Holly Hudspeth The Carolinas Equestrian 03 If you are at a horse trial in the Carolinas, it’s pretty certain you will see Holly Hudspeth running from dressage to stadium to cross country, corralling her many riders, of every level.  Holly has had a career that many little girls dream about, built out of hard work and determination, but at the end a dream come true.  She’s ridden with some of the best trainers around, competed at Rolex 7 times (placing twice), and was short listed for the Athens Olympics in 2004.

These days though, Holly and husband, Chuck, are focused on their 7-year-old daughter, Hailey, who much prefers dancing and soccer to barns and breeches, and that’s just fine with Holly, “the first few years were a struggle balancing parenthood and training duties, but we’ve made it work.  I have streamlined my training days.  I don’t want to miss a thing in Hailey’s life.”  For the past 10 years, Holly has been the head eventing trainer at Quail Roost Farm in Rougemont, NC.  Quail Roost, which is set on 400 acres, is owned by Carroll Stone and offers some of the best amenities around with a full cross-country course, 3 arenas, 5 barns and 80 acres of pasture space.

Holly Hudspeth The Carolinas Equestrian 01 Holly grew up in Minnetonka, Minnesota, in a “non-horsey” family, but she simply always loved horses.  Her parents bought her a former schooling horse, ‘Duke,’ when she was 9 years old, and they competed in western games and barrel racing.  She soon moved from western disciplines into the world of eventing and completed her first Preliminary HT when she was 14 years old.  Holly continued to compete throughout high school, eventing and moving up the levels in her regional pony club.  When college came around, she put horses on the sidelines to focus on school, but once she graduated - it was all horses, all the time, for many years.  Upon graduation, she headed to Florida to ride with Ralph Hill and, in 1999, completed her first Rolex placing in the Top 20, with ‘Waj Mirage’, an OTTB purchased for $1000 at Canterbury Downs by a family in Minnesota.  As Holly recalls, “my first Rolex experience is probably one of my proudest moments, I was fresh out of Minnesota and it was like I had made it, I was in the big leagues, to ride in Kentucky was everything!  It’s the pinnacle of our sport in this country.”  From 2000-01, she had the ride on ‘Kelvedon Carrington’, owned by Packy McGaughan, they we were in the Top 20 at the Fair Hill 3* in 2001.  Packy is complimentary of Holly’s riding, recalling that “her style and great feel, her refined riding, was why I choose her for ‘Kelvedon Carrington.’  She was a great catch rider, only having been on him a few times before heading to Fair Hill.  He needed a confident rider and Holly gave that to him.  She’s a great, just natural rider.”

Holly Hudspeth The Carolinas Equestrian 02 Soon came the biggest move in her career, when Holly headed to Middleburg, VA, to train intermediate and upper level horses with Karen and David O’Connor, “it was an amazing experience.  Working their horses and learning from the O’Connor’s is something I will always remember.  I became a professional due to the work I was getting during my time there, starting horses that Karen would send me.”  In 2003, Holly began working with Phillip Dutton, who was a huge influence on Holly’s career.  While training with Dutton, Holly rode ‘Lester Piggott’ who was owned by Marie and Bernardo Piskorz, they would compete at the 2003 Rolex placing 16th and the Pan Am Games, where they placed 9th.  As Holly recalls, “it was a surreal experience, the USA gear – saddle pads, trunks, all of it was just the most unbelievable time.”  She continued to ride many talented horses, including Mari and Roger Secrists’ ‘Damien’, whom Dutton paired her with, and she went on to place 8th at the 2004 Rolex and was shortlisted for the Athens Olympics. 

She admits to preferring the “spitfire” horses, “horses that were like motorcycles, just would jump out of their skin for you, true grit.  Brave and careful, with the ability to let things go, to not hold on to mistakes.”  ‘Last Monarch,’ or ‘Stewie’, a 5-year-old OTTB that Holly trained up from Novice to 4* was one such horse, “he was tough on the flat, but fast on XC and a very careful jumper.”  The pair ran Rolex in 2010, finishing 17th and were shortlisted for WEG 2010.

Holly Hudspeth The Carolinas Equestrian 04 Now a USEA Level 4 Certified Instructor, Holly coached the Area VIII Young Riders Team for 7 years from 2003-10.  She recently began working with USEA Area II at the Southern WOW camp held at the Carolina Horse Park, “I love these camps, we get to focus on what each rider is working on, have a great time and the riders get to learn in a fun atmosphere.”  Recently, Hudspeth had a young rider, Katherine Christopher, at the NYRAC at Rebecca Farm in Montana, who placed 7th in the 1* division.  “I was able to go to Montana and watch this team compete together.  They were a talented group and cheered their team mates on the entire event,” says Hudspeth.  From her experiences and advice she’s received through her career, Holly has good insight on young riders these days, encouraging every rider to “branch out, watch professional riders – how do they turn themselves out?  Look at their braids, the attention to details, go to the warm up ring and just watch.  These days a lot of that gets overlooked due to social media, kids can simply pull up a photo of pretty braids, but that’s not the same.”  It takes a long time to develop as a rider and part of a team, she hopes that her students know that riders should never stop learning.  Holly has taken all her years of eventing and turned her experiences into a top-notch training program, benefiting all her riders, to learn more about Holly Hudspeth Eventing, check out www.hollyhudspetheventing.com.

Photos courtesy of Holly Hudspeth Eventing