I interviewed Hannah Foraker, also known as HunterProbss. Hannah, who hails from Ohio, is unique in that she is self-taught in both riding and equine nutrition. Though she rode with a trainer for some of her riding career, essentially everything she has learned about “advanced” riding is what she has taught herself through the use of social media, one very special YouTube video, and a lot of critique of her own riding – from herself and others.
Hannah’s interest in horses started when her parents hired ponies to come to her house for her 4th birthday party. Ever since then, she has been obsessed with horses, especially the nose-to-tail trail rides that are offered during camps or vacations. Her dad’s friend owned a horse stable, and she started taking lessons there when she was younger.
Hannah has been riding for 8 years, though she did take a year hiatus when her first lesson barn closed down. She then began riding at a barn in the next city over. She leased an Arabian mare for 4 years that she described as “elderly, but spunky.”
“During that time I also trained with a Meredith Manor graduate and really got to experience the ‘get it done’ attitude that comes with riding greenies & hot horses,” Hannah said.
In August 2011, Hannah purchased her OTTB Derby and moved to RiverBend Jumpers – an A Circuit show barn in her area.
“While there I got Derby’s lameness under control and had the opportunity to ride some really nice horses. I learned how to properly ride, how to execute different movements, and how to perform,” she said.
After about a year, Hannah had to move, and she has ridden solo ever since.
Many of you have probably seen Deby on Hannah’s social media sites. He is an 11 year old OTTB gelding that is registered as “Red Coach” with the Jockey Club. However, Hannah’s show name for him is “Stop and Stare.” He is out of “Donthelumbertrader” and “La Bonet.” In 2010, he was the OPHA Low Adult Champion.
Derby was a pasture pet until Hannah purchased him in August of 2011.
“He was out of shape, but still had the same ole Derby attitude that I know and love. He loves his job, whatever it may be. Hunters, Jumpers, Eventing, Dressage, Contesting, Trails, Liberty, Bareback/ bridleless/ bitless,” Hannah said. “Everything I have ever attempted to do with him he exceeds all expectations. He loves kisses and will subtly nuzzle you for more.” Hannah also said that Derby is always cool and calm and never backs up the “crazy Thoroughbred” stereotype.
In the 3 years that Hannah has owned Derby, she has never fallen off of him.
“I will probably fall off next week just because I said that,” she said. “Though he really cares about his rider, he cares about me. If I slip forward and lose my balance he will down-transition. He saves my butt on a regular basis over fences, to which I am forever grateful for. He is the reason I am the person, the rider, I am today.”
When Hannah stopped riding with a trainer, she had to turn to other things to get her horse knowledge. She actually gives Twitter a lot of credit for what she knows today.
“Ever since becoming a part of Eq Anon Island I became a lot more aware of how I look, how I dress, my equitation, how handsome my horse is, the quality of my tack,” she said. “I’m not talking brands, but just having a clean and professional appearance. I never really grasped or cared about any of that prior to my twitter. So thank you everyone for enlightening me. “
Hannah said she doesn’t really seek out any type of material to help her progress in her riding. Rather, she videos her rides and watches them so she can critique herself.
However, there is one short video on YouTube that Hannah credits as “completely changing the way” she rides. It can be found here.
“Ever since viewing this video I am all about having an engaged hind and a round back,” she said. “My obsession with long and low began, and my knowledge on ‘breaking at the 3rd’ and ‘flexing at the poll’ grew. I truly support classical dressage and most modern dressage is very improper in my eyes, more flashy than correct.”
Hannah said she is always open to constructive criticism. However, the majority of the criticism she receives is from herself. You won’t find her posting on JRN or other similar Facebook groups for comments on her riding.
“Usually I go to my close friends whom know me, know my horse, and have an already well developed sense of my riding,” she said. “That is where I get the most useful feedback that I can then use for my next ride.”
Hannah said it’s also not rare for her to get off half-way through her ride to review footage she has obtained up to that point.
“… it’s very frustrating to go home and view the video and realize that I was doing something wrong the entire ride. Something that could have been corrected had I just noticed I was doing it,” she said. “There are a lot of downs to being self-taught, it isn’t easy and requires a lot of self discipline. Though I am not doing A, B, and C because it looks good. I am doing A, B, and C because it effects my ride positively and makes me a better rider and trainer.”
Hannah said she has a hard time thinking she is training herself and Derby. She doesn’t consider herself a trainer but also isn’t sure what else to call it.
With all this self-training, there had to be something she had trouble with – as we all do, right?
Hannah said the hardest thing to teach herself was a proper release and not jumping ahead (Editor’s Note: Me too, Hannah!)
“[B]ack when I had a trainer it was drilled into my head to ‘wait’ for the horse to depart before going into two point. It visually looks better, you’re more synchronized with the horse, your leg won’t slip back, balance is improved,” she said. “Plus if you open your hip angle and wait to two-point when you get into a less-than-ideal distance it improves safety and performance.”
