Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa. April 17, 2013 - South African Young Rider Hayley Parker took time off from her studies at the University of Pretoria to make a flying visit to the U.S. last week in order to compete in the Ocala International Horse Trials (CCI2*) in Florida with her horse Pigrela des Cabanes. The 22 year old Johannesburg resident is currently combining her ambition to represent her country at the 2014 World Equestrian Games with her education, which means regular trips to the U.S. where she is training with Australian Olympian and Canadian Team Coach Clayton Fredericks. Parker produced a fabulous performance with her 10 year old French gelding Pigrela to secure the qualification she needed to move up the next level for their major spring event.
Parker gave her reaction to the competition that was pivotal for her international campaign. "Mission accomplished...he was a great horse this weekend as he always is and he just stepped right up and did what I asked him to," commented Parker. This result of two clear jumping rounds on cross country and in the stadium means that the pair can go to New Jersey to compete in the Jersey Fresh three star competition (CIC3*) from May 9-12th.
"It was very important that we got this qualification but it was a hard time to leave university as I had to miss some semester tests but it was well worth it," added Parker who is in her final year at the University of Pretoria where she is Majoring in Economics and Statistics. "The pressure of achieving the result and balancing school work is something that I have learnt to manage over the past few years." She admitted that it's been challenging to compete in international competitions while maintaining her studies. "It's not easy to be at shows and keep a balance but it's only until November so it's just the last push now." Parker is considering her options for 2014 to either take a Post Graduate Course at the University of Florida, a bridging course in investments or focusing on Econometrics.
The planned route for Pigrela is more clearly mapped as the pair have to qualify by the end of this year if they are to be eligible to represent South Africa at the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France. The family support for Parker has been a critical element in enabling her to set her goal on a major championship. "My parents and all my uncles have been incredible," stated Parker, "they've supported me to the enth degree, especially my mum, she has sacrificed everything to get me here. My uncle, Bryan Heine, purchased Pigrela in 2010, and my new horse recently in South Africa - Cappucino, who I'm planning to bring across to the States at the end of the year to hopefully get him qualified as a second horse for the world championships.
Parker did not inherit any horsey genes but admits that her Uncle Bryan has also caught the bug and has been extremely supportive in buying her two world class horses for the sport. This past weekend at the Florida Horse Park proved to Parker that she has what it takes to be an international competitor and her biggest takeaway was that she can cope under pressure. "I have to go home now and write some serious semester tests with huge assignments to do and I managed. I've been able to do what I came here to do with Pigrela. Having a horse like him that I know I can go in to my show jumping phase and he's going to jump his heart out over every fence gives me confidence too. I also ride better with a little pressure."
Parker is excited about the prospects for the sport and how she can help promote the sport back home. "There's been a lot of interest in South Africa with our riders going overseas and I think coming to these shows with people asking about the sport in South Africa is helping a lot," enthused Parker. "I think I take take back what I've learned here and talk to our national federation. People are starting to get involved and more people are going into Europe from South Africa or interested in coming here to the U.S...it's just getting the ball rolling."