Lexington, Ky. - US Equestrian is pleased to announce Ryder Richardson (Parker, Colo.) as the winner of the 2022 USEF Youth Sportsman’s Award in recognition of his contributions and achievements this year. The USEF Youth Sportsman’s Award identifies outstanding youth members actively involved in their respective discipline or breed organizations and acknowledges their potential as future leaders in the equine industry. The American Connemara Pony Society and United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) nominated Richardson, who competes in 1.20 low junior jumper and pony jumper classes and hopes to have his own farm and training business where he can train horses, coach young riders, and work to promote diversity in equestrian sport.
The selection committee selected four of the below nominees to interview via Zoom based on their letters of recommendation and resumes. Following the interviews, the committee discussed the candidates and ultimately selected Richardson, crediting his alignment with US Equestrian's vision to bring the joy of horse sports to as many people as possible.
Richardson is an active competitor on the jumper circuit, plays lacrosse, and is involved in several equestrian sport committees and groups. He participates in the USHJA Zone 8 Committee, USHJA Foundation Youth Committee, Equestrian Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, and Colorado Hunter Jumper Association Junior Committee, and is an EQUUS Foundation Junior Ambassador. Richardson volunteers with Drifter’s Heart of Horses and is an advocate with JackStrong, a teen mental health organization. In 2021, he founded Joy Ryder, an organization with the aim of promoting inclusivity in equestrian sport. Richardson has donated his own money to support deserving children take weekly riding lessons, created a Colorado Show Circuit scholarship, and paid for five entries for children and adults competing in their first horse show.
“I have been extremely blessed by great trainers and mentors and hope to pay it forward,” said Richardson. “I enjoy working alongside trainers, grooms, and horses and really love learning everything that I can about this sport. I am working towards helping the equestrian community to become more inclusive and diverse through education and awareness.”
“Ryder is the epitome of the athlete a coach lives to train,” said Kaitlin Campbell of SWS Training and Sales. “His attitude of not cutting corners for progress, time management and organization for fulfilling commitments, and general hunger for success are all qualities he possesses to apply to any aspect of life. I believe with the right opportunity Ryder could reach the highest levels of equestrian sport.”
The reserve overall winner of the USEF Youth Sportsman’s Award is Grace Smith (Orting, Wash.) nominated by the Arabian Horse Association. Smith has given her time to leadership roles within the Arabian Horse Youth Association (AHYA), currently serving as the National President, a position she has held since 2021. Prior to that, she was the AHYA National Vice President and AHYA Region V Co-Director.
One of Smith’s proudest accomplishments is launching a mental-health awareness program called “AHYA, R U OK?”
“This program is dedicated to meaningful connections with others and starting the important conversations about mental health that are needed in our community,” said Smith. “I was able to present the ‘R U OK’ program to the Youth Board of Directors and it was well received. I led and advocated for this program to be incorporated into AHYA and AHA in the fall of 2020. With the support of my AHYA Executive Board, I was able to bring this program to life.”
Thanks to Smith’s vision and promotional efforts, the first R U OK Day took place at the 2021 Youth and Mid Summer Nationals and another was held at the 2022 National Show. Smith hopes to bring the program to her school district to teach high school students about the support program and how to facilitate the “R U OK” conversation with their peers.
Smith has won numerous national championship titles on the Arabian circuit and competes in 10 different divisions: showmanship, horsemanship, hunt seat pleasure and equitation, Western pleasure, reining, reining seat equitation, ranch riding, ranch pleasure, limited reined cow, and performance halter. Additionally, she was first runner-up for the AHA National Youth of the Year in 2020 and 2021.
Smith is currently a junior at Orting High School and has earned academic awards for maintaining a GPA of 3.95 or above every year since 6th grade. After graduation, she plans to pursue a degree in biochemistry and STEM education and hopes to introduce youth to horses and agriculture through an AHA Discovery Farm.
