By Avery Stewart of The Hunter & Jumper Blog
The 2014 show season was a great year for Hunter Holloway. The Topeka, Kansas, native placed top ten at each Indoor Equitation Finals, won tricolors on both of her Junior Hunters during Devon and represented USA on the Young Riders Tour in Germany.
Riding for her mother Brandi’s Equi-venture Farm, Holloway has built up a spectacular resume, with things like winning her first national grand prix at 12 years old. It comes as no surprise that she’s only added more to her already impressive list of accomplishments. The Hunter and Jumper had the opportunity to chat with the rising superstar about her impressive season, her history in the sport, and hopes for the future.
TPH: When did you start riding?
Hunter Holloway: I have ridden horses my whole life. From the moment I can remember, I’ve been on a horse. So, I could ride before I could walk, is what my mom says. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I’ll take it.
TPH: Winning your first Grand Prix at the age of 12, you’ve been successful on horses from starting at a young age. What horses or ponies gave you your start? Did you ever dabble in the Pony divisions?
HH: The first things I ever rode were two horses actually. One was a paint horse named Annie that had one lead. The other was Tank, this little brown school horse type. But on my sixth birthday I got a pony named Sleeping Beauty. She was my first fancy pony that I competed on. She was large pony, and I called her Muffin. When I got her, she had a red ribbon tied around her neck. Muffin was a pitch-black mare, so red always looked good on her and so I wore red ribbons when I showed her. I remember that perfectly.
TPH: You help your mom [Brandie Holloway] bring along top quality show horses at her very own, Equi-Venture Farm. What is it like to help develop, show, and sell these horses? What are the disadvantages and advantages of being born into the industry?
HH: I don’t think there’s any disadvantages for sure. But the only disadvantage I can say is everyone’s watching you. Everyone knows who you are, for sure. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, either.
It’s been amazing to work with so many great young horses. It teaches you a lot; It humbles you in ways that you never thought were possible. There is no time for an attitude, no time to get irritated, because you’re teaching them something they don’t know yet. Maybe you don’t know it yet, either.
But you have to be patient with them and make sure to take your time. You’ve got to make sure that they are on the right track, so they can be a successful horse. It’s pretty exciting to be able to say, “I taught that horse how to jump.” We’ve had so many nice young Jumpers coming up, and I’m excited to see how far they can go. Hopefully one of them, will be my world cup mount one day. It’s an amazing feeling to help develop these horses.
2014 Show Season
TPH: Devon to the National Horse Show, this past year you’ve become a household name. As well as a force in the show ring at only 15 years old. We’re you expecting to have such a wildly successful season?
HH: I was really hoping to. I mean, every year, you go out in the ring, and you try to win your hardest. I got lucky just to ride an amazing group of horses. And I have amazing support from everyone, great sponsors, and my mom backing me. She has always been a hundred percent behind me, has always found amazing horses and has been able to get the right people to buy those horses, so I could afford to ride and keep them.
TPH: Can you recap your  year for our readers?
HH: I went from Devon, and I had an amazing time. Had a little bad luck in the Eq, but I felt like I rode well. And the Jumpers were good, and the Hunters could not have been better. From Devon, I went on to Europe and did the Jumpers there. That was an amazing experience.
And I came back, and then, did a couple shows in Colorado, and worked for Anne [Kursinski] a little bit. After that, I just worked on my riding a lot basically. And hit indoors pretty hard. I opened up with a bang.
The Equitation was great; Sunny stepped in the last minute. That was a little unexpected, and I couldn’t have been more proud of the way he handled everything. He was amazing. He went from Grand Prix one week to Equitation the next and couldn’t have been better about it, so … I was very, very happy.
TPH: This summer you had the opportunity to compete on the US Young Riders team in Hagen, Germany. What was that experience like?
HH: That was pretty amazing. I did Yolo in the individual competition and rode the chestnut mare; I Love Lucy, in the team competition. That was my first time showing overseas, and it was Yolo’s first time too. I’ve ridden for teams before, but not for the US. So that was special for me to be able to go over there and ride on a team for my country.
Hunter Holloway switched onto Caitlin Boyle’s Loredo to finish 2nd in the W.I.H.S. Equitation Finals in 2014. Photo: Piper Klemm.
The Team, The Horses, and The Future
TPH: As well as training with your Mom [Brandie Holloway], you also train with Don Stewart. How did that come to be?
