No one plans to be injured or diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, and yet sadly that is the reality for millions of people every day. An organization in the equestrian community has been taking care of such folks among us for over 17 years.
The Equestrian Aid Foundation (EAF) provides financial support for riders, horsemen and women, and other equine-related professionals who find themselves in dire circumstances. Grooms, farriers, trainers, vet techs, and others in the equestrian world who are in need can receive assistance with medical bills, physical therapy, nursing care, food, shelter, and more. EAF offers people hope during a time that might seem hopeless.
“I wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for EAF. I can’t say enough good things about them,” said EAF recipient Orlando Gonzales. “Because of the good work they do, riders like me can heal and mend the emotional wounds as well as the physical ones.”
The nonprofit was founded in 1996 by six-time Olympic dressage rider Robert Dover, R. Scot Evans, Gene Mische, Mason Phelps Jr., Robert Ross, and Kim Tudor. Originally named the Equestrian AIDS Foundation, they helped people struggling with HIV/AIDS. As the organization grew, so did the pool of individuals in need. In 2006, the name was changed to the Equestrian Aid Foundation to reflect the inclusion of programs to assist people suffering from all chronic illnesses as well as injuries.
Various events each year raise funds to go directly into the hands of recipients, offering a fun way for equestrians to give back to their own. During the 2013 Hampton Classic, EAF hosted a clambake on the beach for equestrians and fans to relax together outside of the ring. Guests enjoyed a decadent spread of traditional clambake cuisine while sipping cocktails and being serenaded by a local marimba band.
Centered around a unique reining competition between hunter, jumper, dressage riders, and sometimes even polo players, the annual Equestrian Aid Foundation “Who Reins Supreme?” brings together fans of all disciplines every winter. The evening also serves as an opportunity to honor those who have made a powerful impact on the equestrian community. This past January, Robert Dover, R. Scot Evans, and Mason Phelps Jr., received the 2014 Luminary Award to recognize the invaluable service they provided by founding EAF all those years ago.
The Equestrian Aid Foundation has granted over $2.2 million to those who need assistance. After passing this momentous milestone, the organization continues to look toward the future.
“Since we founded the Equestrian Aid Foundation, we have assisted hundreds in the horse world. However, there will always be people in need,” said Equestrian Aid Foundation president and co-founder R. Scot Evans. “In order to maintain our ability to help them, we established the Charlie Weaver Legacy Fund, an endowment to secure the future of EAF’s mission. Our goal is to continue to provide support for many years to come.”
Tragedy can strike anyone at any time, from the rider battling cancer to the groom who gets kicked by a horse. The Equestrian Aid Foundation is a haven for them to turn to, a beautiful example of horse people helping one another.