It’s no secret here that I am a big fan of hunter derbies. A highlight this year in me living vicariously through my other horsey friends was when a former NCSU equestrian teammate, Lauren, qualified and competed in the 2013 Hunter Derby Finals. I ‘liked’ every picture on Facebook, and smiled when I read her solid scores reported by equestrian sites. When I started dreaming up the ‘real equine pros’ series, Lauren was a perfect choice to interview!
Who are you and what do you do? 🙂
My name is Lauren Hill and I manage my family’s Seaborne Farm in Creedmoor, NC. I am a USHJA certified instructor and teach riding lessons to kids and adults as well as take them to horse shows on our local NCHJA circuit as well as USEF/USHJA rated shows in NC, SC, VA, and MD. I also have a number of horses in training at the farm that are ridden weekly. There is a breeding program on the farm as well, which involves managing pregnant mares and taking the foals from birth to the show ring. For those of you who have never raised a horse, there is a lot in between there!
At what point in your life and education did you realize that you were going to work with horses as a career?
When I graduated from High School I did not want to go to college, all I wanted to do was ride and show horses. So I got a job and did just that, competed my own horse and then a borrowed horse in the Adult Amateurs for 4 years accomplishing many accolades along the way. Soon it came to my attention that 1) all my friends were having fun in college and 2) all the saddle time in the world was not going to teach me how to run a business if I was ever going to make a career out of riding and teaching professionally. Then came my time at the NC State Agricultural Institute to earn degrees in Agricultural Business Management and Livestock Management. Now I was ready to run a business and luckily my parents had a farm that said business could be run out of, then Lauren Hill Equestrian, Inc. was born.
Teaching is full of long hours and hard work. What’s a moment where you sat back and thought, “Oh yeah, this is definitely worth it.” ?
I love the horses, and more than the horses, I love the kids that come for their riding lessons every week. It’s the highlight of their week… heck, it’s the highlight of some of their lives! They write me the nicest cards and draw me the cutest pictures, the young ones give me huge hugs and tell me I have made their dreams come true. That makes every drop of sweat in the summer and every layer of clothing piled on in the winter worth it. They REALLY appreciate everything I do for them and it shows.
As a lifelong student, I have made a lot of excuses during lessons. What’s the best/worst excuse you’ve ever heard from a student?
Best – from a 10 year old “Mrs. Lauren, I just saw a huge bolt of lightning, I really want to finish my lesson, but think its not safe for us to be out here”
Worst – from a college student when asked to sit up and straighten her back, “I just cant, I slept on my friends couch last night and I’m a little hung over”
The best song or playlist for practicing no stirrup work – go!
Girl on Fire – Alicia Keys
Tornado – Little Big Town
Dive By – Train
Roar – Katie Perry
Blaze of Glory – Bon Jovi
What was the most valuable part of your education that prepared you for your current career?
Working at State Farm Insurance and earning business and management degrees at NCSU. College taught me how to run a business, and working in an office taught me how to communicate with people which is very important in the equine industry.
There’s a lot of chat about the weak future of American riding and the state of the sport here in the US. Working directly with young students and showing a lot, what is your impression about “the state of things”?
Riding horses is a luxury. People do what they can afford, some of my students only take once-a-week lessons on one of my horses and some students lease or own and show. We compete more at the local level as it is more affordable. The local or “C” rated shows are HUGE in NC. They are more well attended than the USEF “A” rated shows in NC. I feel like no matter what happens with the state of the “sport” there are always going to be little girls coming for their riding lessons each week. I just do what I can to support American riding by being a part of as much as I can, be it the upper or lower levels.
Please help all of us who never know what to get our trainers for Christmas (like probably the 1 millionth horse shaped object for their house) – what’s a really nice token of appreciation you appreciate?
A gift certificate to Dover or SmartPak is always appreciated. Then it can be used for clothing, horse health, equipment, etc.
You just competed in the International Hunter Derby Finals – is that just as fantastic of an experience as we all think it is?
Yes! Qualifying and competing at the championships was amazing! I was very fortunate to have the help of Ron Danta, a member of the USHJA International Hunter Derby task force as well as Danny Robertshaw, who is a lifetime achievement award winner and all around amazing horseman at most of the qualifying shows. Since they could not help me at finals, (Mr. Robertshaw judging and Mr. Danta keeping things running smoothly) Harold Chopping (who was also a competitor) lent me his advice while we walked the beautiful course. More than anything I have my wonderful horse Fuerst Felicity to thank. She is one of the bravest horses I have ever ridden, and what she may lack in style, she makes up in heart. Having the opportunity to ride in Rolex Stadium around the amazing course alongside world class riders and horses was just surreal!
What advice do you have to a young student or adult amateur rider to help them accomplish a hard, long term goal like qualifying and competing in a major final?
You never stop learning. Take lessons, ride in clinics, audit clinics, and read books. Know the rules and make a game plan to have yourself and your horse fit and ready to compete to win. Even if your best round may not beat the best horse, in the end your just competing with yourself. And most of all have FUN!