Today’s Up & Coming Rider features Ashley Harvey, a 22 year old eventing rider who is currently based out of Aiken after spending some time as a working student in Florida.
Ashley began riding when she was four.
“My dad decided I needed more to do with my time than school,” Ashley said. “I wasn’t very interested in soccer or basketball. He had always wanted to ride horses when he was young, so he put me in a lesson program at a local barn so I could have the opportunity to ride that he never had.”
From then on, Ashley competed on the A and B Circuit in hunters, jumpers, and equitation, much like many of us. Growing up, Ashley looked up to Laura Kraut and Little Big Man. However, two years ago, Ashley made a big riding change and switched to eventing.
“Ever since I attended my first Rolex when I was 11, I had wanted to switch to eventing. At the time, there had been no barns in my area that evented. By the time there were barns, I was close to being aged out,” Ashley said.
Unfortunately, when Ashley did age out, she sold her horse and attended college while working full-time. Ashley did not ride much while she was in college. In addition to taking classes full-time, she worked 80 hours a week.
“It is tough, but it teaches you hwo to manage your time which has been a great asset in my riding career now. In high school, I did not have a huge social life due to the barn. My time management skills weren’t the best, plus the barn was over an hour away,” Ashley said. “It definitely took me some time to adjust my social skills in college as I wasn’t used to spending a lot of time with others who weren’t horse people.” (Editor’s Note: I think that’s something to which we all can relate :p)
Ashley received an Associate’s Degree in Applied Sciences. She does have plans to obtain her Bachelor’s Degree one day, but right now, all of her spare money goes into horses.
“I fully believe in having a fallback plan when you pursue a career with horses. As my farrier says, ‘it’s not a matter of if you get hurt, it’s how badly and when.’ If one day my world is turned upside down, and I’m in a wheelchair, it would be ideal to have a degree to fall back on instead of being older with no back-up plan or way to make a living,” Ashley said.
Ashley currently has her own business with her mother and step-father called “HD Eventing.” The HD stands for her last name and her parents’ last name, as a way of paying her respects to them for being such a huge part of her riding and becoming a businesswomen.
Though Ashley sold her horse to attend college, she currently has an 8 year old OTTB named Donatello, or Donnie. Donnie raced for a few years unsuccessfully and then found his way into Ashley’s life.
“From a young age, I fell in love with OTTBs and the immense amount of heart and grit even the average one has,” Ashley said. “I had turned many into jumpers and even hunter horses. I was excited for the challenge of not only learning eventing as a rider but also bringing a young horse up the levels as I went up them. It was a huge challenge that I was excited for.”
While Donnie is currently Ashley’s only horse, she would like to expand her string of horses one day. But, she added, Donnie has set the bar high for what she is looking for in a young horse.
Donnie and Ashley recently suffered a setback. After two “less-than-stellar” runs along with a refusal at the Rocking Horse Horse Trials, Donnie was checked by the vet and found to have aggressive arthritis in his lower neck along with some minor bone spurs. Donnie is on a treatment plan and is expected to have about two to four years left in upper level competing until he will have to be semi-retired.
Fortunately, Donnie is doing much better.
“The injections have made him so comfortable,” Ashley said. “I know he’s feeling much better as he’s been very wild lately. I’m really optimistic about the future and keeping him comfortable for as long as we can!”
Ashley is just as busy as she was in college. She currently rides every day, even when Donnie has the day off. And, even on a “day off” for Ashley, she still goes to the barn and catch rides as many as she can. She credits her ability to balance her riding life with her non-riding life to her time management skills and ability to sacrifice sleep to be social.
“Thankfully, most of my friends now are a part of the horse world so our social time is usually between 6 and 8 p.m., in bed by 9.”
Or, as Ashley terms it, “the exciting lives of working horsewomen.”
Just like every rider, Ashley has her own strengths and weaknesses. She loves the cross country phase of eventing, but finds that her weakest phase is dressage because of a physical limitation.
