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US Equestrian Awards 2023 USEF Higher Education Equestrian Scholarships to Five Recipients

by US Equestrian Communications Dept. | Oct 4, 2023, 8:00 AM

Lexington, Ky. – US Equestrian is pleased to congratulate the five recipients of the 2023 USEF Higher Education Equestrian Scholarships. These scholarships are awarded annually to graduating high school seniors who are committed to continuing their involvement with horses and equestrian sports through their higher education careers. Each recipient receives a $1,000 grant to be used toward education expenses at their college or university.

Meet the 2023 USEF Higher Education Scholarship Winners

Payton Anderson
Payton Anderson. ©Collin Hovinga Photography

Payton Anderson (Pflugerville, Texas) is a dressage rider who got her start with equestrian activities through the hippotherapy program at the J.F. Shea Center, where she was paired with a horse named Bear.

“Being a person with autism, a horse named Bear became the catalyst for change in my life,” said Anderson. “Bear became my partner as I worked through my processing disorder, auditory and special defensiveness, and social skills. As my confidence grew on the back of a horse, moving from hippotherapy, to side walkers, to group lessons, to independent riding, I was able to leverage this in the classroom and in my social skills.”

Anderson began riding dressage four years ago and now rides and competes with her horse, Bilbo, as well as participating in FFA and her school’s horse judging team. She remains involved with hippotherapy as a volunteer and has donated $3,200 to therapeutic riding programs thanks to Central Texas Horse Treats, a small business she founded and operates.

Anderson is attending Emory and Henry College where she is a member of the equestrian team. She is majoring in Equine Business Management with a minor in Adaptive Therapies with the goal of becoming a PATH International certified therapeutic riding instructor after graduation.

Learn more about dressage by visiting our recognized affiliate, the United States Dressage Federation.

Abby Bauknight
Abby Bauknight. ©Andrew Ryback Photography

Abby Bauknight (Irmo, S.C.) is a freshman at the University of South Carolina where she is a hunt seat rider on the varsity equestrian team and pursuing a degree in economics. She has been competing in hunters and equitation on the USEF circuit since 2019.

“One of the biggest goals that I set for myself was to ride on a Division I Equestrian Team,” said Bauknight. “I didn’t let myself compromise and I didn’t let my desire to be on a team falter. I was firm in my decision and decided that whether or not I was offered a spot, I was going to put myself out there for the world to see. I wasn’t the kid who was traveling around winning the medals every weekend or going to WEF for the winter. I was the kid that had been showing in the Children’s for two years, waiting for the right time to make that big move-up.

“I was offered a spot to ride for the University of South Carolina alongside some of the best riders in the country,” said Bauknight. “I knew that it wasn’t just because of my ability to ride; it was because of my leadership, my personality, and the way I interact with my peers and support them.”

Learn more about the hunter discipline by visiting our recognized affiliate, the United States Hunter Jumper Association.

Addison Grosz
Addison Grosz. ©Christina Hasko Photography

Addison Grosz (Alachua, Fla.) is a versatile equestrian who has competed in showmanship, Western dressage, traditional dressage, and ranch horse classes. Inspired by her experience as her horses’ primary caretaker and trainer through all phases of life, she has her sights set on pursuing a degree in veterinary medicine and a doctorate in equine gastrointestinal surgical medicine.

“The largest milestone of my life thus far happens to be the day I finally got my very first horse, Romeo,” said Grosz. “There was a lot of work behind such an accomplishment, as I had to jumpstart the preparation for getting a horse by turning a forest into a pasture, building a fence with my dad, and getting my first job.”

Grosz competed in multiple disciplines on the 4-H circuit with Romeo before his retirement due to medical issues, and ultimately caring for him through recurrent colic episodes, which inspired her decision to pursue veterinary medicine. She continues to compete at licensed dressage competitions with her current horse, Magic.

Now a freshman studying Animal Sciences at the University of Florida (UF), Grosz works at the Equine Performance Suite at the UF Large Animal Hospital, participating in research related to performance horses and Thoroughbred racehorses conducted at the UF Vet School.

Learn more about the western dressage discipline by visiting our recognized affiliate, the Western Dressage Association of America.

Marley Rizzi
Marley Rizzi. ©Andrew Ryback Photography

Marley Rizzi (Wall, N.J.) is a Sport Business Management major and member of the equestrian team at the University of Tennessee at Martin. A former gymnast, she turned her focus to the sport of hunter seat equitation and has been a successful competitor in that discipline at the regional and national level.

“Equest Show Stables is a working barn, meaning that we do not have hired help to take care of our horses,” said Rizzi. “I am responsible for washing, brushing, and wrapping my horses’ legs. We help the owners water, hay, and clean the stalls. I come home dirty, sweaty, and smelly daily. Where do academics and volunteerism fit into this puzzle? Free time is limited and being a student always comes first. I have been on the honor roll every semester during high school and a member of the National Honor Society since my junior year.”

Rizzi volunteers as a religious education aide at St. Catharine’s Church with the first and fourth grade classes and has a special affinity for working with children with disabilities, informed by her own experience with dyslexia.

“Helping children reach their full potential, making learning fun, and being a role model for the students is fulfilling to me,” said Rizzi. “I feel like I belong and can make a difference.”

After college graduation, Rizzi aims to use her studies in Sports Business Management and her passion for childhood education to work for a national professional sports foundation and make a positive impact.

Learn more about hunter seat equitation by visiting our recognized affiliate, the United States Hunter Jumper Association.

Alexandra Stewartac
Alexandra Stewart. ©Howard Schatzberg Photography

Alexandra Stewart (Cream Ridge, N.J.) is a saddle seat equitation rider and a freshman at the University of Kentucky where she is pursuing a degree in Equine Science and Management and is a member of the UK Saddle Seat Team.

“I started to accomplish my goal of becoming a top-tier equitation rider in the Northeast, winning classes including at Devon, Syracuse International, and Twin State Octoberfest,” said Stewart. “I also won the prestigious New England Horseman’s Council Medal Final in 2020. To prepare for these shows, I was at the barn every day, riding 4-8 horses daily.”

Upon extending her goals beyond the Northeast to compete for national titles, Stewart found new learning experiences that altered her equestrian focus.

“Showing with the best in the world was electrifying, but I lost frequently,” said Stewart. “It wasn’t until later that I saw that I learned so much more when I lost than I did when just winning. Losing can be tough, but it’s also very common. It helped me gain perspective on why I compete and how to lose gracefully. Throughout my years competing, having an amazing barn family made me recognize the importance of community. Although it is an independent sport, it takes a village to get a horse and rider in the ring, and that includes parents, supporters, coaches, grooms, and more.”

Stewart volunteers at Saddlebred Rescue, a non-profit organization that focuses on rehabilitating and rehoming rescued and at-risk American Saddlebred horses. Now an intern there, she assists with evaluating and retraining horses to ultimately place them in adoptive homes. Her long-term goal after college is to work as a professional horse trainer.

Learn more about the American Saddlebred by visiting our recognized affiliate, the American Saddlebred Horse and Breeders Association.

Find out more about the US Equestrian Higher Education Equestrian Scholarship here.

Learn more about the youth programs offered through US Equestrian here.

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