Michael Hughes: Growing Up HITS
Twenty-year-old Michael Hughes has been showing with HITS for fifteen years and he doesn’t plan on stopping. Like many young riders, Hughes knew early on that he needed to choose between a typical life and a life of show jumping. “I had to make a choice,” he says. “Either I wanted to ride or I didn’t want to ride.” He chose to ride.
10-year-old Hughes at HITS Post Time Farm with dad Eamon Hughes
By the time he was in the fourth grade, Hughes was spending his winter months enrolled in the on-site HITS Education Station at Post Time Farm, where he joined other young riders completing their schoolwork between trips to the ring. He didn’t mind school, but he didn’t miss home. “Most of my friends were at the horse show,” he explains. By 7th grade, Hughes had joined many promising young riders in taking his classes online. “I would get a lot of schoolwork done on Mondays,” he says – up to three weeks’ worth at a time.
The hard work paid off. In 2014, he won the FEI Young Riders Nations Cup, where he was one of only two riders to put in a double clear performance.
Michael Hughes and Luxina on their way to a 2014 win in the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prixat HITS Ocala.
Some people graduate from high school and go straight to college. Michael Hughes went to Europe. He has showed in Belgium, France, and Germany, learning a “tiny bit of German” and experiencing the world of international professional showjumping. But a lifetime of riding can be lonely. Many people Hughes’ age leave the horse show circuit after their careers as juniors end. Hughes, however, has been able to build a family and lifelong friendships at the shows. When they are showing, he says, “everyone is a team 24/7.”
Hughes spent most of his formative years around horses and it shows
By now, most HITS exhibitors are used to hearing Michael Hughes’ name. He credits his success to his upbringing. “I had a lot of good horses and a lot of success,” he says. “That’s how I knew something would come of this.” His family has been supportive, helping him take advantage of the many opportunities he was offered. Now, Hughes lives like most equestrians: rising early, heading to the barn, and riding whatever horse comes his way. “Everything just keeps coming,” he says, laughingly describing the whirlwind of activity is familiar to every HITS exhibitor.
Hughes, who now rides for Missy Clark, is proud of the life of show jumping he has built for himself. And, so far, it has been a successful one – just last Sunday, Hughes won the $75,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix at HITS-on-the-Hudson.
Michael Hughes and Sans Soucis Z on their way to a $75,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix win at HITS-on-the-Hudson.