Showcasing Young Talent: Haley Webster

By Zazou Hoffman and Jackie McFarland

Haley Webster
Riding as a fourteen-year-old this year, Haley is one of the west coast’s aspiring stars. She trains with Patty Ball in Northern California most of the year and is certainly a self-starter. Haley even has her own web site and sponsors. Similar to Zazou’s experience as a junior, Haley is working hard to earn every winning experience – from working student opportunities to clinics as well as in the show ring. Haley went to WEF this past winter to ride with Missy Clark and John Brennan of North Run Farm. Zazou, who spent many a winter in Wellington with North Run, interviewed her about the experience.

ZH: Tell us a little about your junior career.
I am lucky that I have two horses to show, one is leased and the other was my mom’s (now mine). They both compete in the big equitation, so it’s nice because they never have too many classes. I have always done the medals and I will continue pursuing medal final goals plus start doing jumper classes.

ZH: What were your impressions of WEF? What are the big differences between showing in California and Florida?
HW: WEF was absolutely amazing! The show grounds are beautiful. It’s hard to describe in words how impressed I was… The competition in Florida is definitely tough. Everyone is starting out his or her qualifying year, so a winning round in the equitation would likely be a score in the 90’s.

ZH: How did you manage school and showing?
I actually started home schooling last year to allow more time for riding and shows. My parents and I love this program offered by our school district at home, Visions in Education. The teacher comes twice a month and is available by phone any time we need her. The online resources are wonderful as well. This flexibility has been a very positive experience for me so far.

I brought my schoolwork with me and since I wanted to focus on riding for the two weeks I was at WEF, I finished most of my homework on the plane!

ZH: So how did you end up working with Missy and John?
Through winning the RW Mutch Scholarship in 2009 I had the chance to ride with Karen Healey for two weeks, a great learning experience. I was looking for a chance to ride on the east coast, so Carol Coleman from the RW Mutch Foundation helped me get in touch with Missy. Working with Missy and John was an amazing opportunity. I learned so much, was given a chance to ride some of their horses and truly gained a lot from their knowledge.

ZH: What did you show in? What were the highlights?
I competed in the USEF, USET, WIHS Medal, and the ASPCA Maclay on a new horse of Missy’s, Conan. Very sweet, fun to ride – a really nice horse – the more I rode him the better we were as a team. I also showed a green horse in the children’s hunters both weeks.

ZH: Do you have a strategy for this year? What horse/horses are you working with?
This year my plan includes qualifying for all the medals and to get some good jumper miles. I am currently leasing Gobi, who can do the medals and the jumpers. My mom’s horse Moose turned out to be my horse. Last year I showed him in the junior hunters, medals and the equitation division. This year I am just showing him in the big medals. My first horse Belle, a great 3’ hunter and equitation horse, is currently for sale.

ZH: What advice do you have for other equitation riders who show on a budget?
Be a hard worker. Do everything you can to learn more. We are doing everything we can to make it through the show season on a budget. I do my own grooming, my mom braids, and my grandfather drives the horse trailer. Having a supportive family like mine plays a big role in making it all work.

Thanks so much for giving us a glimpse into your life. We wish you all the best in your aspirations, Haley.

A bit on Zazou:
In 2005 Zazou won the Ronnie Mutch Working Student Scholarship, which led to an association with respected East Coast trainers Missy Clark and John Brennan. Through a lot of hard work, commuting, juggling school and victories as well as defeats, Zazou culminated her junior career in 2009 by winning the prestigious ASPCA Medal Maclay Finals at the National Horse Show in Syracuse, New York.

In both 2007 and 2010 Zazou was one of ten elite riders chosen to ride in the Mastership Sessions with Olympic Chef d’Equipe George Morris in Wellington, Florida. She is back in her hometown of Santa Monica, California where she has turn