Mount Saint Charles Trots Out New Equestrian Program
Partners with Prospect Hill Farm to offer a varsity riding team starting fall 2018
Woonsocket – Horse-loving students at Mount Saint Charles Academy get their own team this fall when the school and Prospect Hill Farm in Lincoln partner to launch one of the first high school riding programs in Rhode Island.
Mount Saint Charles students will train, learn, compete and earn varsity letters through the new riding team, which will be coached by Prospect Hill owner Alicia Cugini. The team is open to riders of all abilities – even novices with little or no experience on horseback – and students don’t have to own a horse to participate. Riders will compete in Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) events at the regional, zone, and national levels.
“We’ll take every student who wants to ride. We’ll do tryouts just to determine what level they ride at, but we’ll take anyone who’s interested,” Cugini said. “They may not show in competitions until they reach the right ability level, but they can still compete through the written tests in the horsemanship part of the competitions.”
IEA events include individual and team competitions. Although riding is often perceived as an individual sport, Cugini said the program will stress team dynamics.
“Riding is an individualized sport because so much of it is between you and the horse. But this will be a team-oriented program. I really believe in the team spirit, and we’re going to have team dinners, practices apparel... anything you’d expect from any other high school team,” she said.
Her priorities echo those of Mount Saint Charles President Alan Tenreiro, who developed the idea for the team when he noticed how many students were interested in horseback riding.
“A lot of the kids were already riding on their own. We want to give them a chance to get together as a team and earn the same kind of recognition athletes in other sports do,” he said.
The Mount Saint Charles team will be one of only two high school equestrian teams in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts. Students will train for two hours twice a week with Cugini at Prospect Hill. The school will pay for IEA membership and regular season show fees. Students are responsible for training fees and personal equipment like helmets.
The equestrian program begins in the fall of 2018. For more information, contact the Mount Saint Charles Athletic Department at (401) 769-0310.
10-year-old cancer survivor raises money for Tomorrow Fund
NORTH SMITHFIELD – A 10-year-old cancer survivor is giving back to others battling the disease, and one of her partners in the mission has been her pony, Monarch.
Amaya Devine of Warwick, who trains at Prospect Hill Farm in North Smithfield for horseback riding competitions, says she wants to help fund research for a cure for cancer, and orchestrated a fundraiser through a horse show at the farm. More than $500 was raised at the event in September, and Amaya recently donated the money to The Tomorrow Fund.
September is “Childhood Cancer Awareness Month,” Amaya explained while taking a break from working with her 17-year-old pony at the farm last week.
Sitting in a barn office at the farm located in North Smithfield, but with a Lincoln mailing address, Amaya said she was thrilled when people at Prospect Hill donated and raised money for the organization through the show and raffles at the event.
She said she wants the money to go toward families and cancer patients, “so kids don’t have to deal with this.”
Amaya was diagnosed with leukemia in September 2013, causing her to trade time horseback riding, dancing and doing gymnastics for time in a hospital wing at Hasbro Children’s Hospital.
She recalled having to deal with needles in her body during treatments, but also remembered the stress she witnessed parents at the hospital go through, knowing their children had cancer.
“I want to be able to give them something, because I’ve been through it and I know what it’s like,” the 10-year-old said.
In November 2013, Amaya was officially in remission, said Carla Mulhern, development director at The Tomorrow Fund. Mulhern called Amaya a “rock star,” explaining that Amaya is constantly giving back and going above and beyond.
Amaya’s mother, Erin, said her daughter organizes different events and hosts parties at Hasbro every few months to help get her friends out of their rooms on the 5th floor of the hospital, an area where cancer patients stay.
Erin said they’ll host events like “Christmas in July” celebrations and a carnival in February, and said the family tries to organize quarterly parties to keep spirits high.
Amaya said when she was in the hospital, the support of her friends and family helped her push through the most trying days.
“My family was really by my side at that time, and they always will be,” she said.
“I’ve lost a lot of my friends on the way,” Amaya said, explaining that cancer has claimed their lives.
Despite these hardships, Amaya continues to work on what she loves: horseback riding.
Prospect Hill owner Alicia Cugini-Muscatelli of Smithfield said, “She’s made amazing strides in a very short period of time.”
Erin said Amaya was recently ranked as number one in her division, and claimed the “reserve champion” title in Connecticut. Amaya got back on horses after her battle with cancer about a year ago, she said, and had to start “back at the beginning.”
Nonetheless, Amaya said, it felt great to be back riding horses.
The 3rd-grade student at Saint Mary School in Cranston said, “I feel like I’m getting stronger, and I can do more,” now that her bones are strengthening.