Young Rider to Watch: Hayley Waters

By Emily Glass
HITS Horse Shows

Eighteen-year-old Ocala resident Hayley Waters has been in the show ring since lead line but most recently took the spotlight when she won the $34,000 HITS Jumper Classic (FEI) during HITS Ocala V, FEI Nations Cup Week. Waters returned to the winners circle Week VII to take the top spot in the $5,000 NAL Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic Medium and stacked the leader board taking first and second in the $10,000 Friday Prix during Week VIII, and for many, Hayley’s glory filled season means much more than another blue ribbon.

“Watching Hayley win the FEI class, I envisioned lead line, short stirrup, small ponies – all the things she had done right here on these show grounds. It was nostalgic for me,” said proud mom Dana Waters. “She has worked very seriously over the last couple of years and it has been so fulfilling for me to watch her succeed.”

After deferring her first year of college to chase ambitions of a career in show jumping, Waters now spends most of the year in Marion County, learning the ins-and-outs of the business from her parents Chuck and Dana Waters of Waterworks Farm.

(c) ESI Photography
Rider to watch: Hayley Waters

“Her father has a lot of knowledge to impart and when you’re running from school and finishing homework, you don’t always have time to hear that. Now, she does,” continued Dana. “I tell her, ‘If you have a passion and you are making a living doing what some people consider a hobby, you’ve got the world made’.”

Four years ago Waters began training with Daniel Damen and within the last two years, she has achieved a number of accomplishments including a Bronze podium finish at the 2013 North American Junior and Young Riders Championship in the team competition and eighth place in the 2014 Bayer's Legend $250,000 Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Prix at the HITS Championship in Saugerties, New York. Much like her fellow peers, at the beginning of the 2015 show season Waters set her sights on the prize – a return trip to HITS Championship in Saugerties, New York.

With modest dreams and a vibrant personality, it’s clear that Waters is something special, and her competitors couldn’t agree more. “I’ve watched Hayley since she was on ponies. It’s really nice to see her come this far so quickly. She a great up-and-coming young rider,” said Alex Granato after placing second behind Waters in the FEI Jumper Classic.

(c) ESI Photography

Here’s a closer look at Hayley Waters:

HITS: When did you start riding and when did it become more than a hobby?
HW: Both of my parents are in the horse business so it just happened. I’ve definitely gotten more serious in the past year. I decided to take my first year of college off to focus on riding. It’s easier now to make riding my priority. I ride all day.

How would you describe your riding style?
I think it’s important to take risks. If it’s a class that is important to you and you want to win, you should try to figure out where you can risk it. I think you should do what’s best for the horse. I try to put what’s best for them before anything else.

What does your show schedule look like for the rest of the year?
I’m planning on doing the Vetera® XP Vaccines $250,000 Junior/Amateur-Owner /A-O Jumper Prix in Saugerties this Fall. I’m making that my priority.

What are your plans in the years to come?
I’m looking forward to bigger classes. Next year, I’d like to do one of the $1 Million Grand Prix.

Who do you look up to in the sport?
Laura Kraut and Beezie [Madden]. During Nations Cup week, I had the opportunity to talk to Laura after the $34,000 FEI Jumper Classic and she was really nice.

When you’re not riding what are you doing?
I went to High School in Ocala so I have a number of friends here that I hang out with when the show isn’t in town. I don’t really have much of a life besides horses though.

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