‘Be Available to Learn:’ Hunter Holloway’s Life Beyond the Equitation Ring

‘Be Available to Learn:’ Hunter Holloway’s Life Beyond the Equitation Ring

Three years ago, Hunter Holloway bade farewell to a stellar junior career. But not before imprinting her resume with an impressive final season, which included a win in the ASPCA Maclay National Championship, victory at the Washington International Horse Show Equitation Championship, and first place at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show U25 Jumper Championship. Talk about going out on a good note! Known as one of the winningest junior riders long destined for greatness (she won her first grand prix at age 12), Hunter is now carving out her place as a professional in the industry, and she’s jumped feet first into this new phase of her career.

Now 21 years old, Hunter has taken over the family business and is balancing her own riding goals with those of her clients. With the memories of a standout junior career still fresh and knowing her clear intentions to “make it” as a professional, one might wonder if Hunter feels the pressure to succeed. The answer is yes, but she doesn’t feel pressure from the onlookers, the media, or the railbirds watching and waiting to see what happens. Whatever pressure she feels is that which she puts upon herself.

“I am very competitive and driven, and pressure in any aspect is always there. That’s not something that has changed for me, but the pressure to be successful and strive to be my best is always there,” Hunter says.

Still, she was well prepared to make the big transition from junior to professional. She grew up on the back of a horse and under the tutelage of her mother, Brandie Holloway. She rode countless different types of horses in equitation, hunters, and jumpers throughout her younger years. Perhaps more importantly, Hunter mastered the intricate ins and outs of managing a professional stable while working alongside her mom at the family’s Equi-Venture Farm in Topeka, Kansas.

"It takes a village and we have a darn good one."

With that ingrained knowledge, Hunter is carrying the family legacy forward while operating under her new business name, Hunter Holloway Stables. Meanwhile, Brandie has taken a step back from the demanding commitments of the horse world to focus on Hunter’s younger brothers, who prefer the football field over the barn. “They think the horses are big.”

Hunter says of Brandie’s supporting role today, “She has a more motherly role now. Of course, when the horse shows are close to home she makes an effort to come and help. She left the business on my shoulders in that aspect of things. She and my stepdad are remodeling houses now so her career has changed. I assume in the next couple years we’ll see her make a return back.” (Horses for life, Brandie. Horses. For. Life.)

It’s busy days back at the barn as the business has a hand in many different projects; from teaching lessons to pony riders and amateur adults, breeding (they have three to four foals every year), training young horses, sales, and showing.

Don't let a bad day in the ring get you down.

“We do it all. That’s the biggest struggle I have, is to balance it all with my career as well and to keep the focus on where I want to go, which is riding for the [U.S.] Team. I’m trying to make sure I make time for that and always keep it in mind,” Hunter says. “I couldn’t do it without everyone backing me. It takes a village and we have a darn good one.”

Hunter has a lot of balls in the air, but she is dedicated to helping her clients realize their own dreams, too. Carefully considering the calendar, Hunter will highlight a selection of major shows to take her FEI horses to along with clients who also want to attend (for instance, a big summer trip might by a two-week stay at Spruce Meadows). Then she returns home and hits smaller, more convenient shows with the riders who want to stay more local. “We alternate like that. That’s the trick. That’s the balance.”

“Make sure whatever path you want to take that you stay dedicated to it.”

After a busy summer, Hunter will take a break from showing her own horses at the big events to focus on her clients at home. Then a big gang of them will load up and head to sunny Florida to hit the Wellington circuit for winter.

She's so far had a promising year with her heavy hitter mounts, like VDL Bravo S, Eastern Jam, Lucky Strike, and Silver Creek's Validation, along with younger horses, some of which are homebreds ready to find their niche and start their own careers. The ultimate goal is to earn the wins, climb the ranks, and get named to Nations Cup teams.

Hunter may have had a leg up learning the nitty-gritty of running a professional barn alongside her mom, but she’s never taken that opportunity for granted. She always knew that horses were her future, but she still made the effort to get good grades. Education and learning have always been something she’s taken very seriously, and she attempts to impart that on her younger students.

Now is your chance to learn from the best.

“I try to make sure we have time for school. I’m not their mother but I’m not going to put up with it either. I’m going to back the parents and say, ‘get your school work done so you can have fun and enjoy the horses’. You have to balance it. I was lucky enough I was able to graduate a year early from high school but that’s because I was working hard at home,” Hunter says.

Having had the junior experience many young riders can only dream of and then seamlessly transitioning into the next phase of her career, what is Hunter’s advice for others who hope to follow in her footsteps?

“Be available to learn and push yourself to learn whatever you can,” she says. “Make sure whatever path you want to take that you stay dedicated to it.”

Read this next: 'I Never Thought I'd Have the Horse or the Ability': What It's Really Like Jumping in Your First Grand Prix

Photography by Sportfot.

Written by Hossein Maleki

Having grown up on horseback, Leslie Threlkeld, Managing Editor at NOËLLE FLOYD, treasures her career in the equestrian industry as a writer, photographer, and eventing technical delegate. Leslie thrives on frequent travel but never tires of returning home to the serene mountains of North Carolina.