For a young rider with dreams of an international career, the big breaks are few and hard to come by. So it’s easy to understand 17-year-old Haley Curry’s excitement when just this December, she was named to the Emerging Athlete Eventing 18 list by USEF’s Eventing High Performance Committee—just one of a handful of junior riders from around the country that USEF designates as having the potential to evolve into future team candidates.
It’s an achievement Haley has earned thanks to a combination of hard work and talent, making a name for herself aboard her 14-year-old Irish Sporthorse, Resolute Protector, in top five 2016 finishes at the Preliminary level and with her second place result at the Poplar Place Farm CIC* in March.
Today, Haley trains full-time in Florence, Alabama, where she is honing her eventing craft and more under the tutelage of Candace Bell. Here are a few things Haley has learned from Candace along the way.
Horses always come first is one lesson that Candy has drilled into me. After every ride and even throughout the day, she’s taught me to check the horse over and make sure everything seems reasonable and normal. With consistency, this has become an everyday habit, but it has also made me able to quickly assess what is normal or abnormal behavior for a horse.
2. Getting the most out of horses.
Candy knows horses so well. She is able to see what a ride will be like just by watching a horse warm-up most of the time. Acknowledging the horse and rider as a whole, she helps to build confidence in the horse, which in turn, rewards the rider.
3. Managing fear.
Fear is healthy, panic is not. There will always be something to be fearful of and Candy takes that fear and channels it toward the end goal. I used to panic when performing and instead of trying to calm me down, she put me into more shows and more intense training sessions in order to help me resolve it.
4. Walking the course.
Candy always says, “Walk it like you’re riding it.” Jumping is a complex test that you must prepare and study for. In addition to what you know about jumping, you must also incorporate your knowledge of dressage to make the course a clear and comfortable fit for both horse and rider.
5. Being a good teammate.
Watching Candy around the barn, you can see she forms a bond with all the horses, especially her own. Since our sport involves an animal we cannot directly communicate with, she strongly believes that the horse and rider must understand each other and have confidence in each other in order to build a trusting partnership.
6. Winning is relative.
Winning seems like the biggest victory one could accomplish—but the downside to that is losing. Candy makes sure I understand that riders are always winning; we get to wake up every morning doing what we love with a partner who loves us equally if not more.
7. Making the best out of a bad ride.
Getting a great ride in is thrilling, but getting a bad ride can really tear you down. Whenever this happens, Candy discusses the good that came out of the situation. For example, the reason different things happened during a ride and how they could be prevented or improved the next time around.
8. Patience is a virtue.
Candy makes sure I understand that patience is the biggest virtue when it comes to thriving in this sport. Sometimes difficulties get in the way, but you just have to have a little faith in yourself and keep moving forward.
9. Aiming high.
Having goals is very important to Candy. She always makes sure we have something to strive for. And once you reach your goal, it’s important to aim even higher and keep on pursuing.
10. Staying humble.
Candy finds ways, without realizing it, to remind me where I came from and where I am going. This passion inside me is fueled by my love for the sport, but also by my love for my family and friends. Without their support, I strongly believe that I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Written by Nina Fedrizzi
Nina Fedrizzi spends her days writing about horse sport, food, and travel. She began her career at Travel + Leisure and is a former editor at NF Style. When she's not tapping away on her MacBook, Nina can usually be found on a horse, sleuthing out the local pho, or refusing to unpack her carry-on. Watch her do all three on Instagram @ninafedrizzi.