Adison Stark has grown up in a family of women who love horses while living with her mother in Bend, Oregon. But even with the support and hard work of her family, USEF Pony Finals was out of her reach until this year, when she was chosen for the 2021 USHJA Gochman Family Grant For USEF Pony Finals. 2017 Gochman Grant recipient Ella Doerr caught up with Adison to find out more about the 12-year-old and what she is most looking forward to in Kentucky.
How long have you been riding?
I’ve been riding forever. My mom and my grandma started the family riding, and both my grandmas ride or used to ride. I have one pony, he’s a green large, and a retired horse, who just recently went into retirement. His name’s Wizard. And I have another pony, Griffin, and he is currently leased out at Parkside [Stables] in Washington.
Who trains you now?
Catherine Cruger at Some Day Farm in Bend.
Tell me about your large green pony.
His name is Memory Lane Paparazzi, aka “Pip.” One of my super long-term friends actually got him first, looking for a large green to take to Pony Finals 2020. But he ended up being too green for her, and he ended up coming to our barn. And then I just fell in love with him. He’s so sweet; he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.
What division have you been showing him in?
The green pony hunter but, unfortunately, we did not qualify. So I will be riding one of the ponies donated for the USHJA Gochman Family Grant at Pony Finals.
How often do you get to show him?
I’ve only been able to go to one A-rated show because there haven’t been a lot of opportunities, and he is still greener than we thought and isn’t quite ready. He’s very straightforward. We’re still working on those flying changes. He does tend to get nervous about the ends of the ring and will run a little bit.
What is a typical day for you?
We actually just bought a farm, so I keep Pip at my friend’s place while we work to get our farm ready for him. Once I bring him home, a typical day will likely be feed, ride, clean stalls, all the things. Right now, he’s currently just having some time off, but I’ll go out a couple of times a week and maybe ride him around their back end. Not exactly training right now. Around competition season, I ride maybe four to five times a week but go out almost every day, to at least hand walk him or see him.
How did you hear about the USHJA Foundation Gochman Family Grant?
My friend, who we actually got my green large from, applied for it in, I believe, 2019, and she had told me about it. But it was my trainer Catherine Cruger who said I should apply.
What was the hardest part of applying for the grant?
The hardest part was getting the essay part started, because you want it to be different, because I’m sure almost all of the introductions are quite similar like, “Pony Finals is my dream,” et cetera. So you want it to be different while still explaining how it’s your dream.
How did you feel when you found out that you got the grant?
I was actually eating breakfast before school. My mom had thought she had gotten a spam call, so we almost didn’t answer it. But she did, and they said, “Is Adison anywhere near?” I’m glad our school changed the schedule to start way later, or else I wouldn’t have known until I got home. It was crazy on the phone. I’m was freaking out. She’s was like, “It’s OK. Calm down. I know this is really insane.” I was so excited. I didn’t believe it was actually happening! I mean, I couldn’t even talk. I was crying; all the emotions came at once, and I was freaking out. I was on cloud nine all day.
Name one thing about Pony Finals that you’re most excited about.
I am most excited for the golf cart parade, honestly. It’s so sad because it might not happen this year. [The other Gochman Grant recipients] and I, we have our own little group chat, and we’re planning to do the whole idea. We’re thinking of either an Amazon truck or a farm. We’d all get, basically, animal onesies, and someone would be a farmer, driving the cart.
Do you have any good luck charms?
I actually do. I have this bracelet that I got from my mom. I wear it 24/7. I never take it off. The poor thing is falling apart. It’s bent to fit my small wrist. It’s not looking too good.
I heard your mom Jesse Stark paid her way as junior by braiding as a professional for Julie Winkle. Do you know how to braid as well? I do. I’m not the best. I can’t braid very tight, but I’m really good at tying up. So, if I do have a later class, then my mom would braid down, and I’d tie up.
What’s the hardest part of riding for you?
We struggle a lot financially with riding because riding is a very expensive sport. We have to make so many sacrifices. We have to be very careful with what we do, not eat out at dinner too much. Not do too much of anything and try to save as much as we can for riding because it is, I believe, the most expensive sport out there. And it’s tricky because you’re riding an animal that has a mind of its own, and if they get hurt, that’s just the way it is. It’s not a soccer ball.
I’d like to ask you a USHJA Horsemanship Quiz practice question: What kind of boots are allowed in equitation classes?
Open-front, preferably brown leather, boots and sometimes paired with matching hind boots.
Ella Doerr, 18, from Avon, North Carolina, is a recipient of the USHJA Youth Leadership Award, the USHJA Youth Sportsmanship Award and the USHJA Foundation Gochman Family Grant. Since she was 7 she’s bought and paid for her ponies with her own earnings while keeping them at home and performing all their care. She’s brought them along from just broke to zone championships and USEF Pony Finals (Kentucky). She’s the brand ambassador for multiple companies and chairs the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association Youth Group. She volunteers for charities and has managed three horse shows to raise funds for terminally ill children. She’s heading to Goucher College (Maryland) this fall.