This week’s honoree: Equestrian Aid Foundation.
Each week, Horse Nation teams up with Ovation Riding to spotlight an individual or organization doing good work in the horse industry. Today’s honoree is Equestrian Aid Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization. Stephanie Riggio Bulger, Equestrian Aid Foundation Board President, kindly took time to answer our questions.
What is your role at Equestrian Aid Foundation, and what is EAF’s mission statement and charity status?
I wear a lot of hats at EAF! Some of my duties include fundraising, the working with our Executive Director on the day to day running of the foundation, working with the board of directors on new ideas and strategies and, most importantly, finding new ways to help and support the recipients of our grants. Our mission is to help rebuild lives and assist people from all corners of the horse world who are dealing with catastrophic injury or illness and financial crisis.
How did EAF get started?
Originally conceived as a grassroots initiative, the Equestrian Aids Foundation was founded in 1996, to financially assist people in the horse industry who were affected by HIV/AIDS. Robert Dover, R. Scot Evans, Gene Mische, Mason Phelps Jr., Robert Ross and Kim Tudor founded the organization because they saw how this disease was affecting the equestrian community. These individuals decided to devote their time to the community they love in order to help their peers. Ten years later, in 2006, when the HIV/AIDS epidemic waned down, the name of the organization was changed to The Equestrian Aid Foundation in order to reflect their broadened mission of providing grant-based support to include horse people suffering from tragic injuries or illness of all kinds.
How is EAF funded?
The Equestrian Aid holds fundraisers as well as solicits direct donations from generous individuals. We also have sponsors and a few corporate donors.
Can you share any individual success stories thanks to EAF?
Since Equestrian Aid’s inception, we have helped hundreds of recipients get back on their feet. All of the recipient’s stories of recovery are inspiring, however, three in particular stand out:
Meribeth White: In 2014, Meribeth was a successful career groom and barn manager fulfilling her dream of working with horses. Not many people love what they do and enjoy going to work every day. However, Meribeth’s passion and love for horses was seen through her work. This came to an abrupt halt when she went to the hospital for routine back surgery and the operation took a horrible turn, leaving Meribeth with severe and life-changing physical and neurological damage. She couldn’t return to work as a barn groom due to the physical demands and her dream of working with horses turned into a nightmare. All of the medical and therapy costs were adding up and becoming overwhelming. An Equestrian Aid member who managed the farm where Meribeth worked suggested that she apply for a grant. Meribeth took that advice and was accepted by the Foundation. While it was a long recovery path, the organization was by her side to cheer her on, helping her financially as well as to help her focus on meeting her recovery goals.
Trevor Lent: Trevor worked as a farrier and like Meribeth, he enjoyed the work that he did — it didn’t feel like work to him! In 2010, Trevor became severely injured after an incident and was no longer able to work. The following year was extremely difficult for Trevor and he had a long journey to recovery, which resulted in medical bills building up. An old customer put Trevor in touch with The Equestrian Aid Foundation where Trevor was granted financial assistance at a time where he could barely tread water. Now, Trevor’s knee has been rebuilt and he is capable of paying his bills and recently got married!
Linda Andrisani: Linda is one of the most well-known and respected hunter judges in the country. In 2011, she was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma of the right parotid gland and was no longer able to work. With the help of Equestrian Aid, Linda received a community of support, security and hope.
What is one thing you wish people knew about the work EAF is doing?
The Equestrian Aid Foundation assists people during a challenging time in their life. We help to relieve the stress caused by the financial uncertainty of lost income. We can also provide extra funds to support additional therapies that insurance may not cover. We have had several recipients completely defy their doctors’ expectations thanks to the additional physical therapy or alternative medicine they have been able to afford thanks to us. Most of all, we find that when stress and worry are relieved, recovery and healing happen so much faster.
Many thanks thanks to Ovation Riding for their support of both Horse Nation and individuals and organizations that are doing good work in the horse world. If you know someone who deserves a Standing Ovation, we would love to recognize them in a future post. Email the name of the person or organization along with a message about the good work they do to [email protected] Photos/videos are always welcome, and include a link to their website if applicable.