South Carolina rising junior equestrian Haley Turner recently had the chance to represent the United States at the World Youth Reining Cup competition in Italy. The Ohio native has come a long way after describing herself as a very shy person growing up, but joining National Reining Horse Youth Association as a youngster helped her come out of her shell, and perhaps helped pave her path to becoming a collegiate student-athlete.
“It helped me in so many ways,” said Turner, who held a regional position as a delegate for the east/central states in the association, and then served as historian, vice president, and most recently, president. “It led me to meet so many new people and to so many people that go to South Carolina and are on the team there.
“I’ve been a member of NRHyA for about six or seven years, but it wasn’t until about three or four years ago that I started getting really involved. My mom initially nudged me to do it. I was extremely shy when I started NRHyA. I went to a lot of horseshows when I was a kid because my older siblings were showing. I stuck with it because it was awesome to see the association grow.”
Now 19, she has aged out of the youth association and is a NRHA member. Fast forward to last month, when Turner took advantage of the opportunity to compete in Italy for World Youth Reining Cup.
“Even with the language barriers and everything that made us different, it was really special to see how we all have something in common that united us.”
“There were 23 countries represented there from six continents,” Turner said. “Each rider had to do a reining pattern on a horse that was randomly chosen for them. Everybody was unfamiliar with their horse, so we had a few days to figure them out, and then we went in and showed. It was a cool experience to see all the people come together. I had a good pattern and was proud of it.
“I first thought that the best part was going to be experiencing the food in Italy, but it was really seeing people from all the different countries that came and competed. It’s really special to see how everyone’s love for the reining horse brings them together. Even with the language barriers and everything that made us different, it was really special to see how we all have something in common that united us.”
In December, Turner completed her term as President of the NRHyA, which is a leadership organization that helps young riders through college scholarships and learning experiences from some of the top reining trainers. She first started going to the NRHyA meetings as a way to make friends and get more involved in the equestrian community. Growing up around horses led to her growing interest in reining.
“I started riding when I was around four or five years old on my miniature pony,” Turner said. “My siblings would lead me around. I’ve been showing horses at county fairs and things like that since I was eight or nine. I didn’t start taking it seriously until I was around 12. With showing horses, I really like the camaraderie and getting to know new people. Being a part of equestrian and showing horses really gives me a sense of belonging. It really brings my whole family together. My mom grew up showing horses and she passed that down to all three of us.”
She spent her first year of college at Ohio State because it was close to home, but she decided to transfer to continue to expand her horizons, on and off the horse.
“I really wanted to be on a division one team, but Ohio State competed in the IHSA, which is club (level),” Turner said. “I had met so many of the (South Carolina) girls through NRHyA, and they spoke so highly of it. I thought it would be a fun place to be. I could see myself living in Ohio forever, so I thought it would be good for me to get out for a bit while I could.”
Turner is studying mass communications, which is also helping to broaden her scope of what to do after graduation.
“I idolized a lot of people that worked at the NRHA while I was involved with NRHyA, and a lot of those careers fall into the mass communications area,” Turner said. “I don’t totally know what I want to do yet. I like some of the journalism fields, such as news broadcasting. I worked with the (NHL) Columbus Blue Jackets, just bussing tables, but I got to see a lot of the camera work, interviews, and sports broadcast stuff, so I’m interested in something like that as well.
“Next year, I’m looking forward to competing and cheering on my teammates. I hope we can pick up where we left off because we had a really good season last year. I really like all the girls on the team, and we have really good camaraderie.”