BY TYLER BUI
Hayley Hewitt is a 14-year-old junior rider currently ranked in the top 10 of the THIS National Children’s Medal standings. Most recently, she took the top spot in the THIS Children’s Medal during the fourth week of the 2022 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington, FL. She began riding at age five and recently transitioned from the pony hunters to the junior hunters and equitation.
“When I was five years old, there was one weekend where my Mom and I had wanted to do something fun together. I loved to draw when I was a kid, and I had been drawing a lot of horses, so my mom and I drove up to New York, and many horses and 10 years later, here we are,” says Hewitt.
She trains with Chance Arakelian out of Ox Ridge Farm and owns small, medium and large ponies. She also leases Martel, a bay gelding that doubles as her junior hunter and equitation horse. Hewitt says that the move up to horses was not planned, but she is glad it happened.
“I was still doing the pony hunters during my first season at WEF. One day, a horse came to the barn for someone else—I was the kid that would get put on all the horses to see how they’d go, and I got on this horse and it was really fun,” she says. “I had never ridden a real equitation horse before, and my trainer let me show him that weekend. I also had never jumped over 2’6” at a show before, but I moved up on him. My first ever class moving up was actually the THIS Children’s Medal. From there, we decided to lease the horse for the winter circuit, and that’s how I moved up into the equitation.”
Hewitt has some impressive wins under her belt, including the Championship in the Large Green Pony Hunter division at USEF Pony Finals in 2021, as well as multiple championships in the 3’3” Junior Hunters, Childrens Hunters, and Pony Hunters at various shows including WEF, Lake Placid Horse Shows, and Saratoga Horse Shows. However, Hewitt doesn’t measure her accomplishments through her ribbons.
“Personally, it’s not about just winning. Winning is not the accomplishment; rather it’s [feeling good about my ride],” she says. “At Capital Challenge, it was my first time showing there, and I was going mostly just to get the experience. I wasn’t qualified for the WCHR Challenge, because I hadn’t been showing the horse in those classes for that long, but I went in the ring and my first round was not good. I was pretty upset, but the second round I ended up getting third out of a huge class, and I was thrilled with that. From there, I found out that I qualified for the Challenge with that third, and I ended up getting third in the Challenge as well.”
Hewitt loves competing in equitations classes, especially the THIS National Children’s Medal.
“I always find that I perform better in equitation classes. My horse is a hunter, but he does well in the equitation too,” says Hewitt. “I like the equitation, because I have to think more. Especially in the THIS test, I have to think about every step I am taking, and pay twice as much attention to what is happening. That’s what I love about the Taylor Harris Medal, because the tests are challenging and fun.”
Hewitt was featured as the THIS #MedalMonday rider of the week in January for her THIS Children’s Medal win at WEF Premier. Hewitt took the top spot in the THIS Children’s Medal once again during WEF 5 on Fifth Avenue, after only riding the gelding once before.
“We were giving my horse the week off, and my friend was coming down for Week 6 and hadn’t shown in a while. It worked out that I needed a horse and her horse needed to get in the ring,” says Hewitt. “The first time I got on him was the day before our win in the THIS. I wasn’t going into the ring expecting anything, and he just knew exactly what his job was. I had so much fun, it’s always so fun riding a new horse, it’s so exciting and rewarding.”
For the future, Hewitt hopes to maintain consistency while she competes in the THIS Children’s Medal, the junior hunters, and other equitation classes, and she is looking forward to indoor finals in the fall.
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