The year 2020 was filled with challenges and obstacles in the sport of eventing. It also allowed for individual reflection, assessment, and evaluation. From this progressive thinking came the evolution of the Going Forward USEA Members Grant. This educational opportunity provided the possibility to transform members’ lives, careers, and horsemanship, along with enriching the sport of eventing.
The Broussard Charitable Foundation Trust generously donated a one-time gift of $25,000 to the USEA Foundation. These monies were awarded to eligible and qualified USEA Members through an application, interview, and review process associated with three essential educational areas. The USEA catches up with each of the recipients of the Broussard Charitable Foundation Going Forward Grants to see what this funding was able to help them accomplish.
Laura Vello grew up riding ponies in her parents' backyard, competing in Pony Club, and working with off-track Thoroughbreds in pursuit of her eventing dreams. Upon graduating from the College of Charleston in South Carolina, Vello found herself going back and forth from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to train with Sharon White at Last Frontier Farm in Summit Point, West Virginia as she moved up to the Advanced level.
“My whole life has just been working hard and doing the best with what I had,” Vello reflected. “Sharon put a lot of time into me and some of the wild horses that I had at the time I was able to get a few of those horses to the Advanced level. It was a great experience, but I began thinking that maybe I needed to get a real job.”
So Vello sold most of her horses and worked towards achieving her Master's Degree in Public Health in Shreveport, Louisiana. With the help of a supportive owner and a pair of homebreds, Vello was able to stay involved in the sport throughout that time, but when she heard about the Going Forward Grant she felt like the opportunity could help her re-establish herself fully in the sport.
“I really love the educational side of it,” she shared. “I think with horses it is a lot of talent and time and energy, but at the same time, it is just lifelong learning and education. Being newly out of a Master's program and scraping by with my horse gig, money is always tight. So the grant allowed me the opportunity to keep going in the sport and get back out there and pursue some educational activities.”
Growing up on the East Coast, Vello shared that the USEA Instructors’ Certification Program (ICP) was always on the forefront and was seen as a respected goal for educators to pursue for themselves. With that in mind, upon receiving the Going Forward Grant funding Vello decided to pursue receiving her ICP certification for herself.
“Down here, people weren’t really aware of the ICP program so what was great was being able to bring the program here through ICP dressage and jumping workshops” commented Vello. “We were able to get some of the local trainers and instructors to participate in the program and it really drew a good turnout, especially for the jumping workshop. Going to those workshops was really an awakening for me that I needed to streamline my lessons and get more organized and refocused in my efforts as a trainer.”
Utilizing her grant funding, Vello was able to participate in the jumping workshop with Karen O’Connor who encouraged Vello to pursue obtaining her ICP certification and to move up a level as an instructor. When their local certification workshop was rescheduled, Vello utilized some of the funding to go to Florida for a few weeks and to better herself as a rider and instructor before attending the certification when it is rescheduled.
“Thanks to the funding, I was able to continue my own education by taking lessons with professionals and strengthen some of the weak spots that were brought to my attention in my evaluation during the workshop,” Vello chimed. “The grant helped support my education and lessons and make that trip more feasible for me to do. Just like the grant was intended to do, the funding has kept me moving forward professionally.”
With her eyes set on receiving her ICP certification after the establishment of her own facility and business in her home base, Vello is very grateful to all involved for giving her the opportunity to receive this crucial funding.
“Grants like this one are so important for our sport. They help people like me who just need a little extra push. We really need to promote the education and horsemanship aspects of the sport and this funding allowed me to pursue that myself."
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