With the onset of the cold weather, it’s a great time to cozy up and get to know some of your favorite riders. We’ll be posting Q&As with riders throughout the upcoming months, giving you an inside look into their life as equine professionals and getting tidbits of advice that we can all put to good use. Do you have a rider you’d like us to profile? Email [email protected] and we’ll get the chinchillas on it!
Hawley Bennett-Awad and Gin & Juice at WEG. Photo by Jenni Autry.
EN: Who has been the biggest influence on your life and riding career choices?
Hawley: I knew at a young age that this is something I wanted to do. I really looked up to my mom, and her coach growing up was Pam Arthur. Mom taught me until I was 16 and then she sent me off to ride with Pam, who represented Canada.
I learned a ton from Pam and also learned the respect of riding with someone else besides your mom. She was amazing and she and my mother were the ones who really helped me get Hank. They helped me guide him and he became my first four-star horse.
Then I made the decision to go away from home and met Buck and Bruce (Davidson), and for the past 11 years Buck’s been not only my coach but also one of my great friends.
EN: What’s your most embarrassing horse-related moment?
Hawley: I’ve never really been embarrassed! Is that weird? Not yet, anyway. Now that I’ve said that, something stupid is going to happen.
EN: Do you have any superstitions or good luck charms?
Hawley: I always give my husband three kisses and I never ever wear white socks; I always have crazy JoJo socks. I just think white socks can be boring, and it’s just one of those things now that I always wear crazy colored patterned socks. If they work on day one, then I keep them on the whole weekend.
EN: What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?
Hawley: As far as weaknesses are concerned, for me it would be not having enough lessons and gaining more knowledge. I feel like you can always get better. I love being on the West coast, but I wish Buck was here too. When you click with an instructor, it’s a huge part of your learning.
My strength comes from the fact that I’m a fighter. The whole reason I got into riding was because I was told I couldn’t do it; well, I’m a Taurus and I was like, “alright, well I’ll show you!”
For all of the people who told me not to ride Ginny because she was wild and crazy, there were always the four or five people who told me to be patient and work it out. I wouldn’t say I’m stubborn, just a little bit of a fighter.
EN: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Hawley: Things aren’t going to be handed to you on a silver platter. For every time I was told it wasn’t going to happen, there were a few people behind me who said it will happen. There will always be people behind you.
One of my favorite quotes is, “If you’re not present during my struggles, then don’t expect to be present during my success.” It’s so important to have those close people with you through your struggles and through your successes.
EN: What advice would you give to someone who’s just starting out?
Hawley: Dream big. I always write my goals down; I like to have three, six, and twelve month goals as well as a five year plan. If you don’t write it down, it makes it a lot more difficult to make it happen. In grade two, I wrote down that I wanted to ride in the Olympics, live in Australia, have twins, and I even knew who I was going to marry. I’ve done everything except for the twins so far!
EN: Describe the first time you can remember getting on a horse.
Hawley: I was probably three or four, and I remember going down to the barn and helping my mom brush her horse. I was under the belly because that was the height I was. I remember her pulling me away and showing me where to go, and it’s just always stuck with me since I’ve been riding with my mom since before I can remember.
EN: When you’re looking for a new horse, what is the first thing or most important thing you look for?
Hawley: The first thing I look at is the eye, honestly. To me, the mind is one of the most important things. You can have a talented horse, but if they don’t have the mind to do it, it’s hit or miss.
I’d rather have less talent with a big heart and good mind over a talented horse that’s stupid. It’s so hard to get a horse four-star fit and keep them contained in the dressage ring, still be able to go cross country, and be rideable and come back into show jumping. The mind is really really important; I like to see them brave but smart and calm at the same time.
EN: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Hawley: The first real movie I watched and loved was Top Gun, so I actually really wanted to be a fighter pilot! I was also hooked on Free Willy and so I wanted to be a whale trainer at Sea World and jump off Shamu’s nose.
Then my focus shifted to horses, but I always wanted to do something outdoors and a little crazy. I’ve never been the kind of person to sit still and work behind a desk. If I wasn’t doing what I am now? I’d 100% have been a fighter pilot.
EN: Is there an event you’ve never been to that you’d love to compete at?
Hawley: I have two: Luhmühlen and Adelaide. Luhmühlen for the biergarden and Adelaide because it’s sunny and warm!