Hayley Morris' Success Story
ISpyHorses -- Thu, 09-Aug-2018
WHEN DID YOU MOVE TO AUSTRALIA? WHICH HORSES DID YOU TAKE? AND WHY DID YOU MOVE THERE?
I moved to AUS in 2013 with my young rider horse Livewire II. He was an OTTB who I won the Melbourne World Cup Show Young Rider class on.
I was working for Ross and Mel Smith in NZ and they decided to relocate to AUS. Mel is an Aussie, and there is so much more business and competition opportunity here so it made sense for them to come home on many levels. I considered it to be an awesome opportunity to relocate with them and have never looked back. I don’t think I could go home and base there again as a professional rider.
I manage the day to day operations at Rangeview and ride up to 10 horses a day. We have GP show jumpers, 3*** eventers, schooling horses and sale horses - typically 30 in work at any one time. Myself, Ross and Matt (Mel’s brother, who is a 3*** eventing rider) all ride at Rangeview.
WHERE ARE YOU LOCATED IN AUSTRALIA AND HOW LONG ARE YOU EXPECTING TO BE THERE FOR?
Rangeview Equestrian (home) is in the Scenic Rim in South East QLD. At this stage I don’t plan to go home. My future is here, and I love QLD winters!
WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENTS SO FAR?
4TH PLACE, SILVER TOUR FINAL @ AQUIS CHAMPIONS TOUR, RIDING MISS MONEY PENNY
WINNER, GRAND PRIX @ CABOOLTURE SHOW, RIDING MISS MONEY PENNY
WINNER, FUTURE STARS @ CABOOLTURE SHOW, RIDING CONQUEST
WINNER, LEADING RIDER OF THE SHOW @ CABOOLTURE SHOW
WINNER, SPEED CHAMPIONSHIP @ NAMBOUR GRAND WEEKEND OF SHOWJUMPING RIDER CONQUEST
WINNER AND 2ND PLACE, 1.40M GRAND PRIX QUALIFIER @ NAMBOUR GRAND WEEKEND OF SHOWJUMPING RIDING MISS MONEY PENNY AND CONQUEST
WINNER, MINI PRIX FINAL @ GATTON WORLD CUP SHOW, RIDING MISS MONEY PENNY
BRONZE, SILVER TOUR, RIDING MISS MONEY PENNY @ AQUIS CHAMPIONS TOUR, QUEENSLAND
WINNER, RIDING MISS MONEY PENNY @ LADY RIDER OF THE YEAR, HORSE OF THE YEAR, NEW ZEALAND
3RD PLACE, RIDING MISS MONEY PENNY @ AUDI TAURANGA CLASSIC,
WINNER, OPEN GRAND PRIX, RIDING MISS MONEY PENNY @ AUSTRALIA DAY CHAMPIONSHIPS, QUEENSLAND
WINNER, 1.30M AM5, RIDING MISS MONEY PENNY @ AUSTRALIA DAY CHAMPIONSHIPS , QUEENSLAND
WINNER, 1.20M, RIDING CARLSON 83 @ AUSTRALIA DAY CHAMPIONSHIPS , QUEENSLAND
2ND PLACE, MINI PRIX QUALIFIER, RIDING MISS MONEY PENNY @ GATTON WORLD CUP SHOW, QUEENSLAND
WINNER, 1.25M , RIDING MISS MONEY PENNY @ GATTON SHOW, QUEENSLAND
2ND PLACE, 1.20M CHAMPIONSHIP, RIDING CARINYA @ GATTON SHOW, QUEENSLAND
4TH PLACE, 1.25M FUTURE STARTS, RIDING CARINYA @ SUNSHINE COAST SHOW, QUEENSLAND
WINNER, 1.25M CHAMPIONSHIP, RIDING MISS MONEY PENNY @ SUNSHINE COAST SHOW, QUEENSLAND
RODE FIRST WORLD CUP ON DOYATA, GATTON WORLD CUP, QUEENSLAND
IS YOUR MINI GRAND PRIX WIN THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE?
My win last weekend in the Mini Prix Final (1.50m) at Gatton World Cup Show is my most favourite win yet. The line-up of horses was tough and the quality of riding was exceptional. Penny really rose to the occasion for me - she loves to win and when I don’t stuff it up, can be pretty hard to beat. Best of all, my mum and dad were in the crowd cheering me on. I felt so humbled to be genuinely congratulated by great riders like Peter McMahon, Michelle Lang McMahon, Tom McDermott and Paula Hammond. There’s not much that tops that feeling!!
