Stay updated with all the latest stories, news and FEI events across the globe.
One such athlete is 19 year-old Hannah Weightman from New Jersey and is currently a freshman at Stockton University majoring in business. Her career plan is to enter the business side of the equestrian world.
When Hanna was eight years old, her parents signed her up for summer pony camp. She spent six years riding at a local eventing barn before being introduced to Hugh and Holly MacDonald, also of Shamong. The MacDonald’s offered Hanna a young Morgan gelding named Gomez to train.
“While riding at Holly’s I was introduced to trail riding and started to compete in competitive trail rides,” Hanna recalls. “During the time I spent at Holly’s I have learned so much about horse care, hard work, and responsibility. My work with Gomez has built my confidence on the ground and in the saddle.”
Hugh and Holly also introduced Hanna to Meg Sleeper of Frenchtown, New Jersey, who is an international Endurance competitor, and veterinary cardiologist at the University of Florida. “I thought it was the coolest thing that I was riding one of her horses in 2014, I really look up to her as a rider, vet, and friend,” Hanna says.
Hanna’s first FEI ride was the Greenway Getaway in Dunnellon, Florida. She rode the 50 on Meg’s horse Syrocco Rabia (Rabi). She completed a 50-mile ride the day before on Syrocco Harmony (Harmon) as well. Of her 11 FEI rides, she completed nine of them, and was first in six of them. She’s competed throughout the East Coast, in Kentucky, and Ontario, Canada.
I asked Hanna about the hardest part of Endurance. “To be completely honest, getting up at 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning is the hardest part. Once you get past that, 75 miles is cake,” she jokingly says.
On a more serious note, she adds; “The most challenging part about Endurance is the perseverance it takes. There will be bumps in the road, lame horses, and pulls, but you have a stay focused and not give up.”
Hanna continues to ride with Meg, and competes several of her horses, and perseverance has paid off for her. In 2014 she rode Rabi in the North American Young Rider Championship (NAYRC) and won the individual silver medal. Then, she rode Valerie Kanavy’s horse Gold Bandit to an individual gold medal finish in the young rider division at the 2015 North American Endurance Team Challenge (NAETC).
Hanna credits her extensive team with supporting her every step of the way. “Meg Sleeper and Dave Augustine for allowing me to ride amazing horses and giving me so many incredible opportunities. My parents, as they support me every step of the way and push me to be the best I can be,” she says. “Hugh and Holly MacDonald for introducing me to Meg, the sport, and taking time out of their busy schedules to educate me, and keep me on track with my riding career. Dan Hoffman, Pamela Williams and Gina Weismann are the best riding buddies I could ever ask for. And my boyfriend Randy, who has jumped right into my crazy, horse-filled life and comes to every ride with me to help.”
Gomez is still in the picture too. Hanna competes him in Dressage and limited distance rides. Her future goals are to represent the United States at a world competition, perhaps the FEI World Equestrian Games or the Young Rider World Endurance Championship. Hanna also knows how busy life gets, and says that as she gets older, her goal is to have a schedule that allows her to continue riding.
“Riding FEI Endurance has done so much for me,” Hanna concludes. “It has allowed me to travel to other states and countries to ride or support the country’s top riders.
“I had the amazing opportunity to go to France for the World Equestrian Games in 2014 and support our riders. I have been able to travel up and down the east coast and visit places I never thought I would.
“I have built a network of friends that share the same love for horses that I do. I was able to ride at the NAJYRC in 2014 and in Canada at NAETC in 2015. Without the network FEI has given me, I would not have had the chance to experience all of these amazing things.
“I have also met many people who I look up to, and they help me grow as a rider and a person.”
Text by Stacey Stearns
Images from Hannah Weightman & Family, Social Media