She Kicked Soccer to the Curb

Hailey Brill traded in her youth soccer career for a horse and time on the high school equestrian team.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

Johnny Be Blazing and Hailey Brill (Journal photo)

Two years ago, Hailey Brill traded in her soccer cleats for a pair of boots and a horse. That lifestyle change put the Portland, Oregon, youth on a path that led her to the 2017 AQHA West Level 1 Championships.

“I’m showing in English, western and trail,” she says. “I’ve been riding for two years with my trainers and I came (to the West Level 1) last year to scope it all out and to see what I needed to work for to get here, so I got qualified and this is my first year to show here.”

Even though Hailey spent most of her elementary, grade-school and junior high school years playing soccer, she wasn’t a complete stranger to horses.

Hailey Brill and trainer Torry Brooks (Journal photo)

“Her mom rode as a youth, and Hailey had been introduced to horses and had been around them a little bit, but not done very much,” Torry explains. “So, it was exciting to have her come in, she’s an excellent student, really a good kid. We have nice kids in our barn, we enjoy her a lot.”

Hailey’s soccer-playing skills came in handy.

“She came into horse showing with a huge amount of skills,” Torry says. “She learned to learn in soccer, I think. She’s able to learn really quickly, she assimilates her skills quickly, she applies the in the pattern, she’s very, very thoughtful.

Hailey connected with her trainer, Torry Brooks, through mutual friends.

“We have a high school equestrian team in our area, and the kids all do high school equestrian team, so they knew each other through it,” Torry says. “High school equestrian is a club sport through high school. In Oregon, we have about 1,400 youth doing high school equestrian team. It brings them in (to equine activities), it’s a nice entry level, helps them find their interest and they go from there.”

The Oregon High School Equestrian Athletic program was formed first in the Southern District in 1993, in cooperation with the Oregon Horsemen's Association, and some dedicated role models within the Grants Pass and Roseburg areas.

The program runs through the high schools as a winter/spring sport with three main competitions, two of which the athlete must compete in to qualify for the state championship competition. Those qualified in their district are then eligible to compete in a state championship meet against all district winners. Athletic or activity letters may be awarded participants meeting the lettering requirements.

According to the Oregon High School Equestrian Teams’s website, the program “is dedicated to promoting and organizing equestrian competition in high school athletic or activity programs. It is our main goal to provide recognition in the high schools of the equestrian athlete and to give them an opportunity to achieve that recognition in a fair, positive and educational format. The goals are to encourage team play, peer acceptance, good horsemanship and to have cooperative adult supervised leadership for all students in grades 9 through 12. Along with helping students develop lifetime skills, teamwork and self-discipline.”

Torry adds, “then, the youth who become super interested in horses – and have the parental support – can move up the ranks. One program feeds the other really well.”

Hailey’s four-legged partner is Johnny Be Blazing, a 2005 bay gelding by Hot N Blazing and out of EBG Classie Detail by Last Detail.       

“We bought him in North Carolina, he’s 12 and he’s just a good boy,” Hailey says. “He gets a little nervous, but then he calms down. I love how you can connect with a horse, and how they can feel what you feel. We just work together really well.”

The Level 1 was the first time Hailey and “Handsome” competed in a big trail class.

Johnny Be Blazing and Hailey Brill (Journal Photo)

“That was her first big trail class, and we gave her every opportunity to not do it, but she said, ‘I think I’d really like to do it,’ and she did beautifully. We were so proud of her,” Torry says.

Hailey says Handsome “was nice and calm. I like that trail is slow and requires thinking and working together, you have to put a lot of thought into what you have to do. I like puzzles, and trail is like trying to figure out how to solve the puzzle.”

Hailey’s favorite classes are the English flat classes.

“I just picked up English classes three months ago, but I really like it,” Hailey says. “I really like letting my horse go and feeling him reach.”

As for her plans for the future, Hailey wants to attend Oregon State University and pursue a degree in graphic design.

“I’d also like to get on their equestrian team because my mom did that, as well,” she adds.