May 15, 2022

Ever So Sweet Scholarship Recipient Sierra Lesny Looks Back on a Successful Season

Photo Courtesy of the Ever So Sweet Facebook Page

In 2021, Strides for Equality Equestrian (SEE) and the United States Eventing Association (USEA) established the Ever So Sweet Scholarship which provides a fully-funded opportunity for riders from diverse backgrounds to train with five-star eventing Sara Kozumplik for one season (winter or summer). The scholarship funds cover full board and training costs for one horse, several lessons per week, housing, a stipend for living expenses, competition fees, and coaching at competitions. During the duration of their working student opportunity, participants learn to manage, care for, and compete horses in an immersive program and will have the opportunity to work as part of the team in all aspects of running a large, competitive barn, in addition to making critical professional connections that would otherwise be unattainable.

The 2022 Winter Ever So Sweet Scholarship Recipient, Sierra Lesny, chronicled how her winter with Kozumplik Murphy impacted her as an aspiring equine professional.

The education and relationships I gained as the Ever So Sweet Scholarship recipient is something that will stay with me forever. It was a remarkable honor and privilege to have been selected.

I was looking forward to this opportunity so I could devote time to honing my riding skills. However, this winter was so much more than I could have imagined. I spent three months with some of the top trainers and riders in the world soaking up all of their knowledge. The lessons they gave me propelled my career lengths ahead but they also gave me advice and tips on how to continue on this career path. It was so inspiring to be in the company of Sara Kozumplik and watch her constantly learning from other professionals. She has been an incredible role model to learn from and see how this is a lifelong journey. Even at the top there is still learning to be done and having an open mind can set you apart from other riders.

By being immersed in a barn of that top quality I was able to see and learn about the management of these top horses. I met with vets, farriers, and bodywork experts all with so much knowledge to teach me. Along with learning so much, these connections can only help me as I go on to build my own career. Regularly, I was able to attend schooling shows, cross-country schools, and clinics happening at the farm. I learned how these events were organized and planned and what partnerships could make these learning opportunities happen. All of these experiences helped my riding, showed me more ways to be involved with the horses, and gave me new skills for the future.

More than anything this opportunity has given me the confidence and tools to make my own way in this industry. This is an extremely hard industry that takes so much hard work and dedication but you have to have the right people backing you and helping you along the way. It can be quite overwhelming to figure out how. Sara was able to give me great advice and contacts before I left which has taken me leaps and bounds beyond where I was before I arrived in Ocala.

I am so thankful to everyone who made this scholarship possible and can't wait to see what the next recipient is able to achieve. I will be forever grateful to Strides for Equality Equestrians and the amazing and incredible individuals associated with this program.

About Strides for Equality Equestrians

Strides for Equality Equestrians (SEE), founded in 2020 as an allyship program for the equestrian community, seeks to address the lack of racial and ethnic diversity in equestrian sports. SEE promotes a more inclusive culture by listening to and addressing the concerns of Black, Indigenous, and people of color within the community while educating equestrians about effective allyship. For more information, please visit www.stridesforequality.org.

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