Inaugural ‘Ever So Sweet’ Scholarship from Strides for Equality Equestrians Awarded to Helen Casteel

Helen Casteel and Unapproachable at the 2019 American Eventing Championships. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Strides for Equality Equestrians and the United States Eventing Association Foundation are proud to announce the first recipient of the Ever So Sweet Scholarship. The scholarship, which is the first of its kind, provides a fully-funded opportunity for riders from diverse backgrounds to train with upper-level professionals. Helen Casteel of Maryland is the first recipient of the bi-annual scholarship. Edy Rameika, Sara Kozumplik Murphy, and Brian Murphy are providing the sponsored internship for Helen and her horse, Unapproachable (barn name: Abel), to train with Sara and Brian at Overlook Farm Equestrian Center in Berryville, VA for
three months.

The scholarship covers expenses for full board and training costs for Abel, several lessons per week, housing for Helen, a stipend to cover living expenses, competition fees, and coaching at competitions.

Helen has been partnered with Abel, a 13-year-old OTTB, for seven years. He was a “young six” when she got him, and they have worked hard together to successfully event at the Novice level. Helen and Abel competed at the American Eventing Championships in 2019. Helen’s immediate goals include moving up to Training level, which she is hopeful will be attainable because of the ESS scholarship.

Helen will also have the unique opportunity to learn to manage and care for upper-level horses and will be participating as part of the team in all aspects of running a large, competitive barn. She said the horse care and management part of being in a high-performance program is one of the parts she is looking forward to the most. She is eager to learn about the therapies and maintenance the horses receive to keep them healthy and sound. Helen also wants to learn the art and science that goes into choosing a good horse – for example, what do top riders look for when they are shopping, and how does one choose the best equine partner for their level and circumstances?

Helen’s goals also include playing an active role in fostering a more inclusive environment within the sport. The scholarship will provide Helen with the opportunity to make professional connections, which will not only help her as an individual, but will contribute to improving access and opportunities for other BIPOC riders. Helen is eager to promote inclusion and access and stated, “Though I personally have been fortunate in my circumstance, I still feel that as a Black woman, I can contribute to the conversation and the solution. The opportunities to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in the equine world and sport can fall into two buckets — exposure and opportunity.”

Helen will be an ambassador for the ESS scholarship, which is part of the Professional Pathways programs SEE is developing. “If we continue to actively prioritize inclusion and highlight participation of people of color and LGBTQ+ peoples, we will see the profile of not just Eventing but all equestrian sports rise,” Helen wrote in her application essay. You can follow along for updates on our website at https://www.stridesforequality.org/ and on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

You can also read Helen’s submission for Eventing Nation’s 2020 Diversity Scholarship, in which she writes at length about the importance of representation and inclusion, here.

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