Diabetes Can’t Keep Young Rider Hannah Hoehn out of the Start Box

Photo by Miranda Akins of Photography in Stride.

Photo by Miranda Akins of Photography in Stride.

Health is something that many eventers take for granted. We go about our days without having to think too much about it — we eat what we want, we ride and are physically active, and we experience well-being overall.
For 17-year-old Hannah Hoehn, however, maintaining health is perpetually at the forefront of her mind. At age 9 the young rider from North Canton, Ohio, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and managing the disease in the years since has required a great deal of discipline. She wears a pump and digital monitor, has to test herself 15 times a day, and must time her eating perfectly before her rides at shows.
She has good days and tough ones, but everyone who knows Hannah’s positive attitude can make them hard to tell apart. For better or worse, she goes about day-to-day life without excuse or complaint.
Photo by Miranda Akins of Photography in Stride.

Photo by Miranda Akins of Photography in Stride.

In addition to managing the disease, she juggles school, high school cross country, mission work, a part-time job, and training her OTTB Seattle Grace under the tutelage of Karen Hornyak. The pair completed their first USEA event this summer, finishing 6th on their dressage score in Beginner Novice at South Farm H.T.
How does she do it? Fortunately she has an amazing support system in her family and friends and is herself a standup young woman with an incredible work ethic and enthusiasm for life.
We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Hannah about her health, horse and riding goals.

EN: Having diabetes clearly isn’t holding you back! How do you manage it?

“I have to admit getting diagnosed with such a big disease at such a young age can be quite intimidating but I have been able to do everything that any other kid does with the same ease. Before I do anything that requires a lot of energy such as riding, I normally check my blood sugar before I ride to make sure my blood sugar levels are OK and then afterwards to make sure they aren’t dropping.”

Photo by Miranda Akins of Photography in Stride.

Photo by Miranda Akins of Photography in Stride.

EN: Do you ever get frustrated? How do you get through the tough days?

“I’m not going to lie — I have gotten very frustrated with my diabetes, but I have had many years to figure out how to deal with those frustrating moments. Although at the time those moments seemed pretty frustrating, when I think back to them they weren’t as bad as I thought.

“I don’t know if you can necessarily call it luck, but I have always felt that I was truly lucky to only have gotten type 1 diabetes. Yes it definitely has negatives, but there are so many other diseases in the world that are much worse than the one I have. It’s highly manageable and for me, it has helped me become a healthier person because of it.”

EN: How did you get interested in eventing? 

“When I first started riding and training with my first trainer, he was basically teaching me the basics of riding, and didn’t do any showing or much of anything else. I received a lesson once a week on OTTBs that were a full hour away — my parents are incredibly supportive! — and the one ride once a week was the only time I sat on a horse. The trainer ended up passing away, and I wasn’t quite sure where to go after that.

“Horse friends of ours introduced us to my current trainer Karen Hornyak, who specializes in eventing, and my “horse mom” Margie Kinsinger. I had never heard of eventing before riding with Karen, but ever since my very first dressage lesson and schooling cross country, I was hooked!”

Photo by Miranda Akins of Photography in Stride.

Photo by Miranda Akins of Photography in Stride.

EN: What’s your favorite part of the sport?

“I love eventing because the people involved in this sport are like no other. I can always count on all of my eventing friends to be ringside cheering me on and congratulating me after a great ride or helping me keep a positive spirit after a ride that may not have gone the way I had planned. Complete strangers are always there to lend a helping hand or shout a good luck, and that goes a long way. Oh, and galloping over jumps with your horse isn’t so bad either!”

EN: Tell us about your horse.

“My horse’s name is Seattle Grace, AKA Kara, and she’s an OTTB. I’ve had her for just over a year, and I love every single thing about her.

“She acts much like a human and most times I’d rather be with her than most people. She loves her job and tries her heart out for me in everything she does. She can be sassy sometimes but she is incredibly smart and I have to pinch myself that I call her mine.

“We have created a pretty close bond in just the short year that I have had her and we can pretty much read each other’s minds. Her mindset, as she is an OTTB, is almost always “Mom, can we go galloping now?”

“We’ve had lots of fun together. Many days I love to take her to the trails behind our barn and just let her open up which is one of her favorite things to do. I have also introduced her to fox hunting. We have gone hunting with the Chagrin Valley Hunt Club multiple times and Kara really seems to enjoy it! It has really helped to develop our bond as there’s a lot of trust that we both put into each other. It also helps her become really good with figuring out her footing as the trails we go on aren’t always the easiest.”

Photo by Miranda Akins of Photography in Stride.

Photo by Miranda Akins of Photography in Stride.

EN: You completed your first USEA sanctioned event this summer. Tell us about that experience!

“Being able to go to my first USEA sanctioned event at South Farm, at one of my favorite places to compete, and to end on my dressage score, while also being able to have the chance to ride in the victory gallop at the end, is one of the coolest achievements I’ve experienced so far.

“We worked pretty hard for it and it was nice to see our hard work pay off. Many horses had trouble on cross country in our division so crossing the finish flags double clear was absolutely surreal. Like I said, I got pretty lucky to have such an incredible teammate.”

EN: What are your riding goals?

“As an eventer I have goals just as big as the jumps. I would love to top some of the Young Rider leaderboards as I move up the levels with my horse. If I happen to qualify for Young Riders along the way, I definitely wouldn’t complain!

“A few of my biggest goals include competing at many of the prestigious 4* events around the world, and someday standing on the podium representing the United States at the Olympics. My parents have also been incredibly supportive along the way and are helping me to accomplish these goals each and everyday by doing whatever they can.”

Photo by Miranda Akins of Photography in Stride.

Photo by Miranda Akins of Photography in Stride.

EN: When you’re not riding what are your other interests?

“Besides riding, I keep busy by running cross country for my school (it helps me keep a social life because we all know horses take up a lot of that!) It also keeps me pretty fit for my riding!”

EN: What advice would you share with others who are struggling to overcome obstacles?

“I have definitely had my good and bad days with overcoming obstacles. Although it’s very simple, the best advice that I can give is to just breath and relax, things will come. The journey can be a fun experience if you learn to breath and take time to enjoy things.

“No matter how much I wanted something to happen, whether it was with my blood sugar or with riding, it’s not just going to pop right out of nowhere and happen. It’s going to take a lot of work but eventually you will have it figured out. Learn to accept even the smallest amounts of improvement.”

Go Hannah. Go Eventing!