HH: I was twelve, just a little kid from Kansas, and my mom’s an amazing jumper rider, but Equitation isn’t that big in the Midwest. We all do it, but not to the extent that the East Coast does. So I went to USEF Medal Finals, and I don’t remember how exactly my mom ended up talking to Don. But I ended up talking to him, and I just enjoyed him. We clicked, so I took a lesson from him, and I thought he was the next greatest thing. And I’ve trained with him from that point on. He has been great with me and my horses, especially my Junior Hunters.
TPH: You showed one of your mother’s Grand prix mounts, Any Given Sunday (Sunny), during all three Indoor Equitation Finals (USEF, WIHS, and ASPCA Maclay). How did you and your team prepare Sunny for this transition?
HH: Sunny is an extremely special horse. I can just trust that he’s going to do the right thing. He’s going to go in the ring and be perfect. He rides amazing, and there was a transition, but it was a pretty simple one. He had to figure out his jumping levels since he was doing the Grand Prix before. But we didn’t do anything special. He just had to realize the jumps weren’t five foot.
TPH: Out of the Junior Hunters, Jumpers, and Equitation, which is your favorite to compete in, and why?
HH: Jumpers. But I love Equitation too. I think the Equitation is an amazing basis to help you become a fabulous, amazing Jumper or Hunter rider. Especially with the Jumpers, Equitation prepares you in a way for the big classes that you’ll compete in. And it helps you know how to handle that kind of pressure, like when you’re the anchor on the team and have to go in the ring last.
But the Jumpers are my favorite because I love jumping big, and I want to be able to represent my country some day in the Olympics. Or even on a nations cup team, to represent my country is an amazing thing. And the Jumpers allow you to do that.
TPH: Jimmy Torano said this about you and the other two, top three finishers of the WIHS Equitation Final: “All three of these kids [Hughes, Holloway, and Langmeier] will ride on the team, just watch” (Jimmy Torano, Chronicle of the Horse). How does that make you feel?
HH: Jimmy is an amazing rider, and especially coming from someone who judged the class, It’s an awesome feeling. When that’s your goal, and your people are also backing you and telling you can do it. It’s pretty exciting that other people believe in you as well.
TPH: Which rider has had the biggest influence on your riding style?
HH: My mom has been the most influential rider in my career. Being a tiny little kid, going to all these horse shows and watching my mom in the Grand Prix. You’re just kind of in awe, especially when it’s something you aspire to do one day.
TPH: We hear the term “horsemanship” a lot in this sport. What does “horsemanship” mean to you personally?
HH: I think it means caring for your horse and knowing your horse. As well as making sure everything’s done properly, and your horse is at the top of his game. Your priority is the horse.
TPH: Out of all of your mounts, including showing and developing horses, which one is your favorite to ride and which one do you find the most challenging?
HH: I really don’t have a favorite horse or one I find more difficult than the others. I think all of them are different in ways, and I love them all in different ways. I love the way YOLO makes you feel like you can jump anything. I love the way Lucy is so fiery, and she wants to win as bad as you do.
When you go out into the ring on Sunny, you can tell you’re on an amazing horse. You get on him, and you’re just like “oh my god this is amazing.” You go over a jump, and it’s so easy for him. But I never disliked a horse I’ve gotten on. And I can’t say that I find one more difficult than the other. I love them all, and I enjoy riding them all.
TPH: Especially coming so close to winning the 2014 ASPCA Maclay, what have you learned from this year’s season and how will it affect your approach to next year?
HH: When I went into the ring, I was thinking not to doubt myself. So to come that close, gives a big confidence boost.
Riding-wise, you live, and you learn. I think, regarding next year, that this gives me more gumption to go out there and give it my all, so I can come back and win it.
TPH: What are your goals for next year? What are you hoping to accomplish? Are there any horse shows that you really want to go to?
HH: I think we really want to go to WEF (FL) this year, which will be my first time. I’d like to do the CSI Young Riders Grand Prix Series and Nations Cup. I’d love to represent the US in that.
I think we’re going to attend Spruce Meadows (Calgary) this year. I’ve never been to Spruce either. And then I’ve qualified for Young Riders(KY) every year, but I’ve never been able to go. So I would really like to do NAJYRC. And I also hope to move up to the bigger Grand Prixs and Night Classes in 2015.
TPH: As a rising star in this sport, what advice can you give your fans?
HH: Never give up on your dreams. I think you can do anything if you put your mind to it. And never stop believing in yourself. Each time you go into the ring give a hundred percent and keep working hard. Eventually, you’ll get there. Hard work beats talent. The ones that are out there working longer and putting in the work are going to make it. So never doubt yourself, just keep trying and keep working hard.
Hunter and Brandi spend the day with young riders Sammi Meyer and Hannah Loeffelbein at a Lake St. Louis Horse Show in 2014.