“I have a hard time controlling my right side due to an old injury,” Ashley said. “Plus, I’m just not as naturally talented in that phase. It’s always a struggle, even though I love learning it.”
To deal with her physical limitations, Ashley makes a habit of trying to stay loose and even in her body.
Ashley said that her greatest strength is her ability to work with young horses.
“I’ve been blessed to have opportunities to work with young horses for most of my career,” she said. “I believe my greatest strength is bringing young horses up the levels and training them well to have bright futures with amateurs and juniors.”
She also doesn’t let disappointing rides get her down. If she has one, she focuses on what went right and rerides it in her mind to make sure she knows what she will do next time to work on any issues she or her horse had. Most importantly, Ashley tries to let the ride go once she’s taken away what she needs to improve.
Ashley recently left a working student position she held in Florida. For those of you that follow her on social media, you know that she has been extremely gracious and professional about the parting of ways with Hannah Burnett. Ashley credits a wealth of knowledge she has gained to her working student position and describes it as a “huge blessing” for her resume.
Ashley has this tidbit of advice for those who want to be a working student for a big name rider one day: “Work hard and be humble.”
Ashley has a large social media following that she said “honestly just happened.” Ashley’s social media account is one that most riders can relate to. Ashley is honest about not having all the money in the world, how hard she works, and stays optimistic even if curveballs are thrown her way.
Currently, Ashley looks up to riders like Lauren Kieffer (for whom she hopes to work one day), Alexa Perkiel, Hannah Sue Burnett, and Jessica Phoenix.
Ashley’s notoriety has led to her becoming brand ambassadors for several well-known companies, such as Ogilvy, My Barn Child, and Ecolicious Equestrian. Most importantly, Ashley believes in every product she recommends or represents, and she encourages young riders to feel the same about any brand they partner with.
“Don’t take something you aren’t fully interested in just to tell people you’re sponsored,” she said.
Speaking of, Ashley’s ‘must have’ items for her horse are an Ogilvy half pad and saddle pad, a My Barn Child bridle charm, Custom Fly Veil bonnets, and Ecolicious Equestrian shampoo. Ashley also put together a schooling outfit for us which consisted of black Pikeur breeches, a royal blue polo, Tredstep tall boots, black and grey C4 belt, and a Charles Owen Ayr8 helmet.
As many of us know, having a large social media presence can mean a lot of negativity comes our way. Ashley said that negativity never really bothers her because she concerns herself with the opinions of her trainers, sponsors, and those closely involved in the program she is in.
“If David O’Connor tells me my horse and I are doing well, what someone on the internet says means very little,” Ashley said. “If Sara McKenna says that she’s ecstatic with the quality of work I produce, someone saying I’m lazy or spoiled holds no weight. It’s all a matter of placing your self worth on yourself and those who deserve to have influence.”
Ashley hopes to one day have a thriving business and become a professional in this sport. On a smaller scale, she hopes to qualify and compete at Fair Hill 2* North American Championships. She also would like to be competitive at intermediate level this fall and complete a 2* before Donnie’s winter vacation.
“It would be excellent to accomplish my goal of Fair Hill, but I won’t run the legs off Donnie to get there,” she said.
Ashley has already accomplished a lot with Donnie. She took him off the track up to preliminary level in less than two years. She said she feels extremely proud when she reflects on how far Donnie has come.
Overall, Ashley is hardworking, determined, optimistic, and humble. She encourages other young riders to be the same.
“The best advice I can give is to work hard and never give up. There is nothing that can hold you back,” she said. “Hard work will beat out talent over time. If you lack funds, get a part time job or work off what you can at the barn. There is never a reason to give up and those who work hard will always get noticed eventually, especially in eventing.”
Did you like this spotlight or know an up & coming rider we should interview? Let us know in the comments below, on Twitter, or shoot me an email!
Stay tuned for the next rider in our “Spotlight on…” series!