Thursday, Jun. 6, 2024

USHJA Announces 2024 Gochman Grant Recipients

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The U.S. Hunter Jumper Association has announced that Kameron Berry, Regan Capone and Drue Fellona are the 2024 recipients of the USHJA Gochman Grant for USEF Pony Finals. Through the grant, sponsored by Becky and David Gochman and their family, the three young riders will get the opportunity to attend and compete at USEF Pony Finals at the Kentucky Horse Park on Aug. 6-11.

Berry, 13, of Lakeway, Texas, has been riding since 2020 and competes in hunter and jumper divisions up to 1.10 meters. Recently, he became a working student and spends up to six hours a day at the barn, including working over school breaks to learn and ride as much as possible. In the future, Berry aspires to sign for a Division 1 equestrian team in college, train horses and work his way up to ride on the U.S. Olympic show jumping team.  

Kameron Berry

“It feels so unreal and is such a great feeling; I was in shock and didn’t even know what to say when they called me,” Berry said. “I am most excited for the overall experience and to be able to compete at Pony Finals. I can’t wait to learn more and expand my knowledge while I am there and grow even more as a rider. I am also excited for all of the clinics that I will be attending; I know that I am going to walk away with tons of additional skills and knowledge. 

“This opportunity means so much to me for so many reasons,” he continued. “Every time I go back home or tell people that I am a show jumper, they look shocked. Only about 0.5% of registered equestrians are African American. I am grateful that I get to be one of the few. So many people have told me that ‘Black people don’t ride.’ I am excited to show that we do ride, and we are good at it. We just haven’t been exposed to this sport in our communities.”

Capone, 13, of Sea Isle City, New Jersey, has been riding for 11 years and currently competes in the green medium pony hunters and the large pony hunters. She likes to spend as much time as she can with horses, including working and riding at the barn.

When Capone isn’t at the barn, you can find her fundraising for the Love of Linda Cancer Fund, where she has raised over $51,000, and Mike’s Seafood Run/Walk for Autism, where she has raised over $4,000. 

Regan Capone

“It feels amazing to have been selected as one of the Gochman Grant recipients,” Capone said. “I am so grateful for this opportunity from the Gochman family. My initial reaction was shock, and I still can’t believe this is real. It’s a dream come true.

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“I’m most excited to compete at the Kentucky Horse Park,” she continued. “This has been a dream of mine since I was 5 years old, and it becoming a reality is so exciting. Having my sister there to watch me is so special because we show together and she always supports me. She never had this opportunity, so I am excited she can experience this with me.” 

Fellona, 11, of Mantua, New Jersey, has been riding for five years in the hunter ring. She rides six days a week, including lessons, grooming and learning about groundwork. She has learned to train two green ponies. After losing her young pony last year, she overcame that tragedy and formed a new partnership. The two have taken the hunter ring by storm together, winning pony hunter derbies and in the large children’s division. 

Drue Fellona

“I feel very blessed for being chosen as a recipient of the grant,” Fellona said. “Going to Pony Finals has been a dream of mine for a few years, and now I get to live out that dream and tell my story. When my parents told me [I was a recipient], all I could do was cry tears of joy. This has been a tough year in my equestrian journey, and being chosen as a grant winner is very exciting and humbling as well.

“I am excited and nervous to ride a new pony,” she continued. “Jumping is my favorite and I can’t wait to jump with the pony I am matched with. I also can’t wait to attend the clinics offered. The part I am most excited about is to build friendships with other young riders that could last a lifetime. Equestrians are a special kind of breed and everyone can always use more cheerleaders in their corner.”

This marks the 10th year the Gochman family and the USHJA Foundation have provided grants to help riders attend USEF Pony Finals. Not strictly monetary in nature, the USHJA Gochman Grant for USEF Pony Finals is experienced-based. Each recipient gets the opportunity to compete at USEF Pony Finals, train with professionals, and attend clinics and other educational experiences throughout the week. Riders are chosen based on financial need and must exemplify the qualities most important in our sport: horsemanship, tenacity and good sportsmanship.

The Gochman Grant is open to current USHJA members under the age of 18 who have not previously participated in Pony Finals and who would not be able to attend without the assistance the grant provides. Individuals may only be awarded the grant once.

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