Hello Equuvation / Spark scholarship committee -
Neve McElhaney and I first met a little over 2 years ago, when we were both riding with the same trainer. Since that time, my relationship with Neve and her family has grown, as we have spent time together riding, showing, spectating and obsessing over our favorite breed of horse - the off the track thoroughbred.
Although I am 24 years her senior, Neve is an "old soul" who's patience, persistence and commitment to thoroughbreds is evident. Neve comes from a family of 6 children. Nothing is being handed to her. It is her own choice to care for two horses on her family's property - this includes feeding, mucking, over all horse care - while attending school full time. And when time allows, Neve is babysitting, farm sitting for others or being a working student for her trainer to help offset her expenses. Neve is the type of rider we read about often - one with immense talent, commitment and drive, but not the trust fund it sometimes takes to succeed in horse sports.
A "made horse" or "schoolmaster" hasn't been a possibility for Neve since she started riding. Neve took her first horse Stella (an OTTB) and herself from no show experience to Novice eventing in two years. During those two years, Neve and I showed at the same level - we would walk our courses together, strategize about our approach and discuss our plans for horse care over the show weekend while watching ever upper level rider we could! What was evident during our time together showing is that Neve is in it for her horse and the improvement of their riding relationship. I have seen her take meticulous care of her horse, obsessing over every last detail and being turned out impeccably every time :) Neve is not afraid to ask questions whether it be about horse care or riding related - her desire to seek every opportunity to learn is what sets her apart from other riders - she truly is a sponge wanting to soak in as much as she can.
I clearly recall a tough show for Neve last May at the Virginia Horse Park. The novice XC course was maxed and the divisions were huge. A great dressage score put Neve at the top of the leader board. Unfortunately, Neve and Stella had an uncharacteristic stop on cross country, later finding out she had lost a shoe in some deep mud before a fence - immediate care and farrier attention was giving to Stella , with Neve monitoring her for the next 24 hours like her life depended on it. During her stadium round the following day, again, Stella had some uncharacteristic stops which were unexplained - I believe you'd see a typical teenager leave the ring dejected, perhaps blaming their horse and everyone else around them for poor performance - but not Neve. Immediately she was determined to find out what was physically bothering her horse. After some investigating, it surfaced that Stella had some physical limitations that would prohibit her from moving up the eventing levels. Instead of feeling sorry for herself and the time invested, Neve then set out to find the best possible leaser for Stella (unwilling to sell her because of the partnership they had developed), finding a match with another riding acquaintance that allowed Stella a more suitable riding career. Pretty impressive for a 13 year old if you ask me!
I can also recall another show we both were in the running for a high point OTTB award. My horse ended up winning the award that show - Neve came up and was the first to congratulate me, commenting on a beautiful round - I believe that demonstrates a lot of poise and professionalism to congratulate someone let alone an adult when you lose an award you were hoping for.
I can't write enough to tell you how deserving Neve is of this opportunity. Neve is one of the only people I know I would trust to ride and care for my horses (and I have 2 quirky OTTB's, over 17.2 I don't let many people touch ). Her sensitivity, attention to detail, her soft and forgiving way of riding are what make her so successful with her horses, especially off the track thoroughbreds. I have no doubt with this scholarship Neve would utilize every cent to help further her riding education in an effort to help develop her relationship with her new OTTB Cloudy. Often times when I am with Neve, I forget I am in the company of a teenager as her demeanor and adaptability are that of someone much older - I can say with 100% certainty you could not choose a better candidate to represent Equuvation within the riding community.
Thank you for providing deserving youth with the funding to help achieve their goals.
I am thrilled to provide a recommendation for Neve McElhaney.
I met Neve through our mutual eventing coach. I have been to numerous horse shows with Neve and her family, where we have stabled, ridden, and socialized together. Our “Goodwill Eventing” family is very close and it is a blessing to share my eventing journey with Neve and her family.
Neve is a highly qualified candidate for this opportunity. She is extremely talented, possessing the natural athleticism and feel that are the makings of a great rider. But, her passion, determination, and sportsmanship are what truly make her special. It isn’t often I see a young rider with the talent and the drive to succeed who is also humble and kind.
It is hard to pick just one example or memory of Neve but this one shows the strength of her character. After a horse show that had ups and downs but eventually resulted in an elimination for Neve, she posted a photo to social media, describing what happened in honest terms, saying she wished it had gone differently but was looking ahead to her next opportunity, while giving thanks to her horse and the experience. This is so unusual in today’s social media world - I feel that very few young people are willing to be honest about their experiences. In addition, Neve has impressed me in other ways: I have witnessed her hard work at home on her family’s farm; her love for her horses when they are hurt or injured; her desire to do anything that will provide a learning opportunity for her even if it’s just a ride back to the barn on an unfamiliar horse; her kindness with her siblings (Neve is one of 6 children); and her willingness to work in exchange for lessons.
Truly, I can’t say enough good things about Neve. She is very special young lady!
I have known Neve for approximately 2 years . She is a student of mine . She also spent last summer as a working student .
Neve is very dedicated and hard working . She thinks on her feet and is always looking to help out in anyway .
I think a perfect example of her horsemanship is when last year she qualified her ottb for the AEC’S and about 3 months out her horse Stella just didn’t seem right . She was never actually lame and was Thoroughly checked from head to toe by different vets, chiropractors and acupuncturists. No one really had a definitive answer and although she did improve with joint maintenance, saddle fit and adjustments ect she was still not the old spunky red headed mare she used to be . Although Neve worked so hard to qualify she decided not to enter the AEC’S as she was worried her horses heart was just not in it . I was very impressed with her maturity and concern for her horse.
I could go on and on about Neve. She is a quiet but effective rider with so much potential that has worked her way up on a scrappy little mare . She always takes away the positives from any situation good or bad. She does all her own horse care / barn chores as she has her horse at home.
Thank you for considering her.
Lindsay Staiano Williams