The other national nominees include:
Mary-Cooke “Molly” Catlett (Middleburg, Va.) – Unites States Eventing Association
Mary-Cooke “Molly” Catlett competes at the Preliminary level of eventing and hunts first field with the Orange County Hounds. She is the head of the Athletic Association and Classics Club, a Hound Team cheerleader, and a senior prefect at the Foxcroft School. After college, Catlett hopes to manage her own eventing competition barn.
Alexandra Clark (Collierville, Tenn.) – Welsh Pony and Cob Society of America
Alexandra Clark actively competes Welsh ponies and promotes the breed with the WPCSA’s Youth Advisory Council and Publicity Committee. She is involved in Key Club, Health Organization Student Association, Spanish Club, Eco Stars, Pep Club, and Forever Friends at St. Agnes Academy and hopes to pursue a career as a veterinarian.
Gabriella Escobar (Moseley, Va.) – United States Dressage Federation
Gabriella Escobar competes at Second, Third, Fourth, and FEI Junior levels, is a USDF Bronze Medalist, and volunteers with Journey of Hope 4 Autism and the International Rescue Horse Registry as a youth ambassador. Escobar is involved with the National Honor Society and Beta Club at Monacan High School and wants to earn her doctorate in physical therapy.
Janae Griffin (Gretna, Va.) – International Friesian Show Horse Association
Janae Griffin plays an important role at her family’s breeding and training business, Griffin Sport Horses, and she hopes to continue the family’s legacy in the future. She competes Friesian and Arabian horses, introduces and teaches people about horses at community events, and is involved in service activities ranging from helping at the local food bank to sending military care packages.
Kiley Hamilton (Linden, Calif.) – Western Dressage Association of America
Kiley Hamilton has won youth champion awards in Western dressage. She is involved in band, the California Scholastic Federation, and the Future Farmers of America horse judging team at Linden High School and volunteers with Linden Little League and Modesto Mounted Officer Association. Hamilton wants to become a veterinarian and train young horses on her own ranch.
Kendall Kelledy (Temecula, Calif.) – American Saddlebred Horse and Breeders Association
Kendall Kelledy is a successful competitor with American Saddlebreds and Roadster ponies. She is active in the UPHA Ribbons of Service program, is a member of the ASHBA Youth Committee, and director of the youth group at Liz Bolton Stables. Kelledy plans to pursue a career as a veterinarian with a focus on equine reproduction.
Susanna Kritzler (Norwalk, Iowa) – American Hackney Horse Society
Susanna Kritzler is active in the Hackney and Saddlebred industry through her family’s Green Wood Stables, where she assists in all facets of the operation. She has ranking in the top 5% of her class at Norwalk Schools, where she is currently a senior, and plans to pursue a biochemistry degree in order to become a medical researcher.
Cassidy Moore (Issaquah, Wash.) – American Morgan Horse Association
Cassidy Moore is an active competitor with her Morgan, C-King Solar Flaire, in several disciplines including dressage, Western dressage, and hunter pleasure and equitation. She serves as Secretary and Treasurer of the AMHA Youth Council and has qualified for and competed in the Youth of the Year contest at the Morgan Grand National and World Championship.
Ella Reagan (Wilmington, N.C.) – American Road Horse and Pony Association
Ella Reagan competes with Hackney ponies in roadster pony classes as well as riding and driving American Saddlebreds. She has been the publicist for the American Saddlebred Association of the Carolinas Youth for the past two years, and volunteers for Reagan Equine’s Junior Vet Club, helping to bring younger generations into the fields of equine health and science.
Mackennah Spatz (Prague, Neb.) – Equestrian Vaulting USA (formerly American Vaulting Association)
Mackennah Spatz competes in vaulting through the FEI levels, having won CVI1* and CVI2* competitions in the Junior Pas de Deux divisions. She is an active member of the East Butler FFA Chapter, an athlete on the cross-country and track and field teams, and has participated in numerous community service projects, including bringing horses to a local nursing home to perform a vaulting demo for the residents.