Dec 23, 2018

2019 Worth the Trust Young Adult Scholarship Winner: Kaley Sapper

Sherry Stewart 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 2019 Worth the Trust Young Adult Scholarship. Congratulations to Kaley Sapper and best of luck in the future!

Chills run up and down your spine. You can feel them in your boots, through your socks, as they run from the tips of your toes all the way to your cheeks to form little goosebumps. Everyone is smiling, cheering, and celebrating, but that doesn’t stop the tears from rolling down your face. You’re shaking, and you can’t tell if it’s adrenaline, nerves, excitement, or perhaps a bit of everything. You’re stunned but confident and exuberant but stagnant, and you can’t even begin to comprehend or sort out what you’re feeling. That’s what it’s like to stand on top of a podium, proudly representing your area and your country.

While being an active competitor in the world of eventing, I am also studying Biomedical Engineering and Equine Science at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. At just 19 years old, juggling engineering studies, horses, working, and living on my own for the first time in my life has been a process, but I am grateful for each day that I get to wake up in a beautiful town, learn from a top-notch university, and ride the horse of my dreams. For those unfamiliar with biomedical engineering, it is the application of engineering principles to biological aspects, connecting technology with the body. It’s a relatively new field and most famously includes prosthetics, pacemakers, surgical devices, and biological alteration. The reason I am pursuing higher education is to achieve my big picture goal of developing a cutting-edge technology for horses: engineering the newest cross-country boot, designing collapsible fences on course, or perhaps (my favorite at this point) culturing tissue to speed up leg injuries. The details are yet to be worked out, but I am certain that I want to spend the rest of my life absorbed in the world of eventing and horses that I love so much. To me, I don’t see horses as just a hobby, but instead a career – and fundamentally, a lifestyle. Currently, I work at the equine unit on Cal Poly’s campus to help fund my education and try to offset riding expenses (when I have time) by helping at the barn or working at shows. Eventing, although it proves my insanity, is what keeps me sane as I try to balance all facets of my life.

I’ve evented all through high school, and I’ve owned my current horse, Tuscan Sun aka Tuk, for a little over three years now. This horse, all the places we’ve been, the courses we’ve run, and the moments we’ve shared have undoubtedly been the best things that have ever happened to me. Eventing is the best thing that’s happened to me. It’s taught me so many lessons, like how to get back on after falling off three times in one day, what it’s like to have a support system of people that love and care about you, and how to be tactful, courageous, and practically insane all at the same time. It’s taught me hard work, how no task is beneath you, and that you must earn everything you have – whether it’s a possession or skill. I’ve fallen in love with the early mornings, busy days, and late nights fighting to be better, fighting to never quit no matter how bad the day is or how poorly you feel about yourself. The bravery, grit, and determination that eventing has taught me makes up a large portion of who I am, in and out of the saddle.

Regarding Tuk – my parents scraped up the money three years ago to buy me the horse of my dreams. I had tried him more for the fun of it, not really thinking it was a possibility and let the notion slip my mind as I didn’t want to disappoint myself because I knew that we were never, nor would we ever be, wealthy for the sport. My parents have always had to scrape and sacrifice for me to afford owning and competing my horse. I still remember the restaurant, place I was sitting, and moment my mom told me she had the key to making my young rider eventing dreams come true – we were going to buy Tuk. I cried. She cried. Everyone at the table cried. And then I went to the barn and kissed MY horse and cried some more. In the time that we’ve had Tuk, my parents have done everything in their power to make my dreams come true. They give the best smiles and hugs, the best support, and they’re bad at saying no, even when they should.

Tuk continually makes my dreams come true. He dragged me around my first Preliminary (regardless of how many times I pulled and missed), breezed through my first one-star, galloped his way to a one-star team gold at NAJYRC, ran the best in his entire life to help secure two-star team bronze at NAYC, and most recently jumped his heart out to secure eighth place in a very competitive Intermediate division at AEC, earning highest placing Intermediate Young Rider. I can say that with many happy tears later, Tuscan Sun has made my young rider dreams come true. He‘s shown me the ropes through the CIC2* level, and I continue to learn more and more every time I ride and compete him. It hasn’t always been blue ribbons and glory, but every mistake, competition, and minute in the saddle has been a learning experience, and if given the chance to do everything over, I would do it the exact same every time. I wouldn’t trade the experience I’ve gained through him for anything in the world. I feel like the luckiest girl alive when I ride him, and I feel somewhat selfish when I say I don’t want the ride to end. As he is getting older, Tuk is becoming extremely expensive to maintain and compete, and with my added educational expenses, competing at the upper levels is within reach, but slipping away financially.

My next goal with Tuk will be to complete a CCI2*. I’m taking it one show at a time at this point, letting him tell me how he feels and what we should do next. He’s given me all sorts of firsts in my eventing career, and I’d like to have one more. Ideally, I would like to run the CIC2* at Woodside this October [of 2018] in preparation for the CCI2* at Galway Downs at the end of the [2018] season. Depending on how that goes, I’d like to aim for maybe another CCI2* in the spring, like the Twin Rivers International Event and then reevaluate for the rest of the season. Starting this fall, I’m taking over as President to Cal Poly’s newly established eventing team, so I would really like to be able to compete and represent the University, perhaps even traveling east to the Intercollegiate Championship in the spring. Having funds to support training would make that much more plausible. It’s our dream on the west coast to help build up the collegiate program and expand it across the country, and I want to play a large role in that.

With my education taking priority, eventing is beginning to slip through the cracks, no matter how badly I don’t want it to. Financially, my future as an engineer comes first, and eventing next, so when it comes down to it, I have to choose books over shows and tuition over training. If I were to receive this scholarship, it would grant me the ability to continue to chase BOTH dreams. I truly believe continuing to ride in college has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. It keeps me grounded, gives me goals to work toward, provides a family and community like no other, and I daresay it helps keep me out of trouble. I’m one of a few that have the location, support, and time management skills necessary to keep riding through my University years, and that’s exactly what I would like to do. Young equestrians shouldn’t have to choose between college and riding; they should be able to pursue both. These funds would give me the ability to continue to train and build my riding education while I build my academic one through Cal Poly. The money would help continue to make my dreams come true and would allow me to choose both dreams and not give up on either.

If awarded this scholarship, I would use the funds to continue to train under the brilliant hand of Rebecca Braitling in her program and supplement with instruction from other top riders in the sport. Tuk and I have learned so much from experts such as Tamra Smith, Heather Morris, Andrea Baxter, Erik Duvander, and Phillip Dutton, and we would love the opportunity to continue to learn and grow in preparation for our big goals ahead.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration for this scholarship.

Applications for the 2020 Worth the Trust Educational and Sports Psychology Scholarships will be available soon and are due on October 7, 2019. For more information, please contact Nancy Knight, (703) 669-9997.

About the Worth the Trust Scholarship

Dean Graham Photo.

Since 2000, the Worth the Trust Scholarships has provided financial assistance for young adult amateurs and adult amateurs for the purpose of pursuing continued education in eventing. These scholarships 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. In 2017, to continue to offer a helping hand, Goswell created the Worth the Trust Sports Psychology Scholarships to help amateurs master the ever-challenging mental side of the sport. Click here to read the story of Worth the Trust's 1997 Kentucky Three-Day Event win.

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