Gochman Grant Recipients, Now Life-Long Friends, Reunited at HITS Saugerties

Photos courtesy of Alicia Williams

By TPH STAFF

Last June, the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association was pleased to announce Maren Bonus, Liam Hissong and Carly Williams as the 2023 recipients of the USHJA Gochman Grant for USEF Pony Finals.

Through this Grant, these three young riders got the opportunity to attend and compete at USEF Pony Finals, presented by Honor Hill Farms, at the Kentucky Horse Park on August 8-13, 2023. This unique Grant is made possible by the generosity of Becky and David Gochman and their family.

But for some recipients, they also gained more than just the grant – they gained new, life-long friendships, too.

Photos courtesy of Alicia Williams

Almost a year later, two of those recipients, Carly Williams and Maren Bonus, were reunited in Saugerties, New York.

“The Gochman Grant was an amazing experience. I’ve always wanted to go to pony finals, so it was really awesome to finally get there, and I made some really cool lifelong friends with Maren and Liam. The whole experience was just surreal,” says Williams.

Recently, Maren Bonus’s trainer saw a post William’s made on Instagram and reached out to her.

“Maren’s trainer said, ‘hey, come show with us in Saugerties!’ And I said would love to, so we just surprised Maren. It was my birthday weekend too, and there is no better way to spend my birthday weekend than in Saugerties! I’ve been showing one of their horses this weekend and it’s been awesome,” adds Williams.  

Photos courtesy of Alicia Williams

“It was such an amazing experience,” adds Bonus. “I made some great friends like Carly and Liam, and I learned so much and it’s been a lifelong dream of mine. I can walk in the ring and I can do well on a pony that I’ve never ridden. I keep reminding myself that if I can do it on a pony I’ve never met, I can definitely do it on mine!”

The overall experience they both had last year had a lasting impression and was an imperative learning experience as well for them both.

“I loved the clinics and I learned a lot from those, and even just the overall show experience and learning from the trainers was amazing,” Bonus recalls.

“Getting the grant was just a super huge – it meant a lot to me and it really got me back on my feet,” adds Williams.

Photos courtesy of Alicia Williams