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Luckily for equestrians, many types of equine-related organizations offer these types of college scholarships. While the majority of these awards won't cover the total amount needed for a degree, they can be used to defray some of the cost. In addition, equestrians may be awarded several scholarships that can be combined to cover a larger percentage of college expenses. So whether it is a few hundred dollars or several thousand, seeking out and applying for equine-related scholarships makes good sense.


Hours spent in the saddle can lead to college scholarships.

The Intercollegiate Horse Show association comprises a much larger portion of collegiate equestrian teams. In comparison to the 22 NCAA college equestrian teams, the IHSA boasts 370 college and university equestrian teams in the US and Canada. In addition, IHSA offers team positions to male equestrians as well as novice riders. Unfortunately, scholarship opportunities in the IHSA are fewer and not as lucrative as those awarded to NCAA athletes. Information on IHSA scholarships can be found on the IHSA website.

Organizations, such as 4-H, also offer a variety of scholarships to their youth participants. 4-H scholarships are awarded on both the state and local levels and many require the recipient to attend the land-grant university associated with program. Likewise, several state Horse Councils are committed to providing financial assistance to college-bound equestrians. This year, the Alabama Horse Council made two $1000 scholarships available to students pursuing a career in the equine industry. Like breed-based scholarships, membership in these organizations is required.

Membership in equine organizations may also qualify students for select scholarships offered by a college or university. For example, youth that have demonstrated academic and leadership qualities in the American Quarter Horse Association may be awarded an in-house scholarship if they choose to attend Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri.  Likewise, United States Pony Clubscholarships are available at approximately a dozen colleges and universities throughout the US. Many of these USPC scholarships require recipients to have demonstrated academic success in the classroom and to have earned a minimum of a C-3 rating as Pony Club members.

Equestrian youth and their families are encouraged to begin their search for college scholarships with those riding clubs and organizations in which they are already members. Many breed organizations, such as the American Quarter Horse Association, offer one or more scholarships to high school seniors and college-level students.

Annually, the AQHA presents more than two dozen national, state and regional scholarships to members of the American Quarter Horse Association or the American Quarter Horse Youth Association. These scholarships range in value from a one-time $500 payout to four-year $25,000 packages. Eligibility requirements vary for each scholarship, but can include the student's current level of education and their anticipated career path. Scholarship recipients are selected based upon their academic standing, financial need, leadership and communication skills and their level of involvement in the AQHA.​

Without assistance, many prospective college students and their families wouldn't have the means to fund the cost of higher education. Here in the United States, financial assistance starts with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. This standardized form is used by the Department of Education to determine a value known as the Expected Family Contribution, which is based upon information such as family income, assets and liabilities. Most colleges and universities use this information to determine a student's eligibility for federal, state and university financial aid. Financial aid packages can include university grants and scholarships, federal loans, and work-study programs.

In addition to the financial aid package offered by a university, students can also apply for and be awarded outside scholarships. Scholarships are financial awards that don't need to be repaid. Criteria for earning an outside scholarship varies depending on the hosting organization, but many scholarship awards are based upon merit, financial need or both.


Finding funds for college may seem daunting, but searching for scholarships and comparing the financial aid packages offered by different colleges will make the cost of higher education more affordable. Students interested in advancing their riding career throughout their college years are advised to begin shopping for a college early in their high school career.

When searching for a college, don't automatically rule out the more expensive schools. Many of these private institutions have well-established endowment funds that are specifically earmarked to help students defray the cost of their education. The amount of assistance that a college will award a particular student is often based on merit and financial need. Applicants who have maintained high GPA's while participating in extracurricular activities are the types of students that colleges find most desirable.

Likewise, some colleges and universities have their own in-house scholarships for equestrians. The University of Findlay in Ohio offers endowed scholarships that range from $500 to $1500. One of these is the Robert T. Bradley Memorial Award, which is presented annually to a distinguished student in the Western Equestrian Studies program.

Student riders may also opt for schools that offer special perks for equestrians. Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky awards a $1,000 scholarship to students accepted into their Equine Scholars program. In addition, they match outside scholarships, up to $1,000, that are awarded to these students.

For additional assistance in locating colleges and universities that offer equine programs and finding equine organizations that sponsor college scholarships, check out Horse Schools: The International Guide to Universities, Colleges, Preparatory and Secondary Schools, and Specialty Equine Programs by Angelia Almos. 

Every year, the cost of a college education rises. In addition to tuition, which is what colleges charge for the educational instruction they provide, there are additional expenses incurred by college students. These include student fees, housing, meal plans, books and supplies. Fees cover the non-instructional cost of education and often include expenses like library and athletic facility usage, computer access, student union memberships, parking permits, local bus service and laboratory supplies.

So what is the price tag of a college education? In 2012, the annual cost of attending a four year, in-state public university averaged just under $20,000. Choosing an out-of-state public school increased these costs to around $32,000 annually. Private universities are the most expensive option and many of these institutions estimate student costs at over $40,000 per year. In addition to the money paid directly to the school, families may also incur fuel, airline or hotel costs to transport students between home and school or to visit their fledgling offspring. Naturally, college students also have expenses for personal items like clothing, bedding, and toiletries. And if the student wants to bring their horse with them to college or participate in equestrian activities while on campus, there are additional fees for that!

In 1998, the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) classified woman's equestrian as an emerging varsity sport. Currently, 22 US colleges participate in Division 1 and 2 equestrian sports. And like many high school athletes, talented equestrians can be recruited to these college riding teams.

According to NCAA rules, these colleges can offer up to 15 full-ride scholarships to the athletes on these teams. These full-ride scholarships includes tuition, room and board, student fees and books. Participating schools have the option, however, of dividing this scholarship money up into partial awards that can then be distributed among more members of their riding teams.

Competition for these scholarships, especially a full-ride, is tough. Success as a junior rider on the show circuit is often necessary for recruitment, but "walk-on" team members who prove themselves an asset to the team may be able to earn financial aid the following year. Some colleges also offer summer riding camps where talented equestrians, hoping to be considered for these scholarships, can make a good impression on coaches and recruiters.

However, the NCAA has stringent rules for eligibility and recruitment. Prospective athletes are advised to look into these requirements as early as their freshman year in high school. Information on NCAA college athletics can be found at the NCAA website and the National Collegiate Equestrian Association.

Academic achievement, financial need and level of involvement within an organization are some of the criteria by which scholarship applicants are judged.

Only a handful of female equestrians are recruited for NCAA college riding teams. IHSA teams accepts male riders as well as novices, but scholarship opportunities are fewer.

Participation in equine-related youth organizations can make students eligible for college scholarships.

Since almost all equine organization-based scholarships require applicants to be active members for a given period of time, it is prudent to begin the search for college financial assistance long before students reach their senior year in high school. In many cases, the more active or successful the applicant is within the organization, the better their chances of winning scholarship awards.



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