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Fri, 2017-12-22 08:06

2018 Worth the Trust Adult Amateur Scholarship Winner: Sara Mackenzie

Authored By: Sara Mackenzie
Sara Mackenzie and Hugo. Simon Floyd Photo.

The Worth the Trust Educational Scholarships are awarded annually to one Adult Amateur and one Young Adult Amateur to help fund training opportunities like clinics, working student positions, and private instruction. Below is the winning essay of the 2018 Worth the Trust Adult Amateur Scholarship. Congratulations to Sara Mackenzie and best of luck in the future!

In August 2016, my husband an I found ourselves with an empty nest for the first time in 21years.  Our youngest child, Sydney, had packed up and left for college.  Our oldest child, Lila, was volunteering in Nepal prior to her senior year of college.  I had spent the past ten years focusing on Sydney’s Eventing ambitions.  I had learned to drive a rig, camp and cook on a camp stove.  I had become a surrogate mom for a gaggle of teenagers from Thursday to Sunday, May through September.  But Syd was moving on!  She was directing her energy toward college and a trail of life without horses.  I asked myself, what did I want for my next life phase?  What did Eventing mean to me?  My answer:  I want to become a competitive adult amateur and see how far I can go!

Athletics and goal setting have long been a part of my life.  I played collegiate and national level Ultimate Frisbee for 15 years pre-children.  My husband and I coached a youth community center track team when the girls were young.  I have done triathlons and road races.  I just had never brought that competitive focus to riding.  Not having had a riding lesson before age46, my riding was about spending time with my horse, have a bit of fun and parallel playing with my teen.  My Eventing identity was “mom”.  I had been content puttering along at the entry levels.  With parenting and full-time work, there just wasn’t the time, energy or money for more.

But now was my turn to get serious.  I started weekly lessons with Karen O’Neal (ICP level III).  In fall 2016, I rode Syd’s Prelim horse, Hugo, once at Novice and then did my first recognized Training level horse trial.  In January, 2017, at the USEA Area VII Annual Meeting, I participated in a goal setting clinic and set the goal to compete at Preliminary by the end of the 2017 season.  I developed a conditioning program for myself incorporating weights and cycle spin classes.  I developed training plans for two horses – Hugo and a friend’s off-the-track thoroughbred mare, Annie.  I joked that I had to learn twice as fast to make up for lost time as a late starter.

In spring 2017, I started both horses at Training level.  At Rebecca Farm, I moved Hugo up further and completed my first T3D. I had my qualifiers and felt ready to move up to Preliminary. I signed up for Aspen Farms Horse Trial – Hugo at Prelim and Annie in Training Championships.  Unfortunately, the week before Aspen, while schooling, I had a fall and crush injury to my right arm. I am fortunate that it is healing and I will regain full function.  But it brought the season to an unexpected end with goals unmet.

This brings me to the present and why this scholarship is so important to me. I would use the scholarship for Eventing education. Next season I hope to continue my progression as an adult amateur.  Making it onto the USEA Master Amateur Rider 2017 Training Leaderboard my first full season since deciding to be competitive is exciting and reinforcing.  My hope for early 2018 is to take a month off work, train and compete in California before the Area VII seasons tarts.  I will sue the scholarship funds to assist with preparation and training.  The educational components would be planned around competing at Galway March 31-April 2 and Twin April 13-16.  My plan* would be as follows:

  1. Clinic with Tamie Smith, ICP Level IV, Feb 24-25, 2018 in Washington
  2. Clinic and lessons with Karen O’Neal, Level III ICP February/March in Washington
  3. Private/group instruction with Tamie Smith and/or Gina Miles (ICP Level III) between shows in California (depending on their spring competition schedules)

My teaching schedule will allow my leave but finances are a barrier at present to my planning.  Between my children’s college tuition, lessons, competing and medical, I have run up bills!  With the support of the scholarship, I am sure I can make my plans happen.

As stated before, my ultimate goal is to see how far I can go as an adult amateur.  The additional educational support from this scholarship will assist me in achieving my goals for next season:  start Hugh at Preliminary at Galway; move Annie up to Preliminary at EIHT (once I have confidence from Hugo); and compete one or both at the 1* at Rebecca Farm in the summer.  The past year has convinced me that Eventing is what I will do for as long as I am able.  In addition to my riding goals, I would be excited to share my passion for Eventing! I would love to join others and be seen as an Eventing role model for starting at a later age.  The requirement to write about the experience will support that.  I hear so often from people who used to ride but “they just don’t see themselves doing it now they are older.”  I am a firm believer that learning new things and pushing oneself is important at all stages in life.  The USEA, Adult Riders Program and the Eventing community culture creates the perfect “empty nest” life style! I hope you believe I am worth the Trust!

*Obviously I have learned the hard way this year that plans and goals sometimes need to be adjusted due to horse and rider injury; the plan is subject to change based on ensuring health and welfare of all involved!

The USEA is now accepting applications for the 2019 Worth the Trust Educational and Sports Psychology Scholarships. The deadline for application is October 1, 2018.

Educational Scholarship Applications: Young Adult Amateur | Adult Amateur 

Sports Psychology Scholarship Applications: Young Adult Amateur | Adult Amateur

About the Worth the Trust Scholarship


Karen O'Connor aboard Worth the Trust, pictured with owner Joan Goswell. Dara Dickey Photo.

Now entering its 18th year, the Worth the Trust Scholarship continues to provide financial assistance for young adult amateurs and adult amateurs for the purpose of pursuing continued education in eventing. This scholarship is provided by Joan Iversen Goswell in honor of her horse, Worth the Trust, a 15.3 hand Thoroughbred gelding (Wind and Wuthering x Stop Over Station), who competed successfully for many years, including winning the Kentucky Three-Day Event in 1997 with Karen O'Connor. Click here to read the story of Worth the Trust's 1997 Kentucky Three-Day Event win. 

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