Meet the Young Riders Who Won The Chance To Show At WIHS

Riding horses is expensive. Competing, even more so. For many ambitious equestrians, getting the finances together to show is a steep slope – not impossible, but very difficult. It also begs the question: how many potential superstars never get a chance to realize their careers because of monetary barriers? Enter the Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund grant, a full expense paid trip for two riders to compete in the Washington International Horse Show Equitation Finals, for which LMCF is the title sponsor. Now in its 27th year, the three-phase competition is held over two days, with hunter, jumper, and work-off components.

Ava Stearns, 17, and Juliette Joseph, 16, are going to be bringing their A game to WIHS thanks to the grant. “When I found out I won the grant I was filled with a lot of emotion. I was shocked, excited and filled with joy knowing that I’d be able to compete in such an amazing prestigious final,” said Juliette, who will be travelling all the way from San Diego with her father to compete. “Competing at WIHS will help give me experience and exposure to the challenging courses, and high-pressure situations.”

Ava Stearns and Eclipse. Photo by Alden Corrigan.

Both young women are coming to Washington with impressive 2018 seasons already under their belts. Ava, who lives in Chilmark, Mass., came in 9th at USET finals, as well as 2nd at NEHC finals. Juliette came in 5th at the Maclay finals. “This grant has given me the opportunity to compete at such an amazing event at an amazing venue where legendary riders have competed in the past and present,” Juliette enthuses, “I’m so excited to take in and learn as much as I can from watching these riders compete in person.” In fact, one of Juliette’s riding heroes, McLain Ward, was a past winner of the WIHS Equitation Finals.

Juliette Joseph and Simply Bob. Photo by Captured Moment Photography. The horse pictured has since been sold, and she will be competing on Efrieda, the mare she’s bringing to Washington, for the first time.

The grant provides an “incredible opportunity,” says Ava. “It is extremely important for these grants to be made for up and coming riders,” says Juliette. “They give kids who aren’t as financially gifted an opportunity to compete at these amazing events.”

And what about the extra pressure of competing as a grant recipient? Luckily Ava doesn’t get much in the way of show nerves, and Juliette has an attitude toward them that shows maturity beyond her years: “When I walk into the ring I try to focus on just having a good smooth round and sticking to what I know how to do, instead of trying to fix it in the ring. If I walk into the ring doubting myself, chances are I’m not going to do as well as if I believe in myself and my horse.”

When asked if they have any advice for ambitious young riders like themselves, both Ava and Juliette gave identical answers: “Work hard.” Juliette adds that spending time developing a strong bond with your horse is important. “Horses will jump through fire for you but they only give as much as you put in.”

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