For amateur rider Lindsay Maxwell, charity is second nature. As early as high school, she volunteered for various organizations to benefit the cause of children and adults with special needs in support of her brother Benjamin, who was born with Down syndrome and Cerebral Palsy.

Horses often played a role. Lindsay was a successful junior rider—now earning top accolades in the amateur-owner hunter divisions—and rode on Sewanee’s Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) team at the University of the South in Tennessee. Benjamin, who passed away in 2003, also spent ample time in the saddle through therapeutic riding programs.

“Charity was always something we did,” Lindsay said of her family, who helped fund the Heart of Hope Academy in Atlanta, GA, for children with special needs. “It was a part of life. We volunteered at homeless shelters and participated in food drives, but our main focus was therapeutic riding and families with kids with special needs.”

Now, Lindsay leads her own charitable foundation. The Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund, founded in 2016, supports various causes that align with her values. Maxwell has set out to improve the lives with people with special needs, protect animals, and enable access opportunities to education, and she’s become a big supporter of charity horse shows, including acting as the presenting sponsor of the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, which supports the PNHS Foundation (therapeutic riding programs) and the Harrisburg Kiwanis Foundation, which benefits youth organizations.

“Charity horse shows are near and dear to my heart,” Maxwell said, “and it’s important that we keep those shows relevant. It’s extremely important for horse shows to serve [the] greater community. It’s a much more special experience: they’re almost always staffed by volunteers who really care about how the horse show is doing and how it is turned out. They reflect a lot of things I love about the sport, bringing a number of different people from different backgrounds together and making a special event.”

Maxwell’s latest beneficiary comes in the form of the Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) Equitation Finals and junior rider Abigail Brayman. Maxwell launched the Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund WIHS Equitation Grant this year to give one deserving rider the chance to compete at Washington expenses-free, and Brayman is the inaugural recipient. The grant is financially based, but riders must have already qualified for the finals, maintain a high standard of academics, and participate in charitable endeavors.

“I think that equitation and the equitation finals are very important part of any rider’s career,” Maxwell said. “It’s been wonderful getting involved with charity horse shows, which are generally smaller, and there I get to speak to people I wouldn’t normally have access to. There are a number of junior riders that just don’t have the opportunity to attend something like WIHS. Part of the [mission of our organization] is to positively impact the lives of young people by providing special opportunities. It aligns wonderfully with our goals.”

The grant covers every cost imaginable: equine shipping and human travel; lodging for the rider and accompanying trainers and family; entry and stall fees; hay, shavings, and feed for the horse; braiding; and shipping back and forth between the competition venue at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., and stabling at Prince George’s Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, MD.

“[WIHS] is [a show] that is a little more difficult to have access to, just due to the logistics of it,” Maxwell explained. “They accept less entries, and it’s expensive to stay in D.C. and get in and out. I hope [the grant] continues to grow, gain more interest, and get more applicants, and I hope today’s young riders will follow the tradition of paying it forward to next generation. I want to pass that [charitable desire] along to younger generations as much as I can.”

A Surprise Opportunity

Brayman, 18, was focused on her studies and her responsibilities as a Division 1 athlete on the hunt seat equestrian team at Oklahoma State University when she found out she was the recipient of the Lindsay Maxwell WIHS Equitation Grant.

The surprise was tenfold due to the fact that she hadn’t even applied. Her trainers at North Run, Missy Clark and John Brennan, submitted an application on her behalf without her knowing.

“My dad called me after I just finished practice at school and told me, and I was so surprised,” Brayman said. “It means a lot. It makes it a lot easier on my parents; they’ve done a lot for me to be able to do this. It also means a lot that North Run and the trainers there would go out and do that for me. It’s incredible. I’ve always feel part of the team there, but that really brought it out for me.”

Abigail Brayman & Cassini W compete at the 2016 ASPCA Maclay National Championship. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography.

Brayman, a native of Charlestown, RI, has been a working student at North Run for the past two years, regularly working long hours not only riding and showing a string of horses, but also tacking up, setting jumps, feeding, watering, and cleaning stalls. Her hard work has been rewarded, having topped the New England Junior Hunt Seat Medal Finals last year and having recently finished second in the Region 1 ASPCA/NHSAA Maclay Championship at Old Salem Farm, qualifying her for the National Championship in Lexington, KY, in November. Her mount in North Salem, Clark’s Cassini W, will also be her partner in Washington—her first foray into the WIHS Equitation Final, though she has competed at the horse show in the pony and junior hunters in years past.

“The grant makes it so much easier to just go there without the stress of how much it’s pressure putting on my parents,” she added. “It’s in the middle of the city, where the hotels are more expensive, and the travel is expensive. It’s definitely the most expensive final.”

Brayman has also been involved in her fair share of charity work, hosting coat drives through her high schools Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) team and volunteering at her local humane society. Her love for the horse shines through. If she doesn’t pursue a career in sports media, her major in Stillwater—she’s a self-proclaimed hockey and football fan—she says she’d like to be a groom for a top international rider.

“I love taking care of horses and making them feel good after they show,” Brayman said. “I’d love to groom for someone that does FEI stuff and jumps big classes.”

First, she will focus on her own riding goals. In addition to the WIHS Equitation Final and Maclay National Championship, she’s also slated to compete this fall in the USEF Talent Search and USEF Medal finals.

“I want to make the second round at all the [Big Equitation] finals, but mostly, I just want to be consistent,” Brayman said. “I want to go out and have fun and make it a good last [junior] year.”

-Photo credits: Shawn McMillen Photography; Caroline Holman; Kathy Russell Photography (2).