Stony Hill Fund-Raiser Saturday

The family event will include a dressage exhibition
Olivia Walsh, 11, with Gator above, has benefited greatly from her scholarship. Jack Graves

Stony Hill Stables in Amagansett, which since 2011 has provided annual scholarships to youngsters here who would not otherwise have the chance to pursue riding seriously, is to hold a fund-raiser at the stables off Town Lane on Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m.

The family event will include a dressage exhibition by the stables’ owner and United States Dressage Federation gold-medal winner, Wick Hotchkiss, a performance by the stables’ pony drill team, a jumping exhibition, and raffle prizes. 

The Stony Hill Stables Foundation, said to be “on a sound footing,” has, according to its release, “given local riders a path to their equestrian dreams — with a grassroots approach the scholarship program has opened its barn doors to local kids. Stony Hill is the only stable on the Island to offer a scholarship program like this, with five to seven scholarships awarded each year.” 

One of last year’s recipients, Olivia Walsh, an 11-year-old Montauker, said before mounting up for a training session with Marisa Bush Friday afternoon that she had been drawn to riding ever since her parents brought her to the stables for a lesson three years ago. She won her first time out, capturing, on Gator, a blue ribbon in the mini short stirrup division at a Yaphank show last fall.

A member of the pony drill team, Olivia surfs and plays softball as well, though riding, she said, is her passion. 

Her scholarship has enabled her to share in the lease of Gator, a dark bay school horse, and to participate in more clinics than she otherwise would have.

Bush said that Olivia “has taken full advantage of her scholarship — she has progressed so much since leasing Gator. It’s allowed her to fine-tune her position and to develop as a rider. Her dedication to riding and her work ethic make her a very worthy scholarship recipient.” 

Gator, Olivia said, is “gentle and a good listener.” She liked winning blue ribbons too, she added. 

Asked what it was she said in her scholarship application that won over the foundation’s board, Olivia said with a smile that she couldn’t remember. 

Maureen Bluedorn, who first suggested to Hotchkiss that Stony Hill launch such a program, said last fall that “this was the best year for candidates — we had 18 applications, the most ever. . . . These kids were screaming for it, it made it very easy for us to choose.”

“The kids were over the moon,” she continued, “and the parents were so appreciative. They’re sharing a passion; they’re developing beautiful relationships with horses, and with others. Beautiful people come out of that.”

“She’ll start working in pony camp this summer,” said Bailey Thompson, the fund-raiser’s chairwoman (and competitive dressage rider whom Hotchkiss trains). “And she’ll be grooming too . . . the whole experience. It’s not just about riding and walking away. It’s about everything involved in caring for a horse.”

Gator, she added, is “a good teacher. Part of the scholarship is that she has gotten to ride Gator twice a week on her own, so she’s been able to practice what she’s learned.”

“I’ve seen tremendous progress,” Olivia’s mother, Lauren Walsh, said. “Because of the scholarship she’s been able to spend much more time here, she has access to a horse that she can ride, and she can take him to shows. . . . She’s been able to take private lessons. . . . She got to audit an Olympic trainer’s clinic last summer. . . . None of this would have happened without the scholarship.”

And her dream? To go to a school like the Knox School that has an equestrian team, Olivia said.

“Well,” said her mother, with a broad smile, “I don’t know if that’s in the cards.”