Local residents who have dreamed of learning to ride, jump, and show horses may soon have a unique opportunity to do so, for Stony Hill Stables in Amagansett is launching a scholarship program for young people through its newly formed Stony Hill Stables Foundation.
Wick Hotchkiss, who owns the stables, founded more than a half-century ago by her mother, Liz, is an accomplished rider and a United States Dressage Federation silver and bronze medalist. (In dressage, known colloquially as “horse ballet,” a horse’s athletic ability and willingness to respond smoothly to a rider’s minimal aids are judged.)
During a tour of the 10-acre tract off Town Lane the other day, Hotchkiss said the provision of equestrian scholarships had been “something that’s been missing for a long time.” It had always been a dream of hers and her mother’s to render riding more accessible here.
Hotchkiss has always offered discounted lessons and camps to East Enders, but she has seen her share of students who have not been able to continue training beyond a certain level. Simply put, “Many local students can’t afford it.”
In an e-mailed notice of the foundation’s benefit cocktail party on Saturday evening, Hotchkiss wrote, “I understand that seriously pursuing equine sport can be expensive. Today’s families need to make tough choices. It’s important to me that local residents still have the opportunity to ride. The Stony Hill Stables Foundation was created to give back to the community by providing equine facilities for equestrian programs, which hopefully will facilitate the growth of the sport on the East End.”
Maureen Bluedorn, a foundation member, said the goal is to make available eight scholarships that would give the recipients full access to Stony Hill.
The e-mail said further, “Scholarship funding will cover a four-month season (June-September or October-January) and could include the lease of a pony or horse and boarding and training lessons over a seasonal semester. . . . Residents of Montauk, Amagansett, East Hampton, Sag Harbor, Southampton, and Westhampton are encouraged to apply.”
Two grants would be made to riders in each of the stables’ levels — children’s short stirrup for 6-through-10-year-olds, the youth horse program for 10-through-18-year-olds, an adult hunter-jumper program for 18-through-26-year-olds, and dressage for 12-year-olds and up. The programs and scholarships, Bluedorn said, would be tailored to the individual needs and skills of the student.
“We’ll take kids with no skills and those with skills,” she said. “We really want to level the playing field . . . if they don’t have a lot of skill, but have a keen desire and an ambition to ride, that will show up in the application.”
Aisha Ali-Duyck, a full-time trainer at Stony Hill who also shows in dressage competitions, understands the need for equestrian scholarships. “I grew up knowing that I couldn’t afford to get to the next level,” said Ali-Duyck, who advanced, however, after joining Stony Hill as a working student. “I’m hoping the children who get involved with the foundation have that same experience.”
“You see these young women and men blossom into very confident individuals,” Bluedorn said. “Riding teaches them confidence, discipline, and teamwork. There’s nothing quite like it.”
“Horses are a great equalizer,” said Ali-Duyck. “The children know who cantered yesterday — they don’t care how many cars you have.”
A dressage exhibition and a pony drill team performance are to be featured Saturday at the Stony Hill Stables Foundation’s benefit cocktail party from 6 to 8 p.m.