Girl's passion for horses leads to Olympic dreams

Horses and girls seem to go together but Hayley Douglas, a 17-year-old Carson Valley resident, is taking her passion a few steps further. She wants to be on the Olympic team.

"I love everything about the sport," she said. "It's an adrenaline rush every time I send my horse over a jump."

She's been riding about five years and now practices five days a week. She works indoors in the winter and competes from April through October, primarily in California.

In that time, she's accumulated 161 ribbons, many of those champion or reserve champion, said her trainer, Barbara Slade.

"Hayley aspires to be a horse woman," she said. "She studies ground work and body work, the complete picture."

Right now she's jumping 3 feet 6 inches. She's taken her share of tumbles but no serious injuries, Hayley said.

"Four feet is not that far away and five feet will come some time in the future," she said. "Mom gets nervous, but some day I'll do it."

She talks about the sport as she adjusts the bridle on Silver, her Irish thoroughbred gelding. Last year, she fell off the horse and got stepped on, but she doesn't really blame him.

"I hung on. You're not supposed to do that," she said. "I got dragged under my horse's hind foot and he stepped on my stomach."

A trip to the emergency room showed no serious injuries from the fall. She was sore, but three days later the pair won a competition, she said.

"When I saw him again after the accident, he seemed so happy to see that I was OK," she said. "But he was looking at me with these big, sad eyes."

Hayley will be a senior at Douglas High School next year. She has striking blue eyes and a few strands of blonde hair trail down her neck from under her riding helmet.

"When I walk in the barn, the horses stick their heads out with ears up," she said. "You know they love you."

Silver was a champion on the jumping circuit who regularly jumped four feet, but he had been used hard for years. When he was purchased for Hayley, his feet were bad and he had joint problems. It was Hayley's love and devotion that brought him back, said Barbara Slade.

"He was really grumpy," Hayley said. "We did ground work, but he was stiff and uncomfortable. He wasn't well."

To get him back in shape, Hayley started working him without riding him, then started taking him over poles on the ground. The ride seems effortless now, as the pair breezes around her arena.

"Eventually, he turned around," she said. "One of the biggest challenges is keeping your horse happy. Once they're happy, it's a breeze to get them running and going."

Hayley said she will never be without horses again. She has college plans and is considering Arizona State, the University of Arizona or Sweet Briar College in Virginia, a school with a great equestrian team.

Some students from there have been chosen for the Olympic team, she said.

• Contact reporter Susie Vasquez at or 782-5121, ext. 211.


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