Have you ever dreamed that someone handed you a check for $300 so you could take riding lessons or attend a riding clinic?
That's no dream. That's the Maryland Combined Training Association scholarship program.
The MCTA annually awards three $300 grants. Applications for this year's scholarship are due by Oct. 24.
"This program has been in existence since at least the mid-'70s," MCTA scholarship chairman Peggy Sword said. "We make the awards in three categories: youth riders [13 and under], juniors [14 to 18] and adults. The purpose of the scholarships is to improve the quality of riding in our membership."
Sword, who lives in Gaithersburg, received a scholarship in 1989 that she used for lessons with Packy McGaughan.
"I had just bought a new horse who was much bigger than the horse I had been riding and he was also much greener. So I really appreciated the extra lessons that the scholarship enabled me to take," Sword said.
"It made a definite difference. When I first saw Phineas he was just terrific over fences. We did a lot of preliminary flat work with Packy and now Phineas has developed a very good work ethic. He is willing to work, work, work."
Another scholarship recipient was Pasadena resident Elice Shelton. She received her scholarship in 1985 and used the money to take lessons with Chris Wadman at Olney Farm.
"I also used some of the money to take a Sally Swift teaching clinic, which I enjoyed very much," said Shelton. "There was lots of competition the year I got the scholarship and I couldn't believe I got it. I think they gave it to me because they realized I needed lots of help."
When Shelton and Sword received their scholarships there was a riding component in the evaluation of candidates. This will be the first year that riding for the scholarship panel is not a requirement.
"There will be no riding requirement this year," Sword said. "We are trying to concentrate on and reward volunteerism. There are lots of opportunities to help in this organization. People can work as jump judges or in other capacities at all the events we sponsor, and they can work on the annual banquet or at the clinics we put on."
MCTA membership is necessary to be considered, so this might be a good incentive to join this organization if you are interested in combined training (dressage, cross-country and show jumping wrapped into one discipline).
"We've got money to give away and we want to reward, recognize and say thanks to our members who work so hard all year," said Sword. Scholarship applications can be obtained by calling her at (301) 948-2183.
* Save the weekend of Oct. 24-25 for a free wagon train and trail ride in Frederick County with Marie and Roy Propst. The Propsts will lead a 15-mile ride Saturday and an 11-mile ride Sunday. Bring your horse and/or wagon, food and camping gear. Terrain is mostly hard road, and the rides will go at a walk with a little trotting -- no cantering.
If you don't have a horse or wagon, come on Saturday anyway for the cookout (bring a covered dish) and the demonstration of Appalachian Singlefoot horses. Call Roy or Marie at (301) 845-6202 for more information.
The Carroll County Equestrian Council inaugurates a new series of educational seminars beginning Oct. 21. The first seminar covers equine health care and will be presented by veterinarian Nicholas Herring. The seminars will be at 7:30 p.m. at the Carroll County Extension Office Meeting Rooms at the Agriculture Center in Westminster.
* I hope by now that all horse nuts in Maryland know about T.R.O.T. -- Trail Riders of Today. This 12-year-old organization of Maryland horse people who are concerned about saving the state's equestrian trails has chapters in Montgomery, Howard, Prince George's and Carroll counties. Members come from throughout Maryland as well as from Washington, D.C., Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
T.R.O.T. offers many benefits to members, including trail maps and an informative newsletter. Dues are $8 per year for individuals or $20 per family for three years.
For more information call, (301) 588-TROT.
* Did you recognize Maryland equestrienne and T.R.O.T. member Debi Gordon and her husband on a recent cover of Equus magazine?
* Riders competing in Sunday's Howard County-Iron Bridge Hounds Fall Hunter Pace need not be a member of an established hunt. Teams will consist of a minimum of two riders. Fee is $10 per rider per class.
This event features six classes over fences and on the flat. If the day dawns fine, this is a good bet for spectators. Call (410) 442-1582 for information and directions.
* Ever heard of a poker trail ride? It sounds like fun. You will get a card at the beginning of the ride, three more cards at points along the ride and a final card at the end to make up a poker hand. Prizes will be awarded.
The Maryland State Quarter Horse Association plans a poker trail ride as part of a daylong event Oct. 17 in Thurmont (Frederick County). Lots of other fun events are scheduled that day. Call (301) 898-7575 for more information.
Oct. 10 -- Trail ride at Union Mills, (301) 346-7060.
Oct. 10 -- Open English Horse Show, Westminster, (301) 848-3192.
Oct. 10, 11 -- Potomac Valley Dressage Association Equestrian Workshop with Francois de Ruffieu, Charlotte Hall, (301) 932-7236.
Oct. 11 -- Mount Airy Saddle Pals Show, Mount Airy, (301) 831-5230.
Oct. 11 -- Hunting Ground Farm Horse Trials, Whiteford, (410) 879-4031.
Oct. 11 -- Howard County-Iron Bridge Hounds Fall Hunter Pace at the Hunt's kennels, (410) 442-1582.
Oct. 11 -- Potomac Valley Dressage Association Free State Dressage Show, Bowie, (301) 262-7467.
Oct. 17 -- Potomac Valley Dressage Association Banbury Cross Dressage Show, Clarksburg, (301) 253-4669.
Oct. 17 -- Maryland State Quarter Horse Association's District II Stoneleigh Farm Country Day, Thurmont (Frederick County), (301) 898-7575.
Oct. 17, 18 -- Dressage clinic with Jean Luc Cornille, Fulton, (301) 593-8333.
Oct. 21 -- Educational seminar on equine health care, Westminster, (301) 833-4593.
Oct. 22-25 -- Fair Hill Three-Day Event, Elkton, (410) 398-2286.
Oct. 24 -- Deadline for applications for Maryland Combined Training Association scholarships. Peggy Sword, (301) 948-2183.