Hannah said she knows how to do it and can do it, but she is “really inconsistent” about it. However, she has found that bareback jumping really helps her find a rhythm when it comes to jumping, but it is something she has to actively think about.
“It’s a hard habit to break, but I’m working on it every day,” she said.
Additionally, Hannah said her release is her riding weakness.
“I know it could be better. I know that I knick Derby in the mouth every now and then, it’s one of the reasons I have him in a very soft bit and bitless. My imperfections and fault shouldn’t inflict discomfort and pain upon my horse, especially when he is excelling and performing,” she said.
Hannah said that she also has to “actively think” about her release. If she doesn’t, she goes back to her default ‘boob release.’ (Editor’s Note: I do this too, but my trainer calls it ‘crotch hands.’)
Hannah has also notice that her release is “directly related to how secure I feel, my confidence, and also where my mind is at that particular moment.”
Hannah said that having a strong base is key to self-training.
“It’s a very bad idea for a green rider to have a green or hot horse and try to go off jumping. I knew how to ride, I had a very strong base, and Derby knew how to be a 2’6″ hunter,” she said. “It was just a matter of learning together, growing, and establishing clear communication. Have an open mind and be sure to take constructive criticism, but know when bad advice is being given.”
Hannah recommends utilizing videos, articles, clinics, lessons, and other things when learning how to ride. She also especially recommends YouTube videos.
Surprisingly, Hannah hits a mental block when she jumps higher than 3 feet. She said that she had been jumping 2’6” her entire life, so “any higher seems absolutely terrifying.”
My insecurities really transferred to my horse, and the first few times Derby would refuse the 3′ jump only made my anxiety worse and ever more unsuccessful,” she said.
However, she and Derby recently competing in a mini-trial, which had Beginner Novice size jumps (2’7”).
“I got anxiety when I did the cross country course walk and those stadium jumps looked HUGE! I saw a lot of people have problems at the first fence of stadium, plenty of refusals and run outs. I KNEW that if I did well in stadium I would do well in the entire event, so I put my game face on and added HELLA leg and grabbed mane,” she said.
Though she said her distances were rough and her round was quite sloppy after making it over the first fence, she found it to be the push she needed to be more confident. She ended up placing second in the mini trial with a flawless cross country run.
Hannah has started did one 2’9″ hunter class in August and has done some 3′ classes this past October and November. She and Derby did very well, got ribbons, and earned a second and first in the NAHRA Medal class. She further broadened her horizons this past December and did a jumper show where she won champion.
“3’ still spooks me, but now I know I can do it and do it well,” she said.
Hannah said that she would like to continue to self-improve, continue to be happy, and enjoy the most of the carefree time she has with Derby. She doesn’t plan on becoming a pro or becoming severely competitive.
“There is more to a ‘riding career’ than excelling at shows, sometimes you have to let your hair down and just appreciate the beauty of horses in a carefree way,” she said.
Another thing Hannah is known for is her equine nutrition knowledge. She said she started as very ignorant about what her horse was eating which caused Derby to suffer and become underweight. However, she eventually learned to look at the fat content of different feeds. When that didn’t work, she dug even deeper and began looking at other ingredients, such as starch and sugar content.
“I learned how to analyze the feed tag of grains, how to find legitimate research to support my findings,” Hannah said. “Soon my reading also spread into supplements. I am completely self-taught, and I am very VERY confident in my own knowledge in this field.”
Hannah also has a blog, which she calls “messy, unorganized, and somewhat informative.”
Hannah highly recommends Triple Crown Senior, Purina Ultium, and Tribute Kalm N Ez.” (Editor’s Note: My horse is a hard-keeper, and I went to Hannah for help a few months ago. She recommended Triple Crown Senior, which my new barn coincidentally used. My horse has completely transformed, is no longer underweight, and looks the best he has since I got him.)
Hannah also loves Actiflex 4,000, Hoof Secret, Sho-Glo, Perktone, Coconut, Cocosoya, and Black Oil Sunflower Seeds.
Hannah said she would love to ride with Frank Madden. She also looks up to Linda Radigan, her old trainer, and Jessica Springsteen.
Though Hannah has enjoyed teaching herself, she does hope to ride with a trainer again one day.
“I’m not going to sugar coat it, but it’s pure financial reasons that I don’t have a trainer,” she said.
Hannah stated she would rather pay for her horse’s chiropractor visits, equipment, and other needs than a lesson for herself – though she does think that everyone could always use a trainer.
“We all have priorities, mine is my horse,” she said. “I hold my own enough to have fun and do well, which is more than I ever imagined I would be able to do. I love Derby, his spoils are more important than me becoming a better rider.”
Above all else, Hannah said that a horse’s owner/rider is its biggest advocate.
“If you don’t stick up for them, then no one else will. It’s very important for equines to have that strong leader in their life, and that leader is you,” she said.
All photos courtesy of Hannah Foraker. Do not use without permission.