conquered obstacles as a teenager that most adults would struggle to overcome. Unlike other athletes, the goals that I set for myself were dependent on another living and breathing creature—the horse,” said Austin. “I would not have been able to achieve my goals without the care and consideration of the other component who shares in my success. I learned at a young age the importance of the bond that exists between an equestrian and the horse. I’ve never had a groom and I have spent more time caring for the horses than actual riding time, and in exchange they have led me to success. The horses and my involvement in the equestrian sport have taught me to never give up or give in, always expect the unexpected, and most importantly that the hardest roads in life often teach us the greatest lessons. My experiences with the horses have molded me into an individual that will continue to thrive in any environment.”

Learn more about the hunter discipline by visiting our recognized affiliate, the United States Hunter Jumper Association.

Augusta Rose Lewis (Longmont, Colo.) is attending Colorado State University in the fall and pursuing a Bachelor of Science as an honors student in the Equine Science department. She began riding at the age of four and vaulting at the age of eight. Lewis has been to two FEI Vaulting World Championships for Juniors, going as a squad alternate in 2019 and as a member of the silver medal-winning squad in 2021. She is interested in the business and science side of the horse industry and hopes to combine her passions to contribute to equestrian sport.

“Looking ahead to the future, I want to be able to give back to the horse community that has given me so much, as well as still grow with it. Horses are grounded, big, graceful, sensitive, loving, and funny. Being around them has made me a better person, giving me confidence, emotional and physical strength, and joy,” said Lewis. “I have seen how horses can work magic with people who have disabilities, emotional issues, or have suffered trauma. Horses naturally bring people together and create communities of caring people. This is something we need more of in our world, and I want to be part of sharing and developing that special equine community.”

Learn more about the vaulting discipline by visiting our recognized affiliate, the American Vaulting Association.

Ian McFarlin (Canton, Ga.) is attending the University of Florida in the fall, pursuing a Mechanical Engineering/Pre-Veterinary degree, and riding on the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association team. Despite only starting his riding journey five years ago, McFarlin has found much success in the show ring, winning the Varsity Open Equitation on the Flat at the 2022 Interscholastic Equestrian Association National Finals. He has volunteered at an equine veterinary hospital and therapeutic riding center, and hopes to combine his passions into a career creating “assistive and rehabilitative medical devices for horses and their riders.”

“Equestrian sport has given me an incredibly valuable skill set, as well as an entirely different outlook on life. Perhaps most importantly, my exposure to this amazing world has given me a new yardstick by which to measure myself and others,” said McFarlin. “Real horsemen, I have found, judge others not by appearance, title, or net worth, but by the care and consideration given to the horse and his needs and the willingness to work hard and sacrifice for the good of our equine partners and our sport. It is success under this measure to which I aspire.”

Learn more about the hunter discipline by visiting our recognized affiliate, the United States Hunter Jumper Association.

Christina Spiliotis (Centennial, Colo.) is attending the University of Kentucky in the fall and majoring in Equine Science and Management. She first rode a horse at the age of four and has competed in various aspects of equestrian sport, including Western pleasure and hunt seat classes at American Saddlebred shows and A-circuit hunter jumper shows. Spiliotis was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of 12 with a trigger of in-depth reading, causing her to adjust her learning style with the help of audio textbooks and voice-to-text.

“This will help me continue my horse passion and enhance my equine education. It will allow me to have more funding to put towards my riding activities and allow me to explore my new Kentucky surroundings during my university years,” said Spiliotis. “Since most of my competitive horse experiences have been based in Colorado and the west, I will now be able to explore the different circuits in Kentucky which will further accelerate my education and experience. Since my Kentucky riding experience has centered around the World’s Championship Horse Show over the years, I’m looking forward to living in Kentucky and exploring many more Kentucky opportunities. This is one of the main reasons that drew me towards picking the University of Kentucky for college.”

Learn more about the American Saddlebred by visiting our recognized affiliate, the American Saddlebred Horse & Breeders Association.

Clara Jean Thompson (Cornersville, Tenn.) is attending Clemson University in the fall and studying Pre-Professional Health Studies. While she was a four-year-old lead line champion, Thompson didn’t ride horses again until the age of 15 when a trail ride led to an interest in horses and a summer job at a horse farm. She has received top results in a short time, ranging from top-three finishes at the Tennessee Central Region and State 4-H Horse Shows and 4-H Extension horse show judging, and top-10 finishes at the Junior North American Field Hunter Championship. Thompson will continue riding horses while in college as she starts her journey to become a pediatric general surgeon.

“To say I have personally grown because of the equine industry is a bit of an understatement,” said Thompson. “I found this growth at a time in my life when it was most needed. I have always been the top of my class intellectually, but not always popular socially. These horses have given me an outlet that I had not found in any other sport. These horses have revived a passion in me that I had lost.”

Find out more about the US Equestrian Higher Education Equestrian Scholarship.

This Post Brought to You by: 

The Pacific Coast Horse Shows Association (PCHA)

The Pacific Coast Horse Shows Association (PCHA), a non-profit corporation, has as its main purpose the promotion and development of the sport of horse showing, primarily in the Hunter/Jumper, Western and Reining disciplines. These objectives are accomplished by setting the standards for showing on the West Coast and approving shows that meet these criteria. 

Founded in 1946, the Pacific Coast Horse Shows Association promotes the interests of owners and exhibitors, cooperates with exhibitors, officials, and management of competition, publicizes and advertises PCHA sanctioned shows, encourages and assists owners, exhibitors, and breeders of horses to maintain, develop and improve the quality of horses of the Hunter, Jumper, Western and Reining divisions.