WHO/WHAT WAS YOUR GREATEST SUPPORT AND WHY?
There’s been 2 groups of people that have been there from the start - my mum and dad, and Ross and Mel Smith. I could not be where I am today without my mum and dad’s unwavering support - even when I may not have looked like the most talented rider, they believed in my determination and hard work ethic. I’m not sure I will ever have the words to adequately thank them. My mum took some convincing, but loves seeing me grow and achieve my dreams.
Ross and Mel have never taken a backward step in their belief in my ability. Between them, Ross and Mel have taught me more about life than I can say. They’re a pretty awesome team, on and off an arena. They are so very genuine and they celebrate every little success along the way. Of course, I wouldn’t be the rider I am without the loads of hours Ross pours into me. Bystanders think he is tough, but he is honest and backs up his honesty with whole hearted pride and encouragement whenever I need it.
WHAT HAVE THE MAIN CHALLENGES BEEN?
I’m my own worst enemy. I’m mentally tough and very competitive. That’s a huge advantage when things are going well, or when there’s something to accomplish. I find I have to be very intentional to let go of my mistakes and not beat myself up in my own head. I’ve had to learn to not define myself by my result in the ring - savour the wins and special moments, and brush off the errors very quickly. I heard Michelle Lang McMahon tell Ross once to watch a bad round once to learn from your mistakes and then delete it. It’s too tempting to watch it over and over and become caught up in mistakes. I took that habit on and to this day, purposely delete any rounds that don’t represent my best riding. I think the majority of riders underestimate the power of their own head space.
WHAT IS AUSTRALIA LIKE IN COMPARISON TO NZ? HOW FEASIBLE IS COMPETING IN AUSTRALIA?
Australia and New Zealand are alike in many ways but very different in other ways. I think the biggest difference comes with a bigger pool of competitors. Not only does it make for more competitive classes, it also means the atmosphere is more social and encouraging. The standard of the shows in both Aus and NZ are improving and growing all the time - Australia just has more of them.
WHAT DO YOU HAVE COMING UP BY WAY OF COMPETITION?
We are currently planning our show run down south. At the moment that includes NSW State Champs, Boneo Classic, Equitana and Aus Championships. We’re also looking at coming back to NZ for Takapoto and HOY early next year.
TELL US ABOUT EACH OF YOUR HORSES, WHAT ARE THEIR QUIRKS AND WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THEM?
MISS MONEY PENNY (Penny) - I personally own Miss Money Penny, and of course she is my favourite. I bought Penny from Ross 5 years ago as a 4 year old. I am quietly proud of Penny - she’s the first horse I’ve trained from scratch and I think she’s pretty special. Penny has had 2 colic surgeries, and 2 years out of competition work. It was a long road to recovery for her and there were times we didn’t think she would make it through the night. I look back now and know that our relationship was made during that time - she trusts me and I trust her. I ride into the ring and know exactly how she’s feeling. Penny is one of those once in a life time horses. We have grown together and she has taken me from a Young Rider to jumping GP’s. That’s what I love most about her - she’s every girl’s dream - a friend, champion and pretty pony. And she knows how to win. Being competitive, I love that about her too. She’s now 9 years old and for a horse that has missed 2 years of competition, has an impressive list of accomplishments.
CONQUEST (Connor) - I ride Connor for an owner. Connor has scope to burn and makes any fence feel small!! He can be a bit spooky in the ring, but it means he can be nice and careful too. He is the biggest snuggler - loves his cuddles and is a big gentle giant. Ross and Mel’s 7 year old daughter Harriet leads him around like a puppy on the end of a lead!
DOYATA (Dolly) - Dolly is competing in the USA now. She was a sensitive gutsy mare who would get to the other side of a fence no matter what. She will always hold a special place in my heart - she was my first World Cup ride!
LIVEWIRE II (Fred) - Mum and Dad bought me a tough gutsy little TB horse called Fred who ventured to Aussie with me and together we claimed the wins in the Sale World Cup Show - Young Rider class and the Melbourne Royal Speed class in 2013. He taught me a lot about patience and the art of separating my emotions from the task. He was sensitive and quirky and needed my confidence and reassurance. I worked long hours on his head space, but he certainly was key to learning to ride and work out a horse’s quirks. I loved that he was a challenge.
Ross has had 3 incredible stallions over the 7 years I’ve worked for him that I feel extremely privileged to have ridden regularly and been their groom. I never rode QUITE CASSINI, AJADO or LEONELLO in a class but jumping them at home will forever rate as incredible moments for me. They are absolute world class international horses and most people only dream of being able to hack them out let alone jump them!
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF? ADVICE THAT MIGHT HELP YOU COPE WITH THE GENERAL LOWS ASSOCIATED WITH THE SPORT?
DON’T BE IN A HURRY! Showjumping is a life time apprenticeship - a riding career can take your entire life to be successful. Ross drills into me that this is a sport of high highs and low lows, and you never know when a high can be overtaken by a low. While it takes hard work and sheer grit some days, you have to hold it all with an open hand. The hard times pass and you have a choice to either shake them off or dwell on them to the point of chipping away at your own self confidence.
I have had determination and resilience exemplified in Ross and Mel. They’ve taught me to hold tight to the things that really matter and rise above the things that don’t. It can be a tough critical world out there (and that’s before you even get on a horse!). Know your real assets well - surround yourself with the best support team you can. I’m incredibly blessed to be surrounded by people that genuinely care about me as a person and champion me to be my very best.
Perspective is so important too. In our sport, there is an element of uncontrolled luck in the competition ring. The sooner you work out that mistakes can be as simple as the horse not jumping high enough, the quicker you can move on mentally.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT YOU, DO YOU THINK THAT HAS MADE YOU SUCCESSFUL? OR HAVE YOU FOUND THAT EVERYTHING JUST SEEMED TO FALL INTO PLACE?
Actually, I feel like nothing has just fallen into place! Penny’s colic recovery taught me patience like nothing else. She really shouldn’t be alive - we call her our personal miracle!
Behind every win is hours and hours of hard work. When I’m not on a horse, I’m sitting on the arena watching Ross ride or talking to Matt about my flat work. I think it’s my work ethic and desire to learn every little thing I can about riding that have contributed to my success. I always want to improve myself and I know I’m in the best environment to do that. Ross is so generous in his knowledge and positions me to ride and train different horses every day. I’ve worked hard, to the point of loads of sacrifice ( I don’t have much of a social life but it comes with the territory!). I think the other thing is knowing that Ross believes in my riding ability. I remember the first time he told me to win a class and how to do it - I think I stared at him for 5 mins and then went and rode exactly how he told me to and, to my surprise, I won! People who believe in you - it makes you believe in yourself. It brings a confidence (not to be confused with cockiness!) to your riding that encourages you to constantly take the next step up.
COULD YOU PLEASE TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR FIRST PONY AND THE INFLUENCE HE/SHE HAD TO HELP YOU GET TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?
My first influential horse was a tough quirky TB mare called Tui. She was a bit like Fred in that she taught me the importance of controlling my emotions. She probably made me understand the need to get inside a horse’s head - work them out. She was tricky and every day she was a different horse to ride!
HOW DID YOU CELEBRATE YOUR MINI PRIX WIN?
We have tradition at Rangeview that involves a champagne toast and speeches. We had a moment at the truck before watching the WC class.
WHO IS YOUR GREATEST ROLE MODEL IN SJ?
I think this is an interesting question…… I certainly believe that to have someone as a role model you have to know them personally - know their journey and what they stand for. For me, that is undoubtedly Ross. He has forgotten more about horsemanship than most people will ever know. He has so much knowledge from shoeing and general horse mechanics to training methods and recognising a horse’s potential. Ross mixes old time horsemanship skills with modern approaches to competitive riding. There are still things he does daily that I haven’t seen before. He hasn’t read this yet so I might give him a little compliment and venture to say that he would possibly be one of the most underrated horsemen around.
As far as admiring a famous rider, I love watching Kent Farrington. He’s tough and talented and knows how to get the job done. He has been trained beautifully but there’s more - maybe it’s the obvious determination in his riding. Oh and he’s short - I like that too!
Photo credits and copyright: Calico Pony, Oz Shots, The Social Supply and Cornege Photography
Georgia Lovelady's comment on the FB post that initiated Hayley's interview with iSpyHorses : “You are doing so well Hayley Morris!! A New Zealander absolutely crushing it in Australia! Is your calendar totally full with interviews from the NZ Horse & Pony Magazine, ESNZ Jumping & Show Hunter iSpyHorses and Show Circuit - New Zealand's Ultimate Equestrian Magazine yet??”
Ross Smith's reply to Georgia's comment, "No. But it should be!"
Interview conducted by Jamie Halpin.
Overview Heather Cato
Answers (unedited) by Hayley Morris