Last updated on April 1st, 2020 at 01:19 pm

Short-stirrup competitors Evangeline and Annabelle Wasser got some inspiration from the Olympic and FEI World Equestrian Games gold medalist.

Mmy daughter, 12-year-old Evangeline Wasser, is a devoted equestrian who loves every aspect of the world of horses. In fact, everything she does is about horses: riding, competing, grooming, education, and the dream of one day owning her own horse. I have rarely seen someone so young who knows what she wants to do with her life and remains so focused day in and day out.

In August 2017, I had the opportunity to be in the press room after the $300,000 Hampton Classic Grand Prix to meet Olympic gold medalist, McLain Ward. I brought Evangeline with me, along with her identical twin sister, Annabelle, who also rides. My question to Ward was, “What do you do to inspire young people? My daughter has embraced riding so passionately, what can you say to her to motivate her further?”

Ward’s response was, at first, a bit underwhelming. And he apparently wasn’t satisfied with it. A few moments later, he politely interrupted and asked Classic Communications president and owner Marty Bauman if he could have a do-over. Everyone laughed. So he turned his attention to Evangeline once again, and addressed her directly: “You know, Evangeline, I really wasn’t satisfied with my response to you,” he said. “You know what I do to inspire young people?” he asked. He stood up from his chair on the press podium, walked over to her, and took off his Longines winning riding cap and put it on her head. “This is how I inspire young people.”

Everyone was moved, Evangeline was ecstatic, and Ward had not only made his point, but he had achieved his goal: to inspire. He spoke with Evangeline privately afterwards. She expressed her desire to compete and he told her, “Do it!”

And she did.

Months later, she started to compete and won grand champion the first two competitions she entered at Winner’s Circle as part of the Hunter Isle Horse Shows.

One year later, August 2018, Evangeline and I were back in the press room. Ward had just won the $300,000 Hampton Classic Grand Prix. So I asked him this follow-up question: “Hi, McLain. Hope you remember us. I’m here once again with my daughter, Evangeline Wasser. Last year, we asked you how you inspire young people, and you gave her your Longines cap, which she’s wearing today. You also told her if she wanted to compete, she should do it. Well, I’m glad to report she has started to compete and she’s been winning. Anything you can add?”

Ward smiled from ear to ear. Next thing you know, the photographers asked if Evangeline could come up on the podium and be photographed with him and the grand prix riders. It was an amazing moment, surreal to say the least. But it didn’t end there.

Not wanting to leave out Evangeline’s sister, Annabelle, Ward caught up with her afterwards and gave her his Grand Prix Longines sash, which Annabelle still has hanging from her bed in her room. Again, a true inspiration.

This is the stuff that dreams are made of and what keeps the Hampton Classic surrounded by greatness. How often does the winningest Hampton Classic competitor remain so humble and remember how important it is to inspire young people? Ward is a role model who has set the perfect example. By knowing how powerful words (and actions) can be, he has inspired Evangeline and Annabelle to go after their dreams as they make their Hampton Classic debut.

This is an amazing, feel-good story that should inspire everyone of all ages. And with all the crazy things going on in the world, a feel-good story that inspires young people sounds like a really good idea. Don’t you agree?

Jesse Wasser and Irene Patar’s daughters, Evangeline and Annabelle, regularly train at Skye Acres in Patchogue, N.Y. Wasser credits mom Irene with “instilling so much positivity that has been the key to their ability to continue to go after their dream even on the not so good days.”