Lexington, Ky.—June 13, 2023—The U.S. Hunter Jumper Association is pleased to announce Maren Bonus, Liam Hissong and Carly Williams as the 2023 recipients of the USHJA Gochman Grant for USEF Pony Finals. Through the Grant, these three young riders will get the opportunity to attend and compete at USEF Pony Finals, presented by Honor Hill Farms, at the Kentucky Horse Park on August 8-13. This unique Grant is made possible by the generosity of Becky and David Gochman and their family.
Bonus, 13, of Chittenango, New York, has been riding for seven years and showing for five of those years in the Children’s Hunters, Pony Derbies and Children’s Jumper divisions. While she does not own or lease a horse, she goes to the barn six days a week to work and catch ride the sales and lesson horses.
Outside of the saddle, Bonus has a busy academic and sports life. She is a part of her school’s soccer and lacrosse teams, as well as plays club soccer. In school, she takes advanced-level science and art classes.
“It means the world to me to be a recipient of the Gochman Grant! I have loved ponies my whole life and the opportunity to ride at Pony Finals is a dream come true,” exclaimed Bonus. “I am so grateful to the Gochman family and to the USHJA. I am beyond excited for this experience and for all of the ways that it will help me grow as a rider.”
Hissong, 14, of Limerick, Pennsylvania, has been riding since the age of seven. About a year ago, he started a working student position with his trainers, Jay and Karen Raach, which has allowed him to compete in the Young Horse, Jumper and Children’s Hunter divisions. He enjoys getting to catch ride and learn from an array of horses and cheering on his barn mates at shows. In the future, he hopes to become a professional rider.
“To me, being selected as a 2023 Gochman Grant participant means the world. To be given this experience is an honor that not many people get the opportunity to have. I can only hope that this special occasion will lead to a plethora of open doors throughout my career, near and far,” said Hissong. “During the week, I hope to learn a lot from the various clinics and time spent with the trainers. I am equally excited to learn a new pony while training with top professionals with a mutual goal of success. I look forward to the new relationships I will form over the week and to an experience like no other. I can’t thank the Gochman family, as well as the entire team, enough for their generosity.”
At school, Hissong is a straight-A student and is a member of the National Honor Society, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Ram Buddies. He also plays recreational soccer and is an active volunteer at Bryn Taran’s Children’s Summer Horse Camps, In Ian’s Boots and in his church nursery.
Williams, 16, of Efland, North Carolina, has been riding and competing for over five years since she attended her first riding camp in 2017. She has competed in the Children’s Hunters, Equitation, Derby, and NCHJA Medal divisions and is also an active competitor in the Interscholastic Equestrian Association Open division.
“I cannot express my appreciation and gratitude enough for receiving this grant. Pony Finals has been a long-term goal of mine, but I have never had the opportunity to compete in the Pony division. I am so thankful for this experience to learn from these trainers, clinics and on a new pony. I hope to grow relationships with the people I meet and expand my knowledge and skills through the training I will receive,” Williams said.
A Junior in high school, Williams is a member of Future Farmers of America, where she has been able to learn to weld, build furniture, show goats and learn entrepreneurial skills. These skills include starting her own horse braiding and clipping services at shows, and starting her own treat business on Etsy to help fund her horse shows. She prides herself on teaching younger kids at the barn horsemanship skills and enhancing her own by attending clinics when she is able to.
This marks the ninth year the USHJA Foundation has provided grants to help riders attend USEF Pony Finals, thanks to the generous support of the Gochman Family. Not strictly monetary in nature, the USHJA Gochman Grant for USEF Pony Finals is experienced-based and each recipient gets the opportunity to compete at USEF Pony Finals, access to professionals for training, entered into available clinics and exposed to other educational experiences throughout the week. In addition to financial need, selected riders exemplify the qualities most important in our sport: horsemanship, tenacity and good sportsmanship.
The Gochman Grant is open to current USHJA members under the age of 18 who have not previously participated in Pony Finals and who would not be able to attend without the assistance the grant provides. Individuals may only be awarded the grant once.
The USHJA sends a special thank you to those helping make this grant possible, including the Gochman Family, Robin Greenwood, Rob Jacobs and horse donors. All recipients will receive coolers and show shirts provided by The Clothes Horse and Essex.
Photos: Provided by Maren Bonus, Liam Hissong and Carly Williams
About the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association
The United States Hunter Jumper Association, as the official Hunter/Jumper affiliate of the United States Equestrian Federation, is a competition-based sport organization that serves our members through educational programs, awards and recognition, communication, and rules. We provide a wide array of programs for all Hunter/Jumper levels, and we are mindful of the well-being of our equine partners. Additionally, we are committed to preserving the history of our sport, and through our Foundation, we support charitable and benevolent services. Learn more at ushja.org.