Riding Through Transitions
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“As I walked down the shoot for the horsemanship finals, a few tears rolled down my face knowing that was the last time I would show Reba in my favorite class,” Hailey recalls.

Transitions in the show pen are often expected and can be executed fairly easily.  However, transitions in life can take the form of many different things and can be perceived as a blessing or as a challenge. University of South Carolina Alumni, Hailey Thornton, has been through a whirlwind of transitions. The former Gamecock rode for her NCAA Equestrian team for four years, ranging from 2007 to 2011. Within those years, Hailey received many awards including MVP for the entire University of South Carolina equestrian team for the 2010-2011 season.

Riding for her University forced Hailey to transition from riding for her own personal accomplishment to working for an accomplishment for her team. “My job was always to go in and get my point for the team,” Hailey says. After she graduated from the University with a Bachelor’s degree in Retail Management, she found herself within another transition; coming back to Mishawaka, Indiana and to begin showing in AQHA Amateur All-Around events.

“My first show back I kept thinking the rest of the girls on the team were going to show up," she recalls. "It was so strange not having them there. Our team was a really close knit team and we did everything together so when I got to the show and they weren't there, it really hit me that I had graduated and was moving on.” She realized she was no longer riding for her team, but was once again riding for her reputation.

After reuniting with her horse, Assets Miss Reba, a 1997 bay mare, Hailey began working tirelessly to return to the same level she was in her youth career. According to Hailey, “It was a smooth transition because I appreciated my own horse a lot more.” Hailey bought Reba when she was 11 years old and the mare had just turned three. They grew up together and throughout their career, the team had accomplished many winnings, but most notably, a Congress Championship in 2006 in the Novice Youth 15-18 Trail and several Top Ten placings at the AQHA Youth World Championship in the Showmanship and Western Horsemanship events.

Coming back from a successful youth and collegiate career, the expectation to do well would seem daunting, but not for Hailey. “When I went back to showing for myself, I realized how confident it had made me," she said. "Now, if my horse isn't warming up the way I’m hoping for, I am able to adjust and figure out how to go in the pen and get the job done.”

That is precisely what the duo did. Hailey Thornton and Assets Miss Reba received Top Ten at the 2012 All American Quarter Horse Congress in Amateur Western Horsemanship and Hunt Seat Equitation and later, at the 2012 AQHA World Championship show, she received fifth in Horsemanship and eighth in Trail, with help and guidance from her trainer Jenell Pogue. Hailey recalls, “As I walked down the shoot for the horsemanship finals, a few tears rolled down my face knowing that was the last time I would show Reba in my favorite class.”

After a successful 2012, it is time for a permanent retirement for the 15 year old mare, but new beginnings and even more transitions are in store for Hailey. “I plan on making my debut on my new horse in December. I am already anticipating the emotion at the first show without Reba. It will be hard but I know she is happy and enjoying life.” Lazy Lopin Louis is a 2007 bay gelding who has “huge shoes to fill” according to Hailey. “It is going to be a long road of transitions but I am ready for the challenge.”

GoHorseShow wishes Hailey the best of luck on her upcoming show career and for many happy show years to come.

Photo © Jeff Kirkbride

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