Meet 2017's TJC Elite Athlete February 27 2017 1 Comment

Hayley with horse Picasso

We are beyond excited to introduce to you and the world, our 2017 TJC Elite Athlete: Haley Berget. Haley represents so many of the things we love about the equine industry: passion, dedication, joy and grit. We sat down with Haley and talked to her about her sport.

What type of riding do you do?

I ride Saddle Seat and the American Saddlebred 14-17 Pleasure Equitation where the judge judges me on my form while riding.

Horse riding on the whole is a big industry in the US, but saddle seat is only a small piece of the market. If someone is interested in riding and don’t know what kind, why would you encourage them to ride saddle seat?

Saddle seat is so different from everything else, in many ways because it is a smaller industry.  We’re all a family, everyone is super nice and there’s a great sense of community and support so it’s an awesome environment to grow up in.

A lot of folks who don’t ride think of as more a hobby than a sport. What would you tell those folks?

Horseback riding is absolutely a sport, in fact it’s more of a team sport than most people realize, because you’re working within a team, you and the animal. The horse has its own will and its own emotions. You’re teammate is big and bold. You have to bond with your horse like you do with, say, your soccer team if you want to perform well.  We put in a lot of time to get that bond with our horse and get our form and physical fitness together to perform our best.  I’m even homeschooling this year to ensure I can put the time and resources into practicing and ensuring I can perform at my best for my partner.

How many times a week do you ride?

I ride at least six times a week, usually two-a-days, three days per week.

Young Hayley on Dudley

How old were you when you started riding?

I was seven when I started riding seriously at Knollwood Farm, but I started “riding” practically when I was born at my cousin’s farm. My mom would hold me and we would walk around then she would run next to me while we trotted. My earliest memory of being on horseback was on my cousin’s mini horse.  I always remember trotting and trying to get it to canter around the pasture, but instead it would just run away and do what it wanted to.

Who are your biggest fans?

My parents and family for sure.  My aunt and uncle always call me after every show and ask me how it went. My parents do whatever it takes for me to get out to the barn or get me into the show ring.  They will do anything for me which is amazing

Hayley on Robert

Who is your Equine Partner and what are some of their challenges?

Robert aka Rosewood’s Homecoming Dance was my 2016 partner. He was new to the whole equitation scene so he sometimes had his own ideas about patterns or the class. We just worked through it!

We understand that you don’t know who you’re riding yet for 2017. How are you feeling?

It’s kind of scary not knowing, but it’s fun to ride a new horse each year and have the challenge of learning a new horse each year since they are all different, but learning a new horse and meshing with them at the end of the year is a great feeling.

What are some of the biggest challenges in improving yourself and your ability?

When I first started riding I wasn’t very confident in myself.  As I continue to ride I’m becoming more confident.  I still have a couple things to fix, like my toes and being more pushy, but now I’m able to handle it and let my horse do what it needs to do.

Hayley with Saddle

This year you’ll be riding in TJC Elite Show Jods. How they feeling so far?

I love them, they’re super comfortable and easy to ride in.  They’re really nice and fuzzy on the inside which is great for gripping the saddle.

What are some of your riding goals for 2017?

A good year is finishing all your classes in one piece, and feeling on the most part like you had good rides.  A big goal for me is making my trainers happy.  I don’t care about the ribbon, but I want them to be happy with my ride and how I control the horse.

What motivates you to keep riding?

I’m always motivated to just do better than my last ride. That keeps me motivated to keep progressing and getting better.

What is your most special riding memory to date?

I always remember when I rode Nugget (Diamond Market) in 2015. That year I won a national championship in an 18 and under class as a 13-year-old and one of the youngest people in the class. I’m still in shock that it happened. I was shaking and crying with happiness, but it’s a memory that keeps me motivated.