Horses have been a lifelong focus for Matt, for as long as he can remember. When he was in elementary school and was asked to pick an insect to study, he chose the “horse fly”! A few afternoons a week Matt works at Oxford Hills Veterinary Hospital where he enjoys working with large and small animals, especially going out on farm calls.
Uniquely situated in the foothills of Western Maine, Matt was exposed to a remarkable amount of talented and passionate farm owners and instructors who were all too willing to channel the enthusiasm of a young teenager. In 2014, Matt experienced the life-changing opportunity to travel to Florida as part of the Dressage4Kids Winter Intensive Training Program (WIT). The exposure that Lendon Gray provided Matt allowed him to make the transition from First Level to Third Level over the course of three months. The transformation on both the inside and the outside of both horse and rider serve as a remarkable testament to the WIT Program and to the power of consistency and quality instruction. In the five years since that eventful winter, Matt has remained an active participant in Dressage4Kids TEAM Clinics, both as a rider and by sharing his mounts with fellow dressage enthusiasts.
Coming home after having seen the “Big Arena” and having had the chance to see what riding at the FEI levels entailed was highly motivating for Matt, and he credits Madeleine and Liz Austin for turning the dream of wearing a shadbelly into a reality. With their unyielding dedication he was able to debut at the Prix St George on Gracie, the PMU mare he’d bought on Craigslist with his own money and had brought with him that eventful winter to Florida.
One of the greatest gifts that the Dressage4Kids program has provided is the continued opportunity to connect with so many of the tremendously generous professionals in this sport. For example, the shadbelly that Matt wears is a hand-me-down, which feels extra special. Riding with Susanne Hamilton once a month or so has been a boon to his riding, and many of those sessions are underwritten by the generous sponsorship of Renee Isler.
This winter Matt will be accompanied by Emily Aylward’s 14-year-old Percheron/TB mare, Gossip. Bred at Avalon Meadows, Matt has had the pleasure of riding several of her full siblings, but this is a new ride for him, having recently been handed over the reins by his friend Laura Brainerd. Matt has high hopes of finishing Gossip to the Grand Prix in 2020 and cannot say enough about her incredibly robust personality.
Matt found out about being awarded the scholarship after receiving a text from Lendon fairly late in the evening, asking if he was still awake. “Of course one stays awake for Lendon!” he recalled. Lendon promptly called and shared that he was selected as the recipient for the 2020 Dressage4Kids Christian Kennedy Young Adult Scholarship. “I was at a loss for words! There are no words that hold enough value to articulate my appreciation for this coming experience,” says Matt.
Congratulations to Matt!