Mary Gates Endowment For Students

Olivia Brandon

Mary Gates Leadership Scholar, Winter 2022

Leadership Project: Increasing Accessibility to the Equestrian Sport While Supporting Neglected and Retired Horses

Project Description: Competing in the equestrian sport is expensive, requires dedication, and relies on the health and care of horses. To increase accessibility to the equestrian sport, I want to help expand riding opportunities to our members through award programs that reduce financial barriers. These award programs can be financed through fundraising opportunities collaborating with Serenity Equine Rescue and Rehabilitation with raffles, selling horse experiences, and using social media to increase awareness about both organizations’ needs. Our mutual goal to support the equine community will also benefit both organizations by providing needed manpower to help care for rescued horses, give students opportunities to interact with horses, and spread awareness about horse welfare.

Unlike with dogs and cats, public shelters for horses and other livestock do not exist. If someone reports a neglected horse to the county, officials can issue fines to the abuser but cannot remove the horse from the situation without relying on private non-profits to rescue the horse. The county pays equine non-profits based on the number of horses a rescue rehomes, incentivizing them to rehome quickly. This leads to many horses being returned from their new homes due to social issues stemming from their original abusive situations. The average horse has approximately 7 homes during its lifetime. Serenity Equine Rescue & Rehabilitation, located in Maple Valley, Washington, pride themselves on keeping horses in their sanctuary until they are ready for their “forever home.” This results in horses staying at the rescue longer, and unfortunately less money from the county. Last year, the team fundraised with Serenity, raising several thousand dollars that was split between our two organizations. I hope to further fundraising efforts by creating a spring quarter fundraiser that sparks interest and involvement within the team. I also hope to increase awareness of all equine rescues by using social media and UW outlets.

What have you learned throughout your leadership project?

I have learned the importance of effective communication and time management. It is important to keep members excited about team events and initiatives, but it is critical to check-in with members to see how much time everyone is willing to commit and if there are ways to accommodate more people. As a leader, it is important to always stay passionate about what you are doing and to convey your passion and excitement to team members.

What piece of advice do you have for future applicants?

Your leadership project does not have to be fully finished with every detail planned when you apply! The Mary Gates Endowment staff and your mentors can help you sculpt your project ideas and be a resource to you. I would recommend choosing something you are passionate about and reflecting on the short and long term goals you have!