Total immersion is the goal for this summer’s Ever So Sweet Scholarship recipient, Nora Huynh-Watkins.

Funded by Strides for Equality Equestrians, Edy Rameika, and the USEA Foundation, the Ever So Sweet Scholarship is an “open door” opportunity for riders from diverse backgrounds to further their riding education with 5* event rider Sara Kozumplik.

Nora is the third recipient of the scholarship, which provides funding for coaching, training, and accommodation for a period of three months. But even as she shared her excitement for the trip ahead, she admitted she was a bit nervous for the trek: she would be driving her off-track Thoroughbred mare, Druzy, all the way from Oregon to Sara’s Virginia base, Overlook Farm.

“I’ve never traveled that far by myself with a horse!” she told me. “But it’s something I’m really excited about. I think it’s going to be a good learning experience.”

Indeed it was, as Nora and her dad spent about a week driving across the country. Add in a mare who didn’t take too favorably to eating or drinking for the first bit of the trip, and the nerves were certainly high.

But without further incident, Nora and Druzy have made it to Virginia and are settling in at Overlook Farm. Nora, who began eventing officially in college at Oregon State, can’t wait to see where these next few months take her.

“I’m really excited to go out there and experience eventing on the East coast,” she said. “I feel like it has a really different feel, and I’m looking forward to being immersed in that.”

Nora has experienced horses in multiple parts of the country, growing up in Missouri and originally catching the horse bug from spending time with her grandmother’s horse. She also put in some working student hours as a teenager and eventually went on to join the Oregon State eventing team, a move she says opened a lot of doors for her riding. “It offered me so much opportunity,” she said. “A lot of learning that I would not have been able to get otherwise. The ability to continue on with this sport that I love has really come from that.”

Accustomed to balancing first school, then work with the horses, Nora says she hasn’t had much time to fully develop Druzy, who she bought from an Oregon race trainer she was working for about two-and-a-half years ago, to her potential. She keeps Druzy at a self-care facility and hauls out for lessons, but this schedule and her work make it difficult to get to competitions regularly. This opportunity, then, comes at a perfect time for her to spend some time focusing on her development as a rider and a horsewoman.

Through her education as an electrical engineer, Nora hopes to find ways to connect her skills to the horse industry, which has historically struggled to embrace new technology and innovation. Encouraging innovation and evolution has become a driving force for Nora, who plans to use this immersive experience to seek out these potential connections.

“I studied engineering because I wanted to have a way to support my riding financially, but I have all these thoughts of ways I could maybe translate my engineering background back to the equestrian world,” she explained. “I’m really interested in the evolution of technology. There are a lot of traditions in the sport, and not to say it hasn’t progressed but I feel like there is still a lot of room for technology and the use of it. So maybe there is a hole I can fill with my skills.”

We look forward to checking in with Nora as her time in Virginia progresses, so watch this space for much more!

If you want to follow along with Nora and Druzy as they settle in at Overlook Farm, be sure to give the @see.eversosweet Instagram and Facebook page a follow. And don’t forget: applications for the next round of the Ever So Sweet scholarship will be available soon. Keep an eye on stridesforequality.org for more updates.

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