Q: I am currently a senior in high school. I have been riding since I was 12 and compete mostly in eventing and dressage. I am applying for many scholarships for college and hope to take my horse with me, which adds to the cost. What is available for people like me looking for equine scholarships?
Name withheld by request
A:Young equestrians today have more opportunities than ever before to make riding part of their college experience. Before you begin the scholarship search, it is important to understand the various collegiate riding programs and what they have to offer financially. Here are three collegiate programs to consider:
In 1998, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) classified Equestrian as an emerging sport, and shortly thereafter, the Varsity Equestrian organization was established to help advance the sport to full NCAA championship status. There must be 40 Division I and II schools to attain full NCAA status and, as of today, there are 24 varsity programs located throughout the country. The NCAA limits equestrian scholarships to 15 per school. Equine scholarship requirements vary from school to school; each has full and partial scholarships, so interested applicants need to contact the school of their choice for more information. As of now, only hunt seat and Western disciplines are included in the NCAA programs.
The Intercollegiate Dressage Association (IDA) was started in 2001 as an affordable way to bring dressage to the university level, although it does not offer scholarships. Today there are more than 60 schools in the United States with IDA teams. Contact individual schools to determine what scholarships are available. IDA competitions are unlike any other form of competitive dressage. Riders compete as individuals and as team members in Introductory, Lower Training, Upper Training and First Levels. Teams consist of four riders (one for each level) who earn points that count toward their team’s total score. Horses are provided by the host college and assigned to the riders by random draw. Adding to the challenge, riders are allowed only a 10-minute warm-up before riding their test. Every year the IDA hosts a national championship show for the top 12 teams in the country (teamdressage.com).
The Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) is by far the largest collegiate riding organization in the country, with more than 350 member schools and well-established regional, zone and national championship shows offering hunt seat and Western classes. The IHSA show format is similar to IDA shows, with the host school providing all show horses and riders drawing their horses at random. The IHSA offers several scholarships through the Intercollegiate Equestrian Foundation.
For equine studies scholarships there are plenty of options available, especially if you are heavily involved in a particular breed or sport. In fact, the majority of equine scholarships available today are offered by such associations (i.e., American Quarter Horse Association, U.S. Eventing, U.S. Pony Clubs, etc.).
Since dressage and eventing are your focus, I would start by contacting any clubs you currently belong to and any breed associations you and your horse are registered with. During my high school and college years I competed in dressage with a Morgan, and because I was an active member of the American Morgan Horse Association (AMHA), I qualified for several of its scholarships. In some cases you might be required to be a member for one year before becoming eligible.
If you are involved with a local U.S. Dressage Federation Group Member Organization, find out if they have youth scholarships or educational grants available. The Dressage Foundation is another very generous nonprofit organization that offers several scholarships for young riders. There are also scholarships for students pursuing a career in an equine-related field, such as veterinary medicine or horse training. Be sure to check with the individual schools.
A big part of the application process is collecting the necessary documents and carefully following all requirements. Most scholarships will ask for academic transcripts, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, essay (possibly more than one), financial information and a resume. There are thousands of college scholarships available today and many go unclaimed. Look into non-equestrian-related scholarships as well. There are scholarships for just about anything. Taking the time to do the necessary research beforehand will pay off in the long term.
Emily Schnoor rode for the University of California, Davis, from 2001 to 2005, competing on both the dressage and horse-polo teams. From 2004 to 2005, she was captain of the dressage team as well as the Intercollegiate Dressage Association Region 7 co-coordinator. She earned her BS degree from UC Davis in viticulture & enology and currently resides in Seattle, Washington, where she trains with dressage coaches Wendy Meyers and Matt